Ducks Unlimited
Saturday, 09 November 2019 09:48

Pateke numbers improving

The brown teal (pāteke) is one of three endemic teal to New Zealand and the only one to fly. Both the Auckland Island and Campbell Island teal are flightless.

Mainly nocturnal and half the size of a mallard, this shy, omnivorous duck spends time on land foraging for invertebrates, seeds, fruit, grass, and foliage. With dark brown plumage, the males are particularly distinctive from their female counterparts during breeding time in late winter.

The slightly larger males in breeding plumage obtain a green iridescence on their heads, a dark chestnut breast plus occasionally a thin white neck ring too.

Like many of our native birds, this small-necked dabbling duck has dramatically suffered from mammalian predators, loss of habitat and hunting, resulting in a plummeting population to only 700 birds in the wild by the 1990s.

Brown teal were once widespread, but thanks to brown teal species co-ordinator Kevin Evans and the Department Of Conservation brown teal recovery group, in the past 15 years, this population decline has not only been halted, but reversed, building up to about 2500 birds in the wild today.

Numbers are slowly recovering and there are several contributors to this success:

Captive breeding facilities across New Zealand that produce birds for release.

The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust (ICWT), which provides facilities for flock mating for other institutions, and breeding plus pre-release conditioning and processing (banding, transmitter attachment, worming, disease screening, etc). Every captive raised bird goes to ICWT as its aviaries have stream-fed waterways for foraging, plus special feeders where the brown teal learn to obtain food. These feeders are also located at release sites.

DOC together with community groups undertake intensive predator control at release sites.

There are generally four releases of brown teal a year and the latest release of 32 birds was in August in the Abel Tasman National Park in an area managed by Janszoon.

Preparing the birds for release is an exhausting but rewarding task for all those involved at ICWT (assisted by Kevin Evans).

All release sites are vigorously assessed to ensure pāteke are released into areas with adequate protection and habitat to support self-sustaining populations.

[Ducks Unlimited was instrumental in early conservation efforts from 1975 with its ‘Operation Pateke’, New Zealand’s first large-scale co-ordinated brown teal breeding programme. – Editor]
 

 

Published in Issue 177
Saturday, 09 November 2019 09:34

Whio exceed target in Fiordland

The Department of Conservation has high hopes for the upcoming whio breeding season in Fiordland. About 64 breeding whio were found earlier this year in a survey of a security site for the blue ducks.

Senior ranger Andrew (Max) Smart says this means the northern Fiordland site is the first in the South Island to exceed the target of 50 breeding pairs.

“Security sites are the highest priority whio conservation areas in the country; there are four in the North Island and four in the South Island.

"The target of 50 breeding pairs is set for each security site through the Whio Recovery Plan. A couple of sites on the North Island have reached this target, but we’re the first confirmed site on the South Island to do so.”

 

Whio have come a long way since 1999/2000 when only three pairs were found in this security site, Max says. “This year’s number is only a minimum and there could be up to another nine pairs.

“Extended trapping efforts and landscape scale predator control have enabled the whio here, and at key sites around New Zealand, to make a strong comeback.”

Whio are monitored using walk-through river surveys using specially trained conservation dogs. Two surveys a year are planned for each river.

The first survey, in November and December, counts the number of ducklings, as well the number of individual birds and pairs seen. The second survey, generally in January and February, counts the number of fledglings.

Exceeding this target is great news for whio, but according to Max, there is still a lot of work to do to secure a future for this species.

“We are only doing work over a relatively small area and this is where we are making a difference. Predator control has to be kept up and expanded for whio to have a chance to increase in number and spread over their natural range.”

 

 

Published in Issue 177
Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:23

Captive breeding keeps up Whio numbers

Peter Russell keeps a watchful eye on Whio to make sure the  numbers are kept up and they return as much as possible, to the  areas where they started life.

Breeding Results

The past year has been the best to date with 26 ducklings reared and  released back into the wild. This was achieved by three pairs, the Auckland pair produced 11, the pair at Peacock Springs having 10 and the  Orana pair five. These pairs had all been flock mated. Both the Auckland  and Peacock pairs did double clutch which really helps with numbers  produced.

Three pairs at Hamilton, Palmerston North and Staglands that I was hoping would produce, did nothing. I hope they do better in the coming  season.

Flock Mating

This season we have flock mated four more pairs that gives pairs to  Otorohanga, Mt Bruce, Queenstown and another pair at Peacock. I was a  bit disappointed with Mt Bruce who took so long in sending male birds to  Peacock that the female in the new pair at Peacock laid a clutch of eggs  without a male.

It was also disappointing that no wild clutches came in last season to keep  on making up more pairs for captive population.

Releases

The first release of 10 was at Egmont National Park on the January 29 with Andrew Glaser of DoC coming over and taking staff through putting  transponders in and a video team taking footage of this and the release. We had a group of school children who attended and Andy was in his  glory.

The second release was on the Manganui-a-te-ao and it was good to see  Alison Beath also of DoC come down to put the transponders in. We  released a total of eight birds with two older birds which came from there  as juveniles and have only bred once and hadn’t done anything for the last  three years. It was a great day. Lots of school children.

The third release was on the Tongariro which also went really well with  lots of people and Genesis staff involved. Six birds were released. The last release was back at Egmont on a Saturday so their volunteers  could attend as most of them work during the week. There were four birds plus a duckling I had hand reared and then sent to Peacock Springs  so it would be brought up with other birds.

It has been so much better now with Air New Zealand sponsorship for  moving ducks about and saving costs on breeders and Peacock Springs  when sending for release. It is a bit more work for me but it goes with the  job.

Quality

Duckling quality is very good and I am sure that the matting’s we are  doing with eggs that are coming in is paying off with a very good bird for release.

Deaths for the year

There were seven deaths during the year. Two were neonatal and one a 20-year-old male and another 19-year-old male. We also lost 15 males  including one eight-year-old. These males were not in the breeding programme.

The breeding male from Auckland Zoo died after a very good first season. The female is now at Mt Bruce and has been flock mated with the surplus wild males.

Pairs still needed at: 1. Nga Manu, 2. Mt Bruce, 3. Peacock Springs, 4. Kowhai Aviary, 5. Willowbank, 6. Auckland Zoo, and 7. Ron Munro. We need to bring in more clutches this coming season. Releases for next year Egmont wants to carry on releasing next season though we still need to look for new sites. Also returning birds to areas were the clutches of eggs are from.

 

 

 

Published in Issue 157
Tuesday, 27 August 2019 09:03

Catching up the swans

There is something majestic about Mute swans as they glide gracefully on the surface of a lake, no wonder they are in great demand.

Swan Upping* has been an annual event for Ducks Unlimited for about 28 years with some members travelling quite a distance to take part in “catching up the swans”.

Peacock Springs, now The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust donates Mute swans to DU, and the swans contribute a major amount to DU’s yearly fund raising.

This year Ross Cottle and Jim Campbell brought seven swans north. Back in the North Island they collected all the birds that DU members have reared (in total 17) and they were taken to Ross’s place in Masterton to sort into breeding pairs for distribution to members who want them.

Catching the swans is called Swan Upping short for catching up the swans.

Two Cape Barren Geese were caught up in this event. They are Grey Geese  native to the southern coast of Australia called Cape Barren. They have black feet, pink legs, a blue grey body and lime green beak. They have gone to long time DU member Mike Burke in northern Manawatu.

*Swan Upping is an annual ceremonial and practical activity in Britain in which Mute swans on the River Thames are rounded up, caught, marked, and then released.

Traditionally, the Monarch of the United Kingdom retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but only exercises  ownership on certain stretches of the river and its surrounding tributaries. This dates from the 12th century, during which time swans were a common food source for royalty. Swan Upping is a means of establishing a swan census and today also serves to check the health of swans.

Photos: Catherine Ott, Peacock Springs.

 

Published in Issue 157
Tuesday, 27 August 2019 06:17

First Whio duckling in 15 years

Staff at Pukaha Mount Bruce were excited in late October last year with the arrival of the first whio (blue duck) to be hatched there in over 15 years.

The only one of four eggs to hatch, the duckling was raised with three other ‘exotic’ ducklings. The duckling’s mother was then put on another clutch of eggs and with hopes for a better hatch rate from the second clutch.

Staff are still unsure of the sex of this first whio. At approximately six months old a male whio will whistle when picked up and a female whio will grunt.

Published in Issue 158
Monday, 22 July 2019 01:16

Whio Forever

Whio Forever wins green ribbon award


The Whio Forever recovery programme won the Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Award this year for protecting our biodiversity. 

The Awards recognise outstanding contributions of individuals, organisations, 
businesses and communities to protecting and enhancing New Zealand’s environment.

The National Whio Recovery Programme is a partnership between Genesis Energy, the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird and the Central North Island Blue Duck Charitable Trust. It is focused on the protection and recovery of the whio, a threatened native bird and supports whio security and recovery 
sites across the country.

Genesis Energy Environmental Manager, Bonny Lawrence and the Department of Conservation Whio Recovery Group Leader, Andrew Glaser accepted the award from the department’s Director General, Lou Sanson. 
 
Genesis Energy’s Chief Executive, Albert Brantley said the credit for winning the award has to go to the large community of people nationwide who are dedicated to the protection of whio.
 
“This award recognises the efforts of all of the people who are involved in protecting the whio and raising the profile of this iconic bird. That Genesis Energy is able to fund and support this work is something we are very proud off,” said Albert.
 
Sponsorship from Genesis Energy will enable the 10-year recovery plan to be delivered ahead of schedule. The target number of whio pairs to be protected at recovery sites has doubled to 200 pairs. Based on results to date it is estimated that by 2016, the target of 400 protected whio pairs will be reached at the
eight security sites Receiving the award DOC’s Whio Recovery Group Leader Andrew Glaser said it was exciting the Whio Forever partnership was 
acknowledged, as the Awards recognised a wide range of amazing environmental initiatives around New Zealand.
 
“It was inspirational to hear about the incredible work happening across the country, and to talk to people who have the same passion and drive to make changes to our natural environment.
“The whio is an icon of our waterways, where there are whio there are healthy, clean waterways so this programme is incredibly important,” he said.

Andy also acknowledged the many whio practitioners and community supporters
who have contributed to the success of the programme.

The whio recovery programme also funds WHIONE projects (Whio Operation Nest Egg) that allows wild whio populations to be boosted with ducklings hatched and raised in safe havens, then released into the wild.
 
 
 

 

Published in Issue 161
A state of the art walk through aviary is one step closer for Pukaha after receiving a grant of $250,000 from Trust House Foundation.

This grant has kick started fundraising for the $1.1 million project designed to provide visitors to Pukaha with an exciting experience – allowing them to get closer to native bird life and flora and fauna. 

Construction of the project is due to commence in May 2015 with completion expected in November 2015.

This is a substantial grant from Trust House Foundation who have long been a key supporter of Pukaha Mount Bruce.

This walk through aviary will give visitors an amazing experience, providing a greater understanding of New Zealand’s precious flora and fauna and how we, as individuals and collectively can play our part in its protection.

The proposed aviary has been designed by the Pukaha Mount Bruce Board in collaboration with Fabric Structures Ltd, who built The Cloud in Auckland Viaduct; Boffa Miskall Landscape Architects and Rigg Zschokke Ltd. 
Pukaha also received assistance from Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, Australia and the Department of Conservation. To be built on site near the current blue duck aviaries, it will be 40 metres long by 20 metres wide and is expected to house at least eight different species of native birds.
 

Spring arrival at Pukaha

A nice surprise for spring - three Whio eggs were laid. Staff will carefully look after them in the brooder room and hope for another clutch soon.

Staff  are also keeping a close eye on five male kiwi who are sitting on eggs in the forest and hoped to bring in the first kiwi chick of the season. While they had intended to bring it in as an egg and hatch it in their nursery, the burrow was too deep for the egg to be safely taken out without damaging the burrow.

Keep right up-to-date with all new hatchings and events on the facebook page - www.facebook.com/PukahaMountBruce.
 

 

Published in Issue 161
Monday, 22 July 2019 00:26

Pateke success at Tawharanui

Pateke success at Tawharanui

Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary reintroduced pateke between 2008 and 2010, with 148 captive reared ducklings released in total. An earlier release in the 90s failed due to inadequate predator control, an unfortunately common occurrence for pre 2000 pateke releases.
 
More recent releases within the predator free open sanctuary have successfully established a population of approximately 30 pair, with pateke and ducklings regularly seen throughout the park. Tāwharanui pateke have also dispersed from the park and have established as two new satellite populations at nearby Christian Bay and Omaha, as well as supplementing remnant population on Kawau Island.

Matt Maitland
Senior Ranger Open Sanctuaries
Northern Regional Parks
 

 

Published in Issue 161
Monday, 22 July 2019 00:13

To save Pateke

To save Pateke Knowledge, care and endurance

Positive aspects of the recovery programme

 
The release of captive reared Pateke by Ducks Unlimited (NZ) in the Northland area between 1980-1992 had a number of positive outcomes, particularly at the 350-hectare government owned Mimiwhangata Farm Park during a brief period when predator control was being carried out. 
 
Pre-release aviaries were used and supplementary feeding took place.
 
3½ half months after the release of 64 captive reared Pateke at the Mimiwhangata, Farm Park in 1986 all 64 Pateke were believed to be still alive (Hayes 2002).
 

1. Flock mating/natural pairing of Pateke was the key to the highly successful captive breeding programme – together with the enthusiasm of participants. Flock mating is now being used in a number of rare waterfowl recovery programmes.

2. Captive reared brown teal adapt readily to a wild environment, natural or created.

3. In Northland captive reared Pateke released at Mimiwhangata, Whananaki and Purerua between 1986-1992 survived for long periods and produced offspring – in spite of little predator control, with predator control Pateke are doing well.

4. Where predator control programmes have been in operation at suitably selected quality release sites in Northland (and more recently on the Coromandel) Pateke have survived very well and have successfully reared many progeny.

5. In the absence of waterfowl hunting and predators, captive reared brown teal released into quality Pateke habitat have few problems adapting to the wild.

6. A gradual transition from captive bred to wild, using pre-release pens and a supplementary diet was successful.

7. Brown teal are by far the most predator vulnerable species amongst all species of waterfowl

8. Captive reared teal released on off-shore islands that have suitable predator-free habitat survive and breed well.

9. When the release of captive reared Pateke into quality habitat is coupledwith predator control, a pre-release aviary, supplementary feeding and with the site having an adequate area for a significant population increase (such as at: Mimiwhangata, Purerua and Port Charles), the recovery process is a very simple one!

10. Between 1969-1992 it was learnt that releasing captive reared Pateke at a large number of unsuitable and disconnected habitats, with 35 different sites being used, achieved little, was counterproductive and very expensive.

11. Since the 2000 Audit of the recovery programme steady progress has been made towards increasing the wild populations of Pateke.


Starting in 2009 a150 captive reared Pateke have been released in Fiordland, but it is too early to predict the outcome of this programme. 
Pateke were once widespread throughout Fiordland, the habitat is still excellent and with ongoing predator control a South Island population could be re-established.
 

The 2000 audit of the pateke recovery programme

 
As already discussed, in late 1999 the Department of Conservation carried out a major audit of the Pateke Recovery Programme, into which 39 people with Pateke experience had input. The outcomes were published in 2000.
 
Since the Audit set down clearly defined recommendations and objectives of what needed to be done to save Pateke from extinction there has been a remarkable turnaround - from a total population of 800 in 1999 to a population of 2000 by 2012, with 350 in Northland, 550 on Great Barrier Island, 650 on Coromandel Peninsula, 200 on off-shore island.


Recovery mode

The population chart shows there has been significant improvement in Pateke numbers since the 2000 Audit; this has been achieved in three historic Pateke areas of the North Island mainland; at the Mimiwhangata Farm Park, Whananaki, Tutukaka, Ngunguru, and Purerua Peninsula all in the Northland region of New Zealand, on the Coromandel Peninsula and on Great Barrier Island - all areas where Pateke were extant in 1999. The key to the recovery has been the introduction of major predator
 
control programmes using a variety of trapping techniques, in association with Pateke habitat creation, habitat enhancement, protection and management, no duck hunting, and in Northland and Coromandel Peninsula the release of significant numbers of captive reared Pateke.
 
By 2012 the Pateke population in Northland had risen from 350 in 2000 to 550. The most spectacular re-establishment has taken place on the Coromandel Peninsula, where from 20 Pateke in 2000 the population had risen to 650 by 2012.

The recovery on the Coromandel clearly endorses the philosophy that provided Pateke have suitable habitat, protection from predators and ongoing management support they will survive and breed very  successfully, with the success on the Coromandel possibly being the most rapid recovery of an endangered duck.
 
Since the 2000 Audit there has been major predator control.

Negative aspects of Recovery programme


Between 1975 and 2002 there were 2000 Pateke released into mainland wetland sites, with all releases failing to slow the species decline, largely due to:
 

• Lack of continuity amongst Pateke management personnel and others directly involved in planning the survival of Pateke. 

• Sites used were poorly selected.

• No pre-release study to see if there was an adequate food source.

• No pre-release study to determine whether the habitat was suitable.

• Little predator control and little knowledge of the subject.

• Little understanding about the main predators to control/ eliminate.

• Until early 2000 no sites had ongoing predator control.

• Many sites were out on a limb, with no wild Pateke in the area. • Many sites had no adjacent wetlands for progeny expansion or to which adults could escape.

• Many sites had no loafing facilities or aerial protection.

• Insufficient supplementary feeding of released birds. The value of this is recorded in a paper published in 2013.

• Pre-release aviaries rarely used.

• Competing waterfowl were present.

• Hybridisation with mallards and grey teal occurred. 

• Instant dispersal of released birds occurred.

• A lack of ongoing support.

• A lack of monitoring of released birds.

Published in Issue 161
Thursday, 04 April 2019 09:41

Happy Birthday Manukura

Three years ago staff at Pukaha Mount Bruce had a huge surprise when a kiwi egg hatched and out came a pure white kiwi!

Manukura is a very special white kiwi, and she turned 3 on May 3 this year.

A month of celebration activities was arranged. As well as a daily Manukura ‘fact hunt’ through the reserve there were a number of activities every weekend during that month.

Thanks to the Ten O Clock Cookie Bakery & Cafe in Masterton, there was a huge birthday cake in the kiwi house with a slice for every visitor. 

Footnote: I called in to Pukaha Mount Bruce for a sneaky look at Manukura as she slowly walked around her enclosure in the kiwi house. Carefully she inserted her beak deep into the ground searching for worms and other tasty morsels. She is a big girl now and well worth a visit.

PS. The café at Pukaha has undergone a change and is now called Wild Café - new management but same staff –same delicious coffee and food.

Liz Brook

Manukura – a kiwi that flies

Wairarapa residents travelling around New Zealand and/or the world are being encouraged to take a Manukura soft toy with them. The idea is to take photos and send them back to the local newspaper. Of course you need to purchase a Manukura soft toy. 

Check with Helen at Pukaha Mount Bruce [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.] and she will arrange to send you one.

If you are keen and have a Manukura toy with you, send your photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  The best photo will win a $1000 prize courtesy of a Masterton travel agency.

Published in Issue 160
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