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Kiwi Recovery Project



Xaphod, a male Kea found dead near Temple Basin - APWT

Two Kea found dead near Arthur's Pass

A very sad day in Arthur's Pass with two Kea turning up dead within 2 hours. The first an adult female found near the Bealey Hotel, then later, Xaphod, an adult male found dead beside the highway near Temple Basin car-park. Xaphod would appear to be a definite vehicle strike with considerable trauma and broken bones, whilst the female has indeterminate injuries.

Both birds have been sent to Wildbase at Massey University for pathology and histopathology procedures to accurately determine the cause of death. In the last fortnight routine blood testing of some local Kea has found elevated levels of lead toxicity in 5 birds, with one juvenile displaying extreme poisoning, 18 times the acceptable level. The juvenile has been sent to Willowbank in Christchurch for veterinary treatment, and is expected to be returned to Arthur's Pass in several weeks after recovery (Note: "Andrew" the juvenile Kea was released back into the wilds of Arthur's Pass on 3/9/16 in good health).

Motorists are urged to be vigilant for Kea whilst travelling through the South Island's alpine areas. It is currently breeding season, and many of the birds are quite distracted. People can also assist by not feeding the Kea, as this attracts them to roadsides!

UPDATE (7th Sept 2016): Wildbase has returned their final pathology reports. As assumed Xaphod died as a result of trauma caused by a vehicle strike. The Bealey Kea however appears to have died from a possible "pulmonary oedema", potentially from the inhalation of a toxic gas etc. Both birds returned negligible lead levels and no other toxins identified in their organs. We have subsequently investigated the Bealey area for possible sources of noxious gases or fumes and have come up empty-handed thus far.

Eruha being released into her alpine territory

Kiwi hit by car returns home

After a Great Spotted Kiwi was struck by a car near Arthur's Pass the good folk transported the injured bird immediately to the veterinary clinic in Greymouth. The Kiwi luckily had only minor injuries and made a very rapid recovery over the following few days under their care. Last Tuesday DOC Hokitika and the APWT released the bird back into its territory after fitting a transmitter.

This Kiwi was previously unknown to us, but is a female about 3-4 years old. The Kiwi has been named Eruha, meaning "a daughter" in native american tongue of the Nottoway/Cheroenhaka tribe. Unfortunately we have had 6 Kiwi killed on Highway 73 west of Arthur's Pass since 2009, with 3 of these from the same family unit.

We have been monitoring her progress for the past 7 days (day & night) and are extremely happy to report, so far, so good, with her showing good night-time activity in all weather conditions, including snow. The area she resides is trapped by the Trust for predators.

It is early days yet, we hope this Kiwi will survive, and maybe have some aversion to the highway now.

William, Sean, Richard, Graeme & Jamin top out on Dudley Knob.

Upper Mingha trapline gets a overhaul

Five enthusiastic volunteers loaded up with two 6kg stoat traps each, and 60 eggs, strode up the Mingha Valley to its headwaters to install new traps about the Agility Creek and Dudley Knob area, and redistribute existing Alpine Bird Sanctuary traps up & down valley to better protect the Whio, Kiwi and many other bird species that inhabit this beautiful valley.

This brings the total number of traps to 52 in the upper valley. The new traps were funded by ECAN in a effort to strengthen the volunteer predator trapping network in the Bealey Valley and adjacent catchments.

Unfortunately no Whio were sighted on the day, but some evidence of Great Spotted Kiwi was found about the Dudley Knob area. One of our juvenile Kiwi dispersed up here from the Bealey Valley early last year, also finding herself a partner.

Whio adults flank their four young

First wild Whio ducklings of season

Summer in Arthur's Pass got off to a wild & woolly start with very large storms thrashing the area over late November, early December. This unfortunately aligned with the hatch cycle of many of our wild Whio pairs, many new ducklings may have been lost in the floods.

However on Boxing Day, whilst checking the Alpine Bird Sanctuary trap-lines, we discovered some hope in the form of four young ducklings accompanying their parents in the crystal clear waters of the Waimakariri River catchment. Whio normally lay 3 - 8 eggs in mid to late November in Arthur's Pass, this is about 3 - 5 weeks later then in other South Island areas, and incubate them for about 34 days. It is rare for Whio to attempt a renest.

Male Great Spotted Kiwi - APWT

Kiwi killed near Viaduct

The body of a Great Spotted Kiwi (GSK) was found by a truck driver plying highway 73 near the Viaduct bridge, it appears it had been hit by a vehicle.

The sex of this individual could not be determined from its remains, but it was suspected it was part of a pair known to inhabit the area around the Viaduct. This pair was studied during the construction phase of the bridge from 1998 to 2000. The Arthur's Pass Wildlife Trust subsequently set up automatic digital sound recorders to determine what bird may have been killed, results have heard a female GSK calling within this territory with no male responding. As this is now breeding season it is quite unusual a male would not reply, so it is assumed at this stage the male of the pair may be the kiwi killed on the road.

This section of highway has been particularly deadly to wildlife with multiple Kea juveniles killed after partaking in "car surfing" from the Viaduct lookout, and two Whio (Blue Duck) have also been killed here after flying too low across the highway.

The new Kea panel erected outside the Arthur's Pass Store - APWT

New Kea panel for Village

The Canterbury Community Trust has kindly funded a new Kea information panel for Arthur's Pass Village. The panel has been placed outside the Arthur's Pass Store, a place where many Kea encounters take place with pedestrians and motorists.

The panel gives visitors clear information of the do's and don'ts when it comes to interacting with our precious local birds in an attempt to "educate to protect" this vulnerable species.

It is estimated there could be less than 5000 Kea left in the Wild. They are endemic to the South Island, and generally inhabit the alpine regions. Although the Arthur's Pass Kea population is generally thriving, we see an average of 5 Kea killed on the highway each year, and birds sickened after consuming human food.

If you see a injured or sick Kea please report it immediately to DOC.

Kererū (NZ Wood Pigeon) - APWT

NZ Falcon attacks Kererū

Kererū (NZ Wood Pigeon) have in recent years been visiting Arthur's Pass during the summer months attracted by the bounty of food and mistletoe buds available. This winter however has seen a pair staying over, it is really unclear as to what they may be feeding on.

It has been obvious for about a week that one of our local adult NZ
Falcons has taken an interest in one of the Kererū, stalking it, today brought an attack in the skies near the Police Station. The Falcon is only half the size of the Kererū, but managed to take it out of the air.

The Falcon, like many birds of prey, have a liking for the heads of their victims, and this case was no different. In the last few years we have had two Kiwi chicks taken by Falcon when they made the bad call of venturing out of their parents burrow in the daytime.

Marama having her transmitter changed - APWT

Love triangles in Kiwi world

Last year we reported that we had found "Marama", our best breeding Great Spotted Kiwi, with a new unidentified male. This subsequently turned out to be "Rubble", a sub-adult from the Hawdon Valley (12km in a straight line, but 3 mountain chains over); he had gone missing two years earlier. Her original partner "Rupert" was found well outside his territory; we could only assume that Rubble had fought him off.

Marama & Rubble attempted a incubation last year, but it was abandoned after only 15 days, the reason unknown. The normal incubation time of a GSK is 80 days, where the male is the primary egg-sitter.

Visiting Marama today, we found her again with her ex, Rupert, with Rubble nowhere to be seen. As we couldn't remove Marama's transmitter, we will follow her into the next breeding season to see if the original success has returned along with Rupert.

Daily catch of mice from house in Arthur's Pass Village - APWT

Our mouse plague has ended

After five months of being overwhelmed by mice in the Bealey Valley it seems the numbers have dropped off to almost zero, no doubt assisted by a "normal" winter being upon us and its subzero temperatures.

At the plague peak villagers were catching up to 30-40 mice a day on their properties. Over the course of the plague up 1800 mice were captured on 500 sq.m lots.

The plague was the result of a "beech mast", that is the beech forest flowering and seeding en-mass. This subsequent food source when it drops to the forest floor fed the mice explosion.

Although the mice have gone, we are now left with its legacy, a explosion in stoat and rat numbers. During the plague we were unable to attract these predators in any numbers to our traps, but now we are making notable captures. These predators are a primary threat to the native species we are trying to protect in this ecosystem.


Whio back in the Bealey

Whio (Blue Duck) appear to have self-introduced to the Bealey River catchment after a very long absence of almost 50 years!

Otira River Whio and ducklings - APWT

Female Whio gets killed on Viaduct

A female Whio (Blue Duck) has been killed on the Viaduct Bridge. We have been following the breeding success of this particular pair of Whio for 6 years. Most years have seen fledgling numbers range from 1 to 6 birds. Weather and flood events have been the biggest issues faced by this pair whilst breeding, however a NZ Falcon had also discovered their original nesting site in the past year and the Whio had moved upstream to a new site in response to this threat.

The male Whio has stayed in territory, and has remained sadly quite vocal calling for its lost partner. Ironically the previous male Whio occupying this territory also lost his female to a vehicle collision in this location.

Recovered transmitters from the Bealey Valley GSK - APWT

GSK project in Arthur's Pass winds down

After almost 6 years of delving into the secret and sometimes intimate lives of our Bealey Valley Great Spotted Kiwi we are now in the process of removing the tracking transmitters from our Kiwi population.

The project was originally scheduled to run 10 years following the breeding success, behaviour and the eventual juvenile dispersal, but unfortunately a funding short-fall and priority change has led to this early cessation of research.

It is with a little sadness we leave the lives of our noisy neighbours having just begun to understand their behaviours and how it differs from other Kiwi species. We are not abandoning them however, the predator trapping program set up to protect them and other native species will continue on irrespective. It has been shown to be an effective tool with a 7% increase in local Kiwi population per year documented.

We have "micro-chipped" and taken DNA samples from the birds so they and their offspring can be identified in the future.

It is time now to sit down and assess the 6 years of data extracted from our local colony so it can be used to understand the best way forward in protecting the wild GSK population for the future.

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