Four months ago 14 kiwi were released at Marunui in the Brynderwyns, an event celebrated by some 250 people from the Mangawhai community.■ People interested in helping are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Very soon after the release the first kiwi calls were heard at night. Catherine Hawley of Marunui said: “After waiting some time we were rewarded with the piercing call of a male and then another. It was a thrill and even more so the following week when we heard both male and female calling in rapid succession. These calls have become a regular thing and can even wake us up, but we’re not complaining.”
The birds were freed in the centre of Marunui and have been exploring ever since. Shareholders and volunteers monitored them weekly with tracking equipment for the first two months and then fortnightly.
A generous donation from the Northern branch of Forest & Bird enabled the purchase of an aerial and receiver and Greg Stump, one of its members, has helped with the monitoring.
“We can identify the general whereabouts of each bird and some have really stretched their legs,” says Catherine. “DOC helped us recapture Beverley, who had ventured far west just beyond our boundary, and returned her to the centre of Marunui where she has settled down.“
The signals transmitted indicate various states, including whether a bird is incubating an egg. In late May one bird gave a signal that caused Marunui to seek DOC’s help in locating it and sadly it was found dead. DNA tests showed it was killed by a stoat. This was highly unusual as adult kiwi are not generally subject to stoat attack and there may have been some other reason for its vulnerability.
However, the good news was that in June Marunui received another kiwi. At a release at Mataia in southern Kaipara they had more males than females and DOC gave one to Marunui.
Over the past few weeks the process of catching and health checking the birds and changing their transmitters from one leg to the other has been in train. This is a big task as they can be on a steep hillside in dense bush or down in the valleys.
Local volunteer Wendy Averill said she had “just the best and most amazing day” when she helped with the capture of two birds. At the same time Marunui people, Celia Walker and John Hawley, have been trained as kiwi handlers under the expert guidance of DOC staff. The birds are thriving on the food source as nearly all have put on weight, some as much as 450 grams.
Names and pairs
The Mangawhai Cadets and Mangawhai Beach School were asked to name two birds each. The cadets aptly chose Anzac and Poppy and the pupils Aroha and Speckle.
“The exciting thing is that the birds are pairing up,” says Catherine. “We know that Poppy and Motu and Anzac and Ora have got together and we hope they are thinking about producing a chick later in the year.”
Volunteers and pest control
There was a recent gathering at Marunui for people who signed up at the release to volunteer their help with conservation activities. Catherine says: “It’s very positive and we are looking forward to working together to keep the kiwi and other birds safe. Several have assisted with our rat baiting exercise and others have offered help with trapping and track clearance.”
Trapping animal predators is a key activity using an extensive internal network of mustelid and other traps. Marunui has therefore welcomed the generosity of Hancock Forest Management (NZ) who has agreed to fund a line of traps on forestry land on the north side of Marunui’s boundary. Cullen Road residents are also getting behind the project.