WekaWhispers May 2019

WekaWhispers May 2019

Mural at Raukawa Reserve

THIS IS STUNNING!
Have you all seen our mural? Do stop at Raukawa Reserve and have a good look.
Natasha King’s attention to detail is amazing; not easy on a roughcast wall! What wonderful asset! Remember its message – we need to watch for
weka when we drive anywhere in Kawakawa Bay as some birds have moved away from the relative safety of the Coast Road.
Thank you to Angela Fulljames and the Franklin Local Board and to the Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust for your amazing support and encouragement for our project.


2019 WEKA COUNT RESULTS
Thank you to Steve and all our counters for your efforts over the 3 evening counts. The standard sites did
not give us the call numbers we were hoping for but since then we have had confirmation of another pair at
Waiti Bay. A number of our regular birds refused to call on the official nights! By using the same method
year by year we know that numbers are low, around 10 to 12 adult weka, at present.

RATS RATS AND MORE RATS

Nationwide, 2019 is proving to be a ‘mega mast ‘year. This
means that many trees have fruited heavily in the wet spring
and now there is a lot of food around for the rats. Rat numbers
in all areas are high and

Kawakawa Bay is no exception. Our trappers have caught 63 rats so far this month!!
WekaWatch asks that residents think of their pets and our wild life before they choose rat poisons. Many baits like Pest Off anD Talon will kill any animal that finds a dead or dying rat and eats it.

We offer trial packs of
Racumin bait which has
no secondary kill for $11 a
box. Just send us an email or phone 09 2922 512 to order some.
Full instructions will be given.

WekaWhispers March 2019

WekaWhispers March 2019

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Coming weka counting with us this month?

Are you interested in joining WekaWatch for the 2019 counts?

Every autumn since 2006 WekaWatch volunteers have  monitored the local population of endangered North Island weka.  In September 2018 an extra count found a core population of 12 weka. There have been recent sightings of unbanded weka, even from beside the Orere Road and we are looking for volunteers to join our 2019 counts to confirm these reports.

The count sites are on private land; access to them is only possible with  the co-operation of the landowners. On count nights these sites provide outstanding views across the Bay and sea to the Coromandel, stunning at sunset .   

There are three count nights planned, March 16th, 23rd, and the 30th.  

Counts  run from half an hour  before sunset to an hour after sunset,  when weka are most likely to call to each other. Counts depend on the weather; April 6th is the rain date.  After each count volunteers are debriefed over refreshments, a good opportunity to meet the other volunteers.

Feeling reasonably fit?   Want to see the Bay from a different angle?  WekaWatch would love to hear from you if you would like to take part.  There are one or two longer walks for the more energetic.

Do  contact WekaWatch at wekawatchkbc@gmail.com  to register your interest and they will contact you directly.

Situation Vacant

Our secretary has reluctantly had to retire.  We’d love to have someone to take on one or two of the admin tasks like taking minutes at our infrequent committee meetings and perhaps help our treasurer with membership records.  No trapping is required! Do get in touch if you might be able to help!

Our 11th AGM will be held in the supper  room at the Kawakawa Bay Hall on Saturday 30th March at 3.00 p.m.

WekaWhispers

WekaWhispers

February 2019 

Heat waves and wild life

We all agree that it has been very hot and dry so far this year.  What can we do if this dry period lasts any longer? 

Water, water, water!!  

Put out plenty of water!

Not just water for weka but for all our birds.  Fill up your bird baths!  Put out  bowls of water!  Ice-cream containers work well.  

You will be amazed at the different birds that come to visit you!

Choose somewhere safe from your neighbour’s cat.  

Look who has been visiting Frying Pan Flat;  lots of tui, Californian quail and even a morepork (ruru)! 

Autumn Count 2019

Our 2019 data will be added to the information collected over the last 14 years by volunteers like you.  We can only do this if we have you out there on beautiful summer evenings listening for these special birds.

Dates have been set for the next annual count – March 16th, 23rd, and 30th.  April 6th will be our rain date.  If you are on our list of counters you will get further information but we would love it if you could pencil these dates into your diaries now and try to keep one or more of them free.  

WekaWhispers December 2018

WekaWhispers December 2018

Our weka mural

If you have been watching the toilet walls on Rautawa Reserve you’ll have seen slow progress with the new mural. Keep watching and please join us in asking the weather man to cooperate. We cannot paint in the wet!

We are grateful to Natasha King our artist and to the Franklin Local Board for their support in this project.

Situation Vacant

Our committee is looking for someone to join us especially to help our treasurer with the membership records.
There is no predator trapping required though you’d need to know how to send an email or post a letter!

We’d love to have someone to record subscriptions and donations and send out a receipt or a letter of thanks when required and some updating of addresses etc. We are a great group and there is some fun involved too. Please get in touch if you are interested!

Wandering weka

We keep getting news of weka far from Kawakawa Bay itself. Places like Waitawa Regional Park, from west of the oyster farm, and even from as far as North Road and the Brookby valley. Please keep these reports coming in; we are always keen to know the where, the when and how many. And always a photo like this one from Tawhitokino speaks a thousand words.

WekaWhispers September 2018

WekaWhispers September 2018

Can we introduce more weka from another area?

Sometimes people ask us why we do not bring weka from somewhere else to boost the numbers here in the Bay.  Unfortunately this would be almost impossible.

Weka are native animals and therefore protected.  To shift any native animal from one place to another requires a permit from the Department of Conservation.

Before a translocation permit could be issued we would need to prove that Kawakawa Bay is a safe habitat for weka.  The reason the weka numbers are so low is proof in itself that this is not a safe environment. If it were a good habitat for them their numbers would not have dropped by 90% over 4 or 5 years!

With ferrets, stoats, dogs, cats, poisons, traps, and cars, life can be  tough for weka in Kawakawa Bay.

Until the whole of Kawakawa Bay is on side with the weka  a translocation is impossible.

Should we ever get permission for a translocation, the introduced weka would need to be held in a pre-release aviary for several weeks.  This in itself requires a huge commitment in time, money and effort.

Weka have a strong homing instinct and if not caged in the new location at the beginning they would just walk home.  

One weka released in the Waitakeres in 1980 walked from there to Taneatua in the Bay of Plenty in just 3 weeks!  It had crossed Auckland and therefore SH1 to do this. Remember weka do not fly so it had walked about 300 km!

One third of our breeding female weka fatally injured by an unprotected rat trap

One third of our breeding female weka fatally injured by an unprotected rat trap

  • If you use a rat trap it must be placed totally out of reach of a weka, – a roof space or
    a high shelf in a garage.
  • Outside on the ground is absolutely the wrong place.
  • Please make sure that all your families and any visitors get this message!

Sheila our 2 year old female weka (green over yellow – metal) had been paired with Tipene (metal- yellow over red) for almost all her short adult life. She was a good mother producing young up to 3 times in a season. She was one of just 3 adult females in a breeding pair in the area we monitor so she was 33% of our breeding female stock.
I have said “was” as she has fallen victim to a badly placed rat snap trap.
She was seen on Thursday morning 12th July with the upper part of her beak badly damaged, so much so that she was unable to pick up items of food like oats. This meant that without help she would be unable to forage and would eventually starve. It took 4 days to get her into a capture cage.
We took her to the NZ Centre for Conservation Medicine attached to Auckland Zoo. If anyone was going to be able to repair the damage they were the team to do it. The report came back that the injury was “not salvageable” with severe damage to the tissues inside the beak as well as what we could see on the outside. Sadly the decision was been made to euthanise her.
The only way Sheila could have received this injury was in a snap rat trap placed within her reach.
It is vitally important that any rat trap is placed in a situation totally out of reach of a weka, places like a roof space or a high shelf in a garage.

On the ground outside is absolutely the wrong place.

Please ensure that all your families and any visitors who might use your property get this message.
If troubled by rats please use Racumin poison baits that are pet and bird safe. Trial packs are available from WekaWatch (phone 09 2922 512 or 09 2922 221) for $11.

What has WekaWatch been doing in the last month

What has WekaWatch been doing in the last month

Watching and listening

There are two pairs of weka in Te Papa Road and almost certainly a chick, one fleeting sighting. The continuing rain means the birds do not need to come to gardens for water as often and the natural food supply is abundant in the damp leaf litter. We get news from the rest of the coast road, and residents give us reliable reports of weka at Waiti Bay and behind Tawhitokino Beach. Then weka seem to be back at Orere Point (3 reports) and one sighting of a weka crossing the road well south of Orere.  So please do keep all reports coming; we like to know what is going on! Post on our Facebook page or contact us through our website.
Our committee were very interested to note that in contrast to the many weka, there are now no Californian quail in Te Papa Road – where have they gone?

Trapping

Our assault on the predators continues. As well as rats galore – 72 in the last month – we have also caught 2 weasels. Small, mean, and vicious, the weka
habitat is better off without them.

Painting

Further weka for our weka flock are available. Undercoated weka are available at the garage for $10 each.
Beautifully and uniquely painted weka ready to install are $25. They can be viewed by texting 027 2925175 and arranging a time to select one (or more!).
They will also be available at a WekaWatch market stall once the Saturday morning weather improves.

Experimenting

Once a trap has caught and killed one predator how long has that trap not been ready to catch another pest?
And what do we know about the ages of the mustelids we catch?
We reluctantly carried out a test to see how long it took a dead rat to go from fresh to maggoty to dehydrated!!!
We now know that most rats have been in a trap for at least 3 weeks before they are cleared.
Even more reluctantly we are retrieving all mustelid heads (or whole bodies) to double
bag and seal tightly in a box in the freezer for further study (by Tony our weka man!).
This is real citizen science done with thick gloves and breathing on hold!

Meeting

Our keen committee meets regularly to share news and observations plus plan for the
future. We have a vacancy if there is someone out there who would like to support our
efforts to improve the natural environment for all wildlife in Kawakawa Bay.

Thanking

Thank you to OUR Community Association for their very generous grant to cover the
cost of 400 more baits for our traps. This is sufficient bait for another 3 months of
predator control in the weka area. Yippee!!
Thank you also to Auckland Transport for 2 more weka warning signs. It
took 15 months but they are now there for all to see.

June 2018

June 2018

This month our news is all about the numbers game.

Rats –

Last month we boasted that the trappers had taken 160 rats so far in 2018 but the May rat capture has raised that total for 2018 to 251! We still have Racumin should you need weka-safe (and pet-safe) rat poison. Phone 2922 512 or 2922 221

Weka flock shapes –

By popular request we have more weka shapes available. Undercoated they are ready for you to personalise for $10 each or choose one beautifully painted for $15. Ask Rhonda at the garage for blanks or phone Barbara Strong on 2922 775 to choose your individual masterpiece.

Weka –

The results of the 2018 autumn weka count are out. The graph below shows that the numbers have dropped startlingly over the past 4 years. We know that all weka populations do fluctuate wildly at times; their numbers are affected by weather, food availability, disease, and habitat loss as well as predation pressures. The exact causes for the decline here are unknown though the 2 years of drought in 2013 and 2014 clearly had an effect.

These lower counts should not allow us to relax our efforts to protect these rare birds. Remember North Island weka are classified ‘Nationally Endangered’ by DOC and are rarer on the North Island mainland than NI brown kiwi. Our weka are very special members of the Kawakawa Bay ecosystem!

Remember we can all play a part.

To help our weka please:

  • Drive with care.
  • Keep dogs under control in the weka area.
  • Use weka safe pest control, both traps and poisons.
  • Let us know if you see any mustelids – ferrets or stoats – anywhere around. The mustelids are the worst weka predators. They have a huge home range up to 100 hectares and are devilishly difficult to trap! For weka watchers, ferrets and stoats are Public Enemy Number One!
Hedgehogs: recent evidence of their impacts on native fauna

Hedgehogs: recent evidence of their impacts on native fauna

It seems the more we look, the more we find when it comes to the impacts of invasive pests. European hedgehogs are no exception. Once thought to provide a service by preying on garden pests such as slugs and snails, hedgehogs are now known to also prey on a wide variety of native species, including invertebrates, lizards, and the eggs and chicks of a range of native birds. We have learnt this by sorting through the remains of prey in their droppings and stomachs.

For example, 21% of hedgehog guts (each reflecting a single night’s feeding) from Macraes Flat, north Otago, contained native skink remains; a single hedgehog dropping from near Alexandra contained 10 McCann’s skink feet; and two separate studies have shown that female hedgehogs are three times more likely than males to have eaten native lizards. Rare native invertebrates are also eaten widely, and a single hedgehog gut from the central South Island was found to contain 283 wētā legs!

To read the full article from Predator Free NZ click here

Hedgehogs: recent evidence of their impacts on native fauna

Hedgehogs: recent evidence of their impacts on native fauna

It seems the more we look, the more we find when it comes to the impacts of invasive pests. European hedgehogs are no exception. Once thought to provide a service by preying on garden pests such as slugs and snails, hedgehogs are now known to also prey on a wide variety of native species, including invertebrates, lizards, and the eggs and chicks of a range of native birds. We have learnt this by sorting through the remains of prey in their droppings and stomachs.

For example, 21% of hedgehog guts (each reflecting a single night’s feeding) from Macraes Flat, north Otago, contained native skink remains; a single hedgehog dropping from near Alexandra contained 10 McCann’s skink feet; and two separate studies have shown that female hedgehogs are three times more likely than males to have eaten native lizards. Rare native invertebrates are also eaten widely, and a single hedgehog gut from the central South Island was found to contain 283 wētā legs!

Diet composition is one thing, but the real impacts on native species are often more difficult to measure. Research over the past 15 years has begun to clarify the picture.

For more information read the full article from Predator Free NZ 

WekaWatch Kawakawa Bay Volunteer Safety Protocols

WekaWatch has taken all practicable steps to minimise the safety risks for our volunteers.

WekaWatch assumes that you the counters will take reasonable care for your own health and safety.

We ask that you

  • Turn your cars in daylight ready to drive out at the end
  • Leave all gates as you find them
  • Take careful note of your route into the count site.  You will be returning by the same route in the dark
  • At the end be sure that you wait for other counters at the place where you separated from them at the start
  • Report any safety issues to a committee member at the debrief
Hi there weka counters!

Hi there weka counters!

The first  weka count for 2018 is this coming Saturday 17th weather permitting.   At this stage the weather looks to be OK for Saturday though we will update you on this closer to the time.

Thank you to those of you who have already confirmed you can take part.  It is really important to let us know if you will be there – even committee members!   If we know who to expect we can fit people to sites in good time!

Fitness advice

Remember that getting to most sites involves a good walk over farm or forest tracks, mostly uphill, some of these taking up to 45 minutes.  You will be returning after dark over the same route.  This means a reasonable standard of fitness is required.  I find a trekking pole is a good idea for rough ground after dark.

Meeting place – in front of the weka mural on Whitford Reserve, the point between the two bays.

Look for us wearing our WekaWatch yellow vests.

Meet in front of the mural on Whitford Point.

 

 

   Please be there at 5.30.

 

 

 

At registration you will be asked to read our safety protocol (attached)  and sign a form to say you agree with them.

We will issue you with

  • Count folder containing report sheet, maps, and instructions on how to get to your site
  • A high viz vest so you are identifiable to the land owners and other counters.
  • Your safety kit (first aid kit etc).  This includes antihistamine tablets for the unlikely situation of a wasp sting.  We have never had a wasp sting in 12 years of counting!

What to bring

Wear strong shoes or boots, warm clothes.  Bring food and a water bottle, something to sit on, a watch or clock, something to write with, a strong reliable torch as you will be walking back in the dark, (and a spare if you have one!), a cell phone if you have one (not all sites have coverage), insect repellent

Debrief

We expect all counters to report back at the end as we need to know that you are all safely back.  And it is only by telling us how you got on that we can make future counts even more successful!  You do not need to stay for the supper and chat though we’d love you to do so.

 Steve Huggard   Count Organiser

Thirteenth year of weka counts

Thirteenth year of weka counts

In 2005, soon after North Island weka were found to be living at Kawakawa Bay, a small team of birders conducted a weka survey.  The calls of 16 different weka were heard.  Every autumn  since then the weka have been counted and the progress of the population recorded.

 

Weka numbers are known to fluctuate wildly, affected by weather, food availability, disease, and predation pressures. Over the  last 13 years the numbers in the Bay area have ranged between that first 16 to around 130.  The counts in 2016 and 2017 were a low period, down to 20 and last  year 29.  This last summer has been  better for  breeding.  What will we hear this time?

 

The  2018 count will  take place over 3 Saturday nights, March 17th and 24th and April 7th.

Counters walk to the sites in the late afternoon and listen for 90 minutes for weka calls, recording the time and location of each.  If you are reasonably fit and like  to walk over farm or forest tracks you might like to find out more about joining the counters.  

Counters set off across a farm for an evening of counting

Do Automatic Traps Work?

Do Automatic Traps Work?

When the Good Nature automatic traps were first released onto the market, WekaWatch decided to wait and see if they worked for others before investing $200 in one for ourselves. However in July last year we were loaned a Good Nature trap, the one designed for possums. Great! At no cost to us we could try one out!

As with all traps in the weka area we fixed it a metre from the ground. Timms traps at this height successfully catch possums and we set one of our trail cameras to watch what happened. Remarkable photos appeared of possums scampering up and down the tree, often several times in quick succession. They are seen sniffing the lure as in the photo on the right or even sitting on top of the trap!. For more than 6 months we waited. Not a single kill.!

We showed our weka man Tony these photos and said ‘Look, see, we’ve proved it! The traps do not work!’ Tony, being a scientist asked ‘Why not? Is it because the tree is too fat and the possum’s arms are stretched too wide for it to put its head right in?’

So we measured the diameter of all the trees on which our Timms traps are fixed and compared their capture successes over the past 2 years. Sure enough, the most successful trap by far was the one called Jaffa Cafe. This trap, on a skinny tanekaha with a diameter of just 6 cm, had caught 10 possums in 2017 and 11 in 2016! Nearly 18% of all the possums caught (21 out of 84) were caught in just 1 of the 12 traps deployed over those 2 years!

We moved the Good Nature trap to a skinny tanekaha, diameter 13 cms. We fixed a Timms trap beside it at the same height for comparison, shifted the camera, and waited . . . with bated breath.

After having had the trap set since July 17th 2017, and on the skinny tree (see it on the right in the photo above) since late November, on 28th January 2018 John found the first possum under the Good Nature trap! It was a big male, 2.5 kilos.

There is a 30 second delay between each series of photos on the trail camera so the moment of the ‘coup de grace’ was not captured! On the right is a photo of the possum and its last venture up the tree.

 

What a surprise it got!

 

Christmas Snippets

Christmas Snippets

December 2017

Weka Chicks

We’d hoped to report to you about a number of successful weka families but they are proving hard to find.
Tipene and Sheila have lost one of their two babies but the surviving chick is looking well. It is starting to show the first brown feathers and is past the cute fluffy stage.

The pair at the back of Te Papa Road might have 2 chicks but they are not being seen right now.
Roxy has left Kermit and moved across the ridge to join Whitey. It may take them some time to get into breeding behaviour.

Trapping as a Tourist Experience.

Two young German visitors to the Bay walked the Richardson line with John recently. A fantastic and unique experience they said and they were delighted that they did not have to pay for it!
The views from the trig are amazing.

Do contact WekaWatch if you too would like to cross ‘Predator Trapping’ off your bucket list – it really is free!

Possum bonanza

Te Papa Road and the bush behind has been teeming with possums recently. We are delighted to report that in November the possum population there has been reduced by 17 but we have not got rid of them all.

And the score so far? Timms vs Good Nature automatic resetting traps? Timms 17 – Good Nature nil.

 

 

 

 

A really old weka

A weka released in the Bay of Islands in 2002 has just been found dead. It had survived on the edge of a small town for 15 years. Where are the granddads in our population? Why have we had no weka living longer than 6 years here? Habitat? Predation? Cars? Poisons? Can we do better?

A Christmas Gift Suggestion

Watch Out for the Weka by Ned Barraud, a picture book for all New Zealand kids, is a true weka story. 

Alf is a DOC hut warden in Abel Tasman National Park whose precious 

watch is stolen by a weka. He needs to get it back. How will he outwit the weka?

Beautiful illustrations take us into the heart of wild New Zealand for a satisfying resolution.

We are delighted to find a book about a weka behaving as a weka and the page of weka facts at the end is a useful inclusion.

We found our copy at Whitcoulls – price $19.99. Highly recommended.

The WekaWatch committee wish you all a merry Christmas and a weka filled 2018!

September 2017 Spring time thoughts

September 2017 Spring time thoughts

 Spring is here.

There has been a change in the behaviour of some of the weka pairs; not appreaing as often and not being seen together. Tipene and Sheila have been one pair like this. This weekend Sheila was seen taking small pieces of cheese up into the bush rather than scoffing them on the spot. This is what we call ‘carrying’ and it means that she and her mate have small chicks to feed. Cheese is an energy dense food so is a prized find.

An update on the Good Nature automatic resetting traps.

Last month when we wrote about our trial of these traps we said: It is early days and at time of writing we have not had any success though we have photos of possums taking a keen interest in them. Our trial possum trap has now been installed and operational for 6 weeks but don’t hold your breaths! The camera that takes a photo of whatever approaches the trap has yeilded some interesting data. 43 photos in total, and 17 of them are of passing possums. But none of these 17 possums was caught by the Good Nature trap. In the meantime the Timms trap set on a neighbouring tree has caught 2 possums one of them a whopper weighing over 3 kg! (And 6 male possums have been caught in that Timms trap since the begining of June.) To test the new trap further we have to eliminate some variables. We should fix the two different possum traps side by side on the same tree and use the same lure/bait in each and see what happens. An even more interesting result is that of the 43 photos 23 (more than 50%) are of domestic cats and the other 3 are of goats. No weka have been ‘caught’ by the camera in this time.

Remember WekaWatch has a Timms trap to lend to residents bothered by possums. We will help you to set it up to ensure it is weka safe. Contact us by email wekawatchkbc@gmail.com

Why are we Weka Watchers?

If you asked any of us why we volunteered to be weka watchers, each of us could give you a different answer. Is it because we are enchanted by these rare and fascinating birds that have walked into our gardens and our lives? Or is it to meet new people, to feel useful, to get fit by walking the trap lines? To help reverse the damage people have done to the land and its native fauna, to take part in the Predator Free New Zealand project in a small way, to make a difference to the world, to do something! WekaWatch has plenty of tasks for volunteers other than trapping and counting and there could be one for you. We have jobs for people with computer skills, cooking skills to feed the counters, marketing and writing skills and even artistic skills as we try to fill more blank walls with weka art.

Want to be involved? We can find a role for you! Just get in touch!