It is great to see weka safe predator control in the
local area getting support from Auckland Council. A
proportion of our conservation targeted rates along
with funding from the Franklin Local Board is
supporting a number of local trap and bait days.
It was the turn of Orere Point and Kawakawa Bay
last month. It was encouraging to see how many
people took away baits and toxins. If used correctly
these will help control possums and rats in our area,
at the same time keeping our domestic pets and
native wildlife safe.
It would be great to hear how many people are successfully trapping rats and possums in the Bay.
WekaWatch picked up one or two new tools
including some chew cards. These are small
cards of Coreflute (corrugated plastic) filled with
a tasty non toxic bait. Nailed to a tree they are
tempting to various animals on the ground.
Different animals leave different tooth prints in
the card and it is a great way of finding out what
is wandering around. No chewing means you
are on top of your nasties!
This card on the left has been visited by a
hungry rat still to be trapped in the Cotman bush
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 email@example.com to register your interest and they will contact you directly.
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.
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.
In this newsletter you can read
• 2018 spring count and dates for 2019
• What’s been happening in Te Papa Road
• Our traps and the forest some of them are in
• Looking back
• Community recognition for what we do
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!
This month our news is all about the numbers game.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
We have to accept that, if we are to save endangered native fauna, we have to get rid of the animals that can harm them. WekaWatch targets the worst weka predators, stoats, ferrets and weasels and also rats and hedgehogs. Safe baits became very expensive so we now use only traps.
Most people are familiar with the bright yellow trap in the photo below. Timms traps are the most effective traps for possums but they are labour intensive as they must to be cleared after each capture.
In the weka area they need to be set well off the ground to ensure weka do not poke their heads inside them.
Victor Professional rat traps.
The best snap rat trap we have found. The bait goes on a bright yellowtreadle so there is a visual lure as well as the smell. Extra strong springs make these sure killers.
These are the most humane traps available;
we have about 170 of them on our long trap lines
encased in wooden boxes. The only traps in our arsenal that will take stoats and ferrets, they need to be checked
monthly at least.
Good Nature automatic resetting traps.
This possum still has to climb the tree!
There is a lot of publicity about these recently
developed traps and we are often asked why
we are not using them.
We’ve had mixed reports on their effectiveness
and do not want to invest in them until they are
proven as they cost 5 times as much as a
Timms trap! They have a gas driven pin that
instantly kills the predator and then retracts
automatically so the trap is ready for the next
We have been loaned two of these and have set them up with a trail camera to spy on them. 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.
New trappers always welcome!
If you would like to be part of the WekaWatch trapping team do let us know! There is plenty of work for all!
Rats and possums are everywhere!
Want to launch a predator war on your own property?
Talk to us if you would like help with traps or poisons.
WekaWatch encourages the use of Racumin, a rat bait that has no secondary kill for pets or wildlife. Contact us for Racumin – $11 a box.
Remember WekaWatch has a Timms trap to lend to residents bothered by a possum. We will help with
setting it up to ensure it is weka safe.
Either phone 2922 512 or email email@example.com
Four major weather events between mid-February and late April have influenced our work more than
anything else over recent months.
Rain, rain and more rain in March and April caused severe slips on the Coast Road closing access
to our two longest trap lines and also to five of our 11 count sites. The road is still closed to all but
residential traffic and it seems it will be for another 6 to 9 months. There were also numerous slips
on the back country after the March storm; this was compounded by the severe rain event in April so
that before the counters went out all routes to the count sites had to be checked for safe access.
Franklin Local Board grant.
We heard in January that our local board had awarded WekaWatch almost $900. This covered half the cost of three Moultrie motion sensitive infra red trail cameras and also our highly visible safety vests. The vests are not only for safety but also mean farmers and land owners know exactly where our volunteers
2017 weka counts.
The counts which in normal years are completed in just 3 nights dragged out over 6 because of difficult access to the sites. Our counters were wonderful; some of them walked more than an hour to reach a remote site and then an hour in the dark to return. After all the effort it was encouraging to find that weka numbers had increased somewhat from last year. In 2016 the numbers had plunged to an all time low of 20, but this year the total was 29 including 9 pairs. This is still far short of our peak totals a few years ago of more than 130 weka calling over the count period.
Our counters looked magnificent in their vests and they made it easy for them to locate one another
by torch light.
Jonah at Water Corner
A possum at Five Crossroads
With our three new cameras and two privately owned ones we now have 5 locations in the weka habitat behind Te Papa Road being monitored 24/7. We have a wealth of data already. We are able to identify many weka by their colour bands by day and can often see if a bird is banded and if we know which leg has the metal band which sex it is by night. We have identified up to 9 different well fed domestic cats roaming the bush. Cats are never vegetarian but it is unlikely that any of these are a threat to the weka. We have recorded a huge number of different bird species both native and introduced and plenty of possums, rats, hedgehogs and mice. We have seen a mob of goats walk by and a small wild pig; this is a sign there is work to do on the boundary fencing.
The most disturbing photo was one in March of a ferret. We upped our trapping efforts putting lots of
fresh rabbit out in the closest DOC traps but were unsuccessful.
As well as the usual reports of predators and by-catch, in 2017 the trappers’ sheets have come back
this year with comments like ‘mud’ and ‘washed away’ (this trap was found on the beach) and ‘lost in
flood’ (still not found – under a slip?). But the catches so far in 2017 have been impressive even
when some lines were walked less often, that weather again.
185 rats, 29 hedgehogs, 3 stoats and 4 weasels.
We have been reluctant to invest in the much talked about but expensive Good Nature traps without
proof that they are truly reliable in our situation. Some users have had great success, others very
little. We have been loaned two of these traps, one for rats/stoats and one for possums. We have
one of our cameras focused on the two traps and we wait impatiently for some definitive results.
Andrew and John check a DOC200
A visit from our local member of parliament
In February Andrew Bayly, National MP for Hunua visited us and spent a morning on a trap line with John. He is one of the greener blue MPs and took a keen interest in our work.
His visit brought us wider publicity through the local paper and also on Andrew’s Facebook page.
Banded weka RIP Cheeky Charlie
Sadly on the morning of Mothers’ Day we lost Charlie, one of our oldest male weka. His still warm body was found beside the road, with a compound fracture of a leg and some severe internal injuries. This was clearly road kill and illustrates how important it is always to take care when driving along the Coast Road or in Te Papa Road where there are often weka near the road. Charlie was one of our longest lived breeding weka. Banded in June 2014 as a sub-adultweighing 960 grams he was frequently seen around the Te Papa Road area. The day before his death he was seen carrying nesting material; he was a very important breeding bird. His unbanded female partner may take some time to find a new mate. At autopsy Charlie weighed 1280 grams; he was not shy so was well fed.
Tony Beauchamp has managed only one visit this year but in terms of weka banding it was a great
success. A pair of birds in Te Papa Road – Kermit (he has 2 green bands) and Roxy – and a pair
round at 103 Coast Road plus an extra female. We will watch these new recruits to the group of
identifiable weka with interest.
Thank you to so many of you who sent in a subscription and in a number of cases a generous
donation as well. We do appreciate the fantastic support we get from so many of you.
Huge thanks are due to Ian Southey who has managed our counts every year since the first one in
2005. He has now handed this important task over to the committee.
Treasurer Phil and Nova Coory also retired from the committee at the AGM. They no longer live in
the Bay and it was difficult for Phil to continue as treasurer.
So we are delighted to welcome Nadine Burgess, an enthusiastic new Te Papa Road resident, as
treasurer, and Lindsey Britton, a committed conservation advocate from Ness Valley, to join us on
Your committee hopes you have enjoyed this short update on the happenings at Kawakawa Bay!
Our enthusiastic trappers had a productive month in June.
The two long trap lines on the Tawhitokino farm were walked and 92 traps were cleared, some of them twice.
And the results? 70 rats, 9 hedgehogs, and one stoat.
Only 2 possums have been taken in the Te Papa Road area this month, quite a low number for 30 days.
But the possum total for 2017 is now 34!
A fresh stoat – very dead though.
We are really targeting stoats and ferrets.
The greatest predator threat to adult weka are the larger mustelids – stoats and ferrets.
Ship rats have very long tails.
Rats, hedgehogs and weasels are a by-catch but we are still glad to get them out of the ecosystem.
Rats and hedgehogs do take weka eggs – their nests are on the ground of course as weka cannot fly! They also compete with weka for the limited food supply.
Possums, as well as predating weka eggs and chicks, also damage the weka habitat. More possums feeding up above mean fewer leaves from the canopy will fall later as leaf litter. It is the invertebrates in the litter on the forest floor that supply most of a weka’s food. The leaf litter acts as a mulch – the drier the soil, the harder it gets meaning fewer worms etc which are a great protein source for all birds.
Bad news for the possums but good news for the weka in the Te Papa Road area! Possums frequently trip our motion sensitive cameras so we know they are always there in our valley. In April John trapped 14 of them!
Is this possum heading for a trap?
Thank you Barbara and Alan for the free feijoas – the possums loved them! This gives us a grand total of 352 of these pests trapped since 2005. We all know that possums are a ‘bad thing’. President Trump might even call them ‘horrible’! But are they a ‘bad thing’ for our weka? Yes, they are! Possums compete with weka for food; they both love native fruits and invertebrates like worms, insects and slugs. Possums will take eggs from a weka nest. Possums cause degradation of the forest habitat, not just the canopy but also the leaf litter layer where weka love to forage for food. This damage is detrimental to all our native wildlife not just weka.
It is clear that we need to try to control possum numbers but we have to take great care how we do this to keep our endangered weka safe. Most people set a Timms trap on the ground right where a curious omnivorous weka will find it and put its sticky beak right into it! WekaWatch puts all their Timms traps at least a metre up a tree, preferably higher. It works!
If using possum poisons we also need to be weka aware. Anticoagulant poisons (like the rat baits you can find in any supermarket) or toxins like cyanide are lethal for weka and other birds.
WekaWatch encourages the use of Racumin, a rat bait that has no secondary kill.
To our dismay and concern in the middle of March one of our trail cameras caught a ferret in the heart of weka territory.
Ferrets along with unleashed dogs are the greatest threat to the endangered weka.
They are highly mobile predators with a large home range of about 100 hectares.
A male’s range is often greater than this.
Traps in the immediate area have been baited with fresh rabbit, the recommended lure and are being checked frequently.
Ferrets were introduced to New Zealand in the late 1870s to control rabbits. They are opportunistic scavengers and will prey on anything that looks like a meal especially if rabbit numbers are low. The anti-fur movement led to the closure of fitch farms. Some fitch farmers when they closed their operation just opened the cages and released the ferrets into the wild! Our native wild life is still paying the price.
If you see a ferret anywhere anytime please let WekaWatch know.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 2922 512 or 2922 221. Please!
2017 weka counts severely curtailed!
The recent adverse weather has meant a huge rethink of our annual counts. They were scheduled to take place on three Saturdays in April. We have 11 core count sites that have been checked 3 times a year for 7 or more years and we really want the data from these same sites in 2017. However access to 5 of the sites is from the farm at the end of Kawakawa Bay Coast Road and 4 others are high on the hills at the back of the Couldrey and Deery farms. Access across the farms to all the count sites had been checked after the March rain and now someone has to do it all again. Whether those sites at the end of Coast Road can be done at all this year is debatable.
Trail camera photo of the month – a magnificent peacock walks by.
9th Annual General Meeting
The AGM is on 22nd April at 2.00 in the hall supper room. All welcome!
February has been a busy month for WekaWatch and for the weka.
The highlight was welcoming Andrew Bayly, MP for our electorate Hunua, to the Bay. He spent a morning on a trap line with John and Steve and was truly impressed by the work we are doing.
You can see more photos of his visit on his Facebook page.
While having coffee before he headed off for his next appointment Tipene came out to greet him.
The weka also seem to be doing well. We still have at least 4 active pairs in the Te Papa Road valley, perhaps 5. The next valley to the east is Whitey and Tui’s patch and over this breeding season they have raised 7 young. There are reports of breeding further to the east too so while we humans complain that this has been a lousy summer it seems to have suited the birds.
We are coming up to autumn and that means not only our annual weka count but also our AGM. We have a couple of vacancies on the committee, not for trappers or counters but for people who might have a couple of hours a month to help with some admin tasks. Our meetings are short and infrequent! And you do not have to know anything about weka! If you feel you could help us in this way please get in touch.
We want to acknowledge the significant support for our work from local businesses and Auckland Council. Thank you to Hunting and Fishing Botany for sourcing and supplying our trail cameras; Safeworx Papakura for supplying our hi viz vests and organising the printing; Resene Takanini for supplying our test pots of paint for the weka flock; JB Hi Fi Botany for the discount on the SD cards for the cameras. Then there is the support we receive from Auckland Council – Franklin Local Board for the generous grant that partly paid for the cameras and the vests, Auckland Council Biodiversity for baits and traps, Auckland Council Biosecurity for advice and support, Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust for so much help with the weka flock.
That is quite a list and we are so grateful to them all. Without them and their help our job would be so much harder.
If you want to have a weka on your own fence or gate please let us know. You can paint your own ($5) but we also have some ready painted or we will even try to paint one in a colour scheme of your choice! Those ones cost a little more. All funds go to help us save our weka.
Contact us at www.wekawatch.co.nz or phone 2922 512 or 2922 221
For more photos of our weka and lots of other things go to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/wekawatch.co.nz
Welcome to another edition of the WekaWatch newsletter.
Sheila and her chick
We want to bring you up to date on some of the things that have happened since the middle of last year. Weka numbers seem to be growing – cautious optimism is called for In mid-2015 the number of weka in Te Papa Road and the neighbouring valley dropped dramatically over just a few short weeks. The only reason that we could come up with was a predator event – stoats? Ferrets? A stray dog? Our trap lines did not show any increase in mustelid catches; these have never been high and continue to be low. This drop in numbers was still evident in the very low autumn count results in 2016. Only 20 birds were heard over the whole monitored area (11 count sites). Now for reasons which we wish we could understand, the number of weka in the area most closely watched – the first two valleys east of the boat ramp (including Te Papa Road) has moved slowly and steadily upwards. Because of their bands we can identify 5 pairs in the area, at least three of which have successfully raised chicks in the past few months. As of early January, we have Fred and Edna, Charlie and Charlotte, Whitey and Tui, Tipene (Whitey’s son from last year) and Sheila, and Scruffy with his elusive unbanded partner. Tipene’s brother, Jonah is also in Te Papa Road looking as though he has been in some male on male fighting, perhaps trying to move in on Charlotte as Charlie also bears the signs of some fighting. And one of Whitey and Tui’s recent juveniles, The Colonel (so called as his bands are MYY and he looks like a player in Cluedo) seems to be pairing off with a female. Tony Beauchamp has made several visits and despite some banding success there is always one weka that hides while he is here and reappears the next day flaunting its unbanded status!
This increase in numbers is no reason to relax our concern for the birds and their interaction with the residents and visitors to Kawakawa Bay, nor our trapping programme. We will see if this increase is evident throughout the core area only after the 2017 autumn counts – which this year will be on Saturdays April 8th, 22nd and 29th. A good turnout of fit, experienced counters will help us find an answer. Community relations One of the objects of WekaWatch Kawakawa Bay as stated in our rules is – To engage in . . . programmes that promote . . . public awareness of the need to protect endangered . . . WEKA and . . . their habitats For almost 10 years we have put a weka story in the Bay Whispers every month with information about the birds and our work, but this of course only reaches those who read the publication. We have our notice board near the Kawakawa Bay Dairy but not everyone stops to read that either.
After attending the Community Association meeting mid 2016, we brainstormed ways in which we could make our weka more visible to everyone in the village, both residents and visitors, and some of our ideas are bearing fruit. Have you seen our magnificent mural on the toilet block at Whitford Point between the two main bays? Thanks to local artist Louis Rawnsley who carried out the project, to those who helped prepare the wall, to the Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust (MBCT) for the paint and brushes, and to Greg Lowe from Auckland Parks for putting the project to the Franklin Local Board to gain their approval. Once we had the go-ahead the work was completed within a week!
We have uplifted the idea of establishing a ‘flock’ of birds from Pukorokoro Miranda Naturalists’ Trust. Whereas they have a variety of shorebirds around their centre and appearing in unlikely spots all over the country, the WekaWatch flock is mono-species. We have an ever-growing flock of brightly painted cut-out weka that are appearing in gardens and on fences and letter box posts all around the bay. Thanks to MBCT again for the paint and for arranging for Robb from their Boomer Boys Men’s Shed to cut the shapes for us. So far most of the weka have been painted by the children in the Bay but we hope that grownups will paint their own or purchase one already painted.
We are asking for donations for these to cover the costs of the ply and even raise some funds for our other work.
The kindergarten children are very proud of their work.
Over the last 6 months there has been a steady capture of rats (90) and hedgehogs (14). 4 stoats, 1 possum (a highly unlikely capture in a DOC trap) and 1 mouse make up the total.
We have two trail cameras at strategic points in the bush in the Te Papa Road area. We are keen to know what is wandering around out there, especially if there predators that we are failing to catch. One camera has been operating non-stop since mid July and in all that time not one mustelid has been seen and only two rats. As well, we are gathering interesting data about where and when the weka wander (all night at times). We also see neighbours’ cats (and grandchildren) and can watch kereru, tui, fantails and other birds making good use of the water that is in the camera’s view. One camera has a Timms trap within range. Seeing a possum approach to within a metre of the trap then turning around and leaving it made us change to a half orange to trap the beast eventually. We would like to cover more areas with these cameras and have applied to the Franklin Local Board for funding to help us do this. It appears we have been successful and we hope to have three more cameras out before long.
Denise keeps our Facebook page up to date and we recommend that you visit us and please like and share us! We welcome your comments and posts. It is interesting to see how much further our message is reaching with comments and contributions from people from all around New Zealand and overseas who love weka as we do. Find us at https://www.facebook.com/wekawatch.co.nz
In our last letter we asked for a new minutes secretary; and even better, we have an ‘old’ one. Welcome back to Barbara Strong who was our minutes secretary in the past and now finds she is able to take up the reins again. Thank you Barbara.
We really appreciate support from many of you who pay us a $20 subscription to keep our work going. Our financial year is a calendar year so 2017 subscriptions are now due. You can renew your membership on line; our bank account at the ASB Papakura is 12 3031 0137652 00 Please include your name so we know who is paying and the word ‘sub’ or ‘membership’. Alternatively you could post a cheque to WekaWatch Kawakawa Bay Inc C/- Kawakawa Bay Postal Centre Kawakawa Bay 2138.
Your committee hopes you have enjoyed this short update on the happenings at Kawakawa Bay! Rosemary Cotman – Chair, Phil Coory – Treasurer, Barbara Strong – Minutes Secretary, Trish Simmonds – publicity, Nova Coory – publicity, Ian Southey – count planning, Michelle Hollings – Orere liaison, Denise Moyle – Website, Facebook, John Cotman – trap line manager, Steve Huggard – notice board, photographer extraordinaire.
WekaWatch Kawakawa Bay Inc C/- Kawakawa Bay Postal Centre Kawakawa Bay 2138 email@example.com www.wekawatch.co.nz Phone 09 2922 512
Welcome to another edition of the WekaWatch newsletter. We hope to bring you all up to date on some of the things that have happened since the start of the year.
Our January social picnic was held at Waitawa Regional Park on a wonderful summer’s afternoon. The brilliant weather lured out half of South Auckland but we managed to find a corner for ourselves and enjoyed meeting up with members and supporters. It is great to see our newest regional park being so well used and enjoyed.
AGM and committee matters
The Annual General Meeting of WekaWatch Kawakawa Bay Inc was held on 16th April. Our out going chairman Kevin Vaughan’s annual report was well received. We farewelled him with thanks for his patient leadership over 4 years and also thanked outgoing committee member Joyce Frost who has waved our WekaWatch flag so strongly around at Orere Point for several years. We are enjoying working with 2 new members of the committee; Steve Huggard lives along Coast Road and his oversight of weka pair Whitey and Suzie over their recent productive summer breeding was recorded so well on camera; Michelle Hollings is another enthusiastic resident of Orere Point and our message will reach that settlement under her watch. Rosemary Cotman is the new chairperson. A motion was put that Tony Beauchamp, our weka guru and for 10 years our constant guide and support, be offered Life Membership of WekaWatch. The proposal was carried by acclamation.
Since the AGM we have reluctantly accepted the resignation of our minutes secretary Yvonne Taylor. She and her husband Mike are leaving the Bay after 40 years. She has done great work in turning our meeting ramblings into intelligible notes. Thank you Yvonne! We are currently looking for someone to fill her place.
Our mid-2015 newsletter reported what looked to be an encouraging increase in weka numbers in the official count, up from 49 in 2014 to 67 in 2015. In the January 2016 newsletter we said there had been a significant drop off in weka observed in Te Papa Road over a 2 month period in June and July last year. We had had a special count last October that confirmed this. The El Nino over the past summer was not as severe as predicted so we were hoping for an encouraging result at this last autumn’s count. However we were very disappointed to record only 20 weka over the whole 11 count sites this year over the 3 nights. Apart from only 16 birds in August 2005, the very first count, when the population was just becoming established, this is the lowest tally ever. We continue to watch closely the birds we know about. We are pleased that there seems to be 4 pairs of weka in Te Papa Road at present. We hope that this includes in part the young birds hatched last spring at Steve’s.
Follow this link for a full report of the 2016 count.
Our banded birds
We are really pleased that our weka banding programme, now in its 7th year, enables us to follow the lives of a small representative group of weka. The banding is all centred on Te Papa Road and close watch is kept on the individual birds in this area. In January Cheeky Charlie was seen with a female. She has now been banded and has been named Charlotte. At the start of June Charlie was observed carrying food away and sure enough a few days later we got the first look at the single chick. In the past week Tony has captured this juvenile, a male, and it too now has bands. This is unusually early for breeding, an effect of climate disruption? There are three other pairs on the slopes of the Te Papa Road valley at present and evening calling is loud and vigorous. Charlotte and Cheeky Charlie feed their chick Whitey, is still in the next valley but with an un-banded female. His former partner Suzie is no longer around.
Whitey and un-banded female
Other weka reports
From time to time we get reports of weka in other parts of the Bay. Recently these have come from the area near the bridge just past the dairy in Kawakawa Bay proper and also from the houses near Nimon’s Bridge in the first or Turei Bay. We ask for photos to enable us to make a positive ID. No photos have come in from the main bay yet but we have seen a photo of a weka in a garden next to Nimon’s Bridge. On going round to investigate the “young weka” in one of these gardens, we saw a pair of banded rail scurrying down to the bed of reeds by the stream. So it appears that there are two species of rail being seen in that area. The number of weka in that area is unclear.
Tony Beauchamp has issued us with a challenge. He has stressed to us that maintaining the weka population here will be nigh on impossible without buy-in and commitment from the whole Kawakawa Bay community. We have picked up the gauntlet he threw before us and are trying to raise the profile of weka locally even more than we have in the past. Committee member Steve has produced an excellent video compilation and this forms the central attraction at our occasional appearances at the local market. After a presentation to the KK Bay Community Association a number of suggestions have been made so we can keep weka in front of the whole community and raise their profile more widely. Watch this space!
Our local news bulletin has a WekaWatch article in it every month with a short pithy weka conservation message each time. We have stressed our recommendation to use weka-safe Racumin for rat control, selling it to those interested at cost. and have outlined the protocol if a dead weka is ever found so we can get it sent to Massey University for necropsy if necessary.
We arranged for a mail drop to all letter boxes in the Bay to publicise our programme.
Our traps and trap lines
Over the last 6 months the trap lines have been walked as frequently as possible. There has been a steady capture of rats (126) and hedgehogs (23) but the number of mustelids, our target species, has been low, just 2 weasels and one stoat.
Stoats found on trapline D
Ian and Rosemary, representing WekaWatch, attended a seminar on volunteer safety. The health and safety requirements for a small volunteer group like ours have not changed with the new H&S act. However it was a great chance for us to review our practices both with our trappers and our counters. A number of changes could be on the way.
Woodhams Cotman Bush
John and Rosemary have had confirmation that 6.4 ha of their property has been placed in a QE11 National Trust Open Space covenant. This is to the east of Te Papa Road and comprises a piece of mature coastal bush largely untouched for more than 100 years. The management plan makes special mention of our weka and requires any future owners of the Woodhams Cotman Bush to do any predator control with weka safety in mind.
Denise keeps our Facebook page up to date and we recommend that you visit us and even like us!
We welcome your comments and posts. It is interesting to see how much further our message is reaching with comments and contributions from others from all around New Zealand who love weka as we do. Find us at https://www.facebook.com/wekawatch.co.nz
Your committee hopes you have enjoyed this short update on the happenings at Kawakawa Bay!
WekaWatch Kawakawa Bay Inc C/- Kawakawa Bay Postal Centre Kawakawa Bay 2138
You WekaWatch people talk about your weka guru Tony. Who is he and how does he know so much about weka?
Dr Tony Beauchamp is an ornithologist who did his PhD on the weka on Kapiti Island almost 40 years ago. Ever since then weka have been his passion and his hobby. Although he now works on other projects as a scientist with the Department of Conservation, his spare time is filled with weka work. He has followed the weka population on Kawau Island for almost 20 years and has a huge understanding of these birds.
How did Tony get involved with the birds out here?
In 2005, soon after we learned about the weka here in Kawakawa Bay and read about their threatened status, we were advised to contact him. He came down for 24 hours, met us all, and then wrote a management plan which has guided our efforts ever since. He has kept in touch with us via email and through regular visits to see how we (and the weka ) are getting on. He is always at the end of an email or the phone!
What does he do when he is here?
Firstly there is a lot of talking and questioning. What have we seen? Heard? Recorded? He rises early every morning and walks around the weka area taking detailed notes of all the birds he sees or hears. Also he talks with residents about the weka on their properties and gives them advice on how to manage them. Then there is the banding programme and Tony has the special permit needed to capture and band these birds.
Can you tell us more about that?
Without being able to identify individual birds, the locals were missing out on some vital information on the weka in their own gardens. In February 2010 Tony colour-banded the first 12 weka in Te Papa Road and we have kept detailed records of when and where we have seen each bird for the last 6 years. This has been absolutely essential to our understanding of our feathered friends. We now know that none of our weka reach a great age and that the only reason the weka are still here is that every year young weka are recruited into the population to replace older birds that have disappeared. Where they go we do not know. This is totally different from the situation on Kawau where there are breeding birds that are 12 and 13 years old.
What did he do when he was last here?
Tony’s last visit was in the last week in January. Firstly we updated him with news of the unbanded birds we had been seeing. 3 capture cages were baited with cheese in strategic spots and over the 3 days he captured and banded 5 sub-adult weka for us. We now have a banded partner for Cheeky Charlie, Charlotte (white over blue-metal) though she has now been seen flirting with an unbanded male! These 5 weka brought the total of birds he has banded since 2010 to over 60!
Please send any news of the weka you see to firstname.lastname@example.org and do go to our Facebook page and like us!
WekaWatch picnic, AGM date, 2016 counts, A new committee member, Our banded birds, Be careful what you wish for, Our traps and trap lines, A four legged visitor.
Our start of year social picnic will be held on Sunday 24th January (which is NOT Auckland Anniversary weekend) It is good to have time together with no traps to check, no weka calls to record, just to have a chance to meet and talk about other stuff.
We will meet at our local Regional Park, Waitawa, just 5 km west of Kawakawa Bay.
No need to reply, just turn up some time after 4.00 p.m. – if the weather looks good you can decide to come at the last minute. There is no rain date.
Date – 24th January
Time – from 4.00 p.m. High tide is at 8.30 so there will be a chance to swim for those who want to.
Place – Waitawa Regional Park. Drive to the end of the peninsula to Mataitai Bay and go to the left side of the car park.
Bring your own picnic tea, chairs etc.
The Annual General meeting of WekaWatch Kawakawa Bay Inc will be held on Saturday 16th April at 2.00 in the supper room of the Kawakawa Bay Community Hall.
The annual autumn weka count dates have been set for the four Saturdays in April. We hope to complete the core counts on the first 3 nights. On the 23rd we will do Orere and mop up any missed core sites.
As usual we will meet outside the Kawakawa Bay Dairy to allocate count sites and equipment. Confirmation of your taking part helps us plan site allocation. Remember a reasonable standard of fitness is required for most sites.
16th April – AGM date
A new committee member
Guy Nash has owned a bach in Te Papa Road for many years and has always taken a keen interest in our work. When he expressed an interest in working with us we invited him to a committee meeting and asked him about his environmental credentials.
“Well,” began Guy, “I was introduced to the great outdoors when I joined the Boy Scouts. They gave me an axe and taught me to light fires.”
We co-opted him on the spot! Fortunately his eco-experience has broadened since those early days and he has skills and knowledge that we value. We know you will all enjoy meeting him.
Our banded birds
Our June 2015 newsletter gave no indication that things would change over the ensuing 6 months. At the time of the 2015 counts we’d felt there was an encouraging increase in weka numbers after the low 2014 counts. Te Papa Road had 3 or 4 resident pairs with some of them successfully breeding. In June and July we all noticed a drop off in the numbers of weka we were seeing or hearing in the Te Papa valley and in the frequency of their visits. Several of our regular males disappeared altogether (Wilson and George – Barry had already vanished) so that by about September the only banded bird we were seeing was Cheeky Charlie who seemed to have taken over the ranges of all the other birds.
We were also getting comments from property owners further round towards Waiti Bay that they were hearing and seeing fewer weka or none at all. We decided to do a four site count over 3 consecutive nights in early October which confirmed our observations. Only one or two birds were calling at Waiti Bay, none at all behind Tawhitokino and only one heard in Te Papa Road.
The cause of this population collapse was unknown; we needed to cover all possibilities. A letter was put in every letter box in the Bay reminding residents of the precautions we all need to take with dog control, rat poisoning and the risk of road kill. The traps were baited with fresh rabbit (see story below) and the trap lines were all checked with no mustelids taken.
Through all of this Steve and Debs, who live along Coast Road, kept posting encouraging reports of their pair, Whitey and Suzy, rearing first Tane, then 3 juveniles (unnamed – see photo) and now in January they have their 3rd clutch of two young. And this January in Te Papa, Charlie has been seen with a female and there are two other males calling, one in the west and one at the back of the valley answering his calls. [Since starting to write this we have read on our Facebook page that there is a family of 4 weka on the west side too] We believe it may be Whitey and Suzy’s sub-adults, Tane and the others, who have moved to Te Papa Road to start rebuilding the group there.
Be careful what you wish for
We wanted to get hold of some fresh rabbit for the traps closest to the houses, this being the preferred bait. If there were rogue mustelids up there we had more chance of trapping them with fresh rabbit than anything else. We put out a request for anyone who had the odd rabbit to contact us. One reply and John went to collect the ‘couple of rabbits’ this person had in his freezer. There were sixteen! Once again Phil’s workshop came into its own, the band saw was put to excellent use and we have fresh frozen rabbit baits for the next year or two!
Our traps and trap lines
The lines are all being walked regularly with an encouraging lack of mustelids being caught.
We have given a few of the traps supplied to us by Council at the end of 2014 to landowners whose bush clad properties are close to our trapping area. This could filter out some predators before they invade our core area and also protect a bit more land so the birds can move in greater safety.
Many of our trapping result sheets have been showing a high number of BGNT (Bait Gone Not Tripped) in the ‘Capture’ column. An infra red video camera placed by one of the traps gave clear evidence that one explanation for the missing baits was mice. Hungry enough to eat the bait, not heavy enough to trip the trap. One of these videos is on our Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/wekawatch.co.nz
Slime trails are also prominent across the floor of some traps and we assume that tiger slugs are also helping themselves to the baits.
Jon Anda our weka pen pal in Nelson gave us a hint – put the bait inside a perforated casing – this lets the smell or aroma out but keeps the bait safe. Cap the casing with a milk bottle top. After some research into importing stainless steel tubing from the UK at $50 a metre (very expensive!) and trying to drill holes in plastic waste pipe (very time consuming!) we discovered hair rollers at 5 or 6 for $2 (very cheap!) These are effective and we now have the aptly named “Aroma Towers” out in about 25 of our traps. We will add them to other traps as time goes by.
Bay residents were asked for bottle tops and responded with enthusiasm. We now have so many tops that we might offer the extras to Fonterra!
A four legged visitor.
We were fortunate to have a morning visit in late November from Macca and his handler, Angela Newport, from DOC. Macca is a trained stoat detector dog, hunting for evidence of stoats. Angela and Macca with Ian and Phil walked the area at the back of the Coast Road houses and up to the high points of the trap line behind Te Papa Road. The official report – In this area Macca did not indicate any scent or presence of stoat scat. However it was a relatively small area that we covered and one that could easily be within a hunting range of a stoat that was covering a much wider area.
Our membership year is the calendar year and members will be sent a reminder shortly.
Best wishes for 2016 from your committee
Kevin Vaughan – Chair,
Rosemary Cotman – Secretary,
Phil Coory – Treasurer,
Yvonne Taylor – Minutes Secretary,
Trish Simmonds – publicity,
Nova Coory – publicity,
Ian Southey – counts planning and analysis
Joyce Frost – Orere liaison,
Denise Moyle – Website, Facebook,
John Cotman – trap line manager
Guy Nash – we are still deciding on his special duties