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


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

2017 weka counts

Finally after struggling with abominable weather and severe damage to the routes into our count

sites, the 2017 weka count was completed in mid-May. This is much later than usual so the final

numbers are probably not directly comparable to earlier years.

In 2016 the weka population was at an all time low and we are encouraged that the numbers this

year show a slight increase.

We cannot relax our protection measures. We must all take care on the roads, keep dogs under

control and use safe pest control measures, and our volunteers need to keep checking our predator


2017 counts

2017 counts

The count for the night 8th April was cancelled.
5 count sites are totally inaccessible as the Coast Road is closed to pedestrians as well as vehicles from about 700 metres beyond Te Papa Road.  Here is what the roading team are trying to deal with. 
The fact that residents along there have been told their power is likely to be off for another 2 days tells us that Vector are not expecting to get through any time soon.
The AGM will still go ahead on April 22nd.  2.00 in the Kawakawa Bay Hall.  The next count is scheduled to take place after that – meeting at 4.00 at the mural at Whitford Point.  If you are a WekaWatch member please try to attend the meeting – we need a quorum to run it of course.
By then we will know whether we can access the count sites at the end of Coast Road and the state of the farm land we cross to get to the other sites.  We will advise you all before that date whether conditions are OK for a partial count or whether we will set a series of dates later in the year when things are a bit more normal.
We wish things were not this way.  Thank you for your interest, patience and understanding!
Weka surveys at Kawakawa Bay and Orere Point 2016

Weka surveys at Kawakawa Bay and Orere Point 2016

Once again we carried out the annual series of counts to monitor Weka at Kawakawa Bay in April

2016. The Tawhitokino Block was counted on the 2 nd , 9 th and 23 rd with a few more sites counted to

finish the required number on May 5 th , Orere Point was counted on the 16 th and Richardson’s on May

5 th . Counting went well this year with good, mild weather and mostly a good turnout. For the last

formal count we were joined by participants in the Birds New Zealand Youth Camp who were based

at the Pukorokoro-Miranda Shorebird Centre this year.

By late winter (June/July 2015) there had been a very obvious decline in Weka numbers in Te Papa

Rd and a limited count (Sites 1,2,3 and 10) was organised with local members in October (15 th , 16 th ,

and 17 th ) along the coastal strip to assess the severity of this decline.


Screenshot 2016-07-28 15.29.23Figure 1. Weka recorded in the Kawakawa Bay study area in 2016.

Unfortunately, after last year’s promising count, numbers have reverted to the recent declining trend.

Only 20 birds were counted in the main study area, including just 4 pairs. No Weka were heard on the

Richardson’s property or at Orere Point although we counted all of the sites we have been monitoring

there in recent years.

Last year at Kawakawa Bay there were 67 birds with 18 pairs recorded. This means we lost nearly

three quarters (73%) of Weka with an even bigger decline (83%) in the productive breeding pairs

from the preceding year. This very low total places us right back at the beginning as we found 16

birds with 4 pairs on our first count in 2005. It is a far cry from the about 130 birds we had in the main

study area from 2010 to 2012.

A total lack of birds at Orere Point is a first for us as there have always been a few since we began

counting there in 2012. Last year there were two pairs and three singles and we recorded up to 15

birds with 3 pairs there in 2013.  Also during 2013 there were 14 birds with three pairs on

Richardson’s but counting in this block has not been consistent and no birds have been recorded since,

although one was present in 2014 and three in 2015 on the northern edge of the block heard as part of

the main count.

In October we found a total of 8 birds at Kawakawa Bay including one pair mostly along the Coast Rd

at Sites 1 and 2.  This area is normally a stronghold of well cared for Weka so this was an alarmingly

low count reflecting the concerns of the residents.  Comparing the same sites this April we found 12 or

13 birds including 4 pairs, so while still very low there has clearly been an increase in the number of

pairs while the number of sites occupied remains similar.  These Weka counts are not exact but there is

a high level of consistency with these results from both counts and the reports of the residents who

were keeping an eye on the birds locally.

Weka Counts 2016

Weka Counts 2016

Hi there weka counters


You will all be aware of our concerns for the sudden drop in weka numbers in the winter of 2015.

To get a good idea of where the weka population stands in autumn 2016 we need a really good turn out of counters this year.


The dates set for the 2016 annual weka count are the four Saturdays in April.  Please note the dates in your diaries and try to get to at least one.

We meet at the Kawakawa Bay dairy for initial briefing and allocation of count sites.


Saturday 2nd April     Meet at 5.30            Sun set is at 7.12

Saturday 9th April     Meet at 4.15            Sun set is at 6.00

Saturday 16th April    Meet at 4.05            Sun set is at 5 50

Saturday 23rd April    Meet at 4.00            Sunset is at 5 45


The counts are for an hour and a half  finishing one hour after sunset.


Saturday 16th is the day of the 8th AGM of WekaWatch Kawakawa Bay (at 2.00)  This count will be followed by our annual pot luck dinner.


Remember a reasonable standard of fitness is required for all but one site.


What to bring   Bring warm clothes and a back pack, something to sit on, at least one torch, (the LED headlamps are popular) a charged cell phone if you have one, a watch/clock, a pencil, insect repellent (some sites are in bush and there are mosquitoes.  A few nets are available but repellent is still helpful), snacks and drinks if you need them.   You will be provided with a small safety kit on the day.

Weather check If the weather looks doubtful, watch for an email on the day, our Face book page perhaps or phone 2922 512 or 2922 221 on the afternoon for our decision.


Ian Southey

Count organiser

2015 Weka surveys at Kawakawa Bay and Orere Point

– a welcome increase in numbers this year    

                          Autumn rain does more than fill our tanks – it supports our rare weka population as well! Counts to monitor the weka population at Kawakawa Bay have been carried out every year since 2005. The counts are made by listening for weka calls over a 90 minute period at sunset, and logging the calling sites on a map. From just 16 birds in that first year, the population grew fairly quickly over the years until we were counting about 130 birds between 2010 and 2012. Over 2013 and 2014, two drought years, the population fell sharply to 99 in 2013 and to only 42 weka 2014.

This year we had another dry January but rain began to fall during February and has continued each month since. We had excellent weather for counting in March and April and recorded 67 weka; this is a welcome increase in numbers, the first in three years and more than 50% up on last year.

There was a higher concentration of birds, and especially pairs, near the houses between Te Papa Road and Tuturau Bay suggesting that deliberate or inadvertent feeding by people and/or their predator control may be assisting weka in these areas. The offspring of these birds are likely to move back into the hills to assist the population recovery there too.

Orere Point

2015 weka numbers at Orere Point (6) were similar to the 2014 count (5) but included two pairs this time (none in 2014) so this shows an improvement. The persistence of weka near the houses at Orere reflects the situation at Kawakawa Bay and the establishment of these birds may be a significant result of the early years of population growth as there will be birds dispersing outward as breeding and survival improve generally.

Annual Weka Counts: 2015

Annual Weka Counts: 2015

Weka surveys at Kawakawa Bay and Orere Point 2015 

by Ian Southey

Weka counts to monitor the population at Kawakawa Bay have been carried out since 2005 and this year we carried out the 11th count. The three main counts at Kawakawa Bay were on March 28th, April 11th and 18th, with a final count on May 1st to complete five counts that had been missed on the main counts.
Since 2012 we have conducted a single count at Orere Point which was done on April 25th but due to a shortage of people only one count site, rather than usual the two or three, was done on Richardson’s block. Weather was generally good for all counts so the results should be fairly good.

Kawakawa Bay

This year 67 Weka were recorded, 48 positions with 18 pairs (38%) and 31 singles. It should be noted that counts are approximate and there is scope for some underestimation, especially when birds are close, and some for over estimation when birds, far from observers, are not placed accurately.

The numbers have clearly improved since 2014 when 42 Weka called from 35 positions and only in 7 of these did they call as pairs (20%). This is a 150% increase in numbers overall and, more importantly, two and a half times as many pairs were present. Interestingly several observers recorded apparently single females calling which suggests that the number of pairs, and hence the potential productivity of the population could increase still further before the next breeding season.

There is a wide scatter both pairs and singles throughout the core block but there is clearly a higher density of birds in the same places more birds were recorded in 2014, especially between Te Papa Road and Tuturau Bay. Within about 500m of the coast there were 10 pairs and 9 single birds recorded in this stretch. Weka numbers remain low behind Tawhitokino Beach but have picked up a little to the south.

Orere Point

Weka numbers at Orere Point (6) were similar to the previous count in 2014 (5) but included two pairs this time rather than none in 2014 so this can be regarded as an improvement too.



After two years of drought Weka numbers at Kawakawa Bay fell from a high of about 130 birds recorded between 2010 and 2012 to just 42 in 2014. Fortunately the early prediction of a drought in 2015 proved inaccurate and although January was particularly parched rain began to fall during February and increased through the autumn. This seems to have helped the Weka at Kawakawa Bay survive so that numbers (67 birds) have increased to about the levels we saw in 2007, the third year of counting, rather than becoming perilously low as we had expected.

During the period we have counted Weka they have expanded to Orere Point where there now appears to be a small, perhaps stable, nucleus of birds in the town with some in the hinterland between there and Kawakawa Bay. These birds may have increased too but with fewer counts and fewer birds recorded it is harder to be sure. Like the population at Kawakawa Bay there seems to be more birds, and perhaps more pairs close to the coast, and especially near the houses, while the numbers of backcountry birds have fluctuated much more. These hill country birds may in fact be the edge of the Kawakawa Bay population as there is not always a clear connection to the Orere Point birds.

At present we have a situation where Weka seem to do best close to people although the extent of bush adjacent to the houses may also be important. At present it does not seem to be a coastal effect as there are many fewer Weka along Tawhitokino Beach where they have been quite common in the past but numbers fell dramatically and they do not seem to have increased yet. This shouldn’t be regarded as a definitive conclusion as the areas are small and the count methods are crude. These are the places where the bulk of the Weka population survived during the drought, where recovery is most advanced and the dispersing juveniles will presumably bolster the hill country birds and aid further recovery.


I am grateful to all of the people who turned up to help, especially the experienced ones who now seem to know what they are doing. It is hoped that the people who came for the first time will return as experienced counters next season as we still have trouble completing the workload.

The following people have helped with the counts this year. Joyce Frost, Ian Southey, John and Rosemary Cotman, Janie and Kevin Vaughan, Gillian Vaughan, Linda and Noel Knight, Barbara and Helen Kay, Trish and Graeme Simmonds, John Oates, Phil and Nova Coory, Gerry Romley, Warren Turnwald, Ans Bloem, Ralph and Miranda Davidson, Tony Beauchamp, Mags Ramsay, Nathan Cox, Tony Habraken, Haylee Wilde, Denise Moyle, Ruth Matheson, TaymarieYorston and Michelle Hollings.

Our local hosts deserve thanks for dealing with the logistics, and particularly Rosemary and Trish for hosting the debriefs. We are especially grateful to the landowners who allowed us access to count on their land.

Annual Weka Counts: 2014

Weka count nights. Several evenings every autumn are given over to counting the weka  mainly in our core area from the boat ramp to Tawhitokino Beach. This has now expanded to include other areas of interest due to identified Weka calls and sightings. These occur around sunset usually on a Saturday night.  Dates and times are posted here on the website .  The counts are weather dependant – wind is a particular problem as it may be louder than the wekas’ calls! It is a great chance to meet other like-minded people.  There is always a get together for a debrief afterwards. We meet at the WekaWatch notice board near the Kawakawa Bay dairy.      The times vary according to the time of sunset.          

2014 Weka Counts

This makes for interesting reading. Click the link below.

Weka counts 2014



Annual Weka Counts: 2013

Weka count nights. Several evenings every autumn are given over to counting the weka  mainly in our core area from the boat ramp to Tawhitokino Beach. This has now expanded to include other areas of interest due to identified Weka calls and sightings. These occur around sunset usually on a Saturday night.  Dates and times are posted here on the website .  The counts are weather dependant – wind is a particular problem as it may be louder than the wekas’ calls! It is a great chance to meet other like-minded people.  There is always a get together for a debrief afterwards. We meet at the WekaWatch notice board near the Kawakawa Bay dairy. The times vary according to the time of sunset.                                                                                     

2013 Weka Counts

Our annual weka counts took place over several Saturdays last autumn.

  • It was the 8th year for the 11 core count sites behind Kawakawa Bay and Tawhitokino.
  • We were keen to repeat our 2012 surveys of the Richardson property (our new trap line) and Orere Point.
  • We are now getting regular reports of weka, either sightings or calls further south and with enough counters we could even cover Tapapakanga.
  • As the weka expand their reach, our need for counters expands as well.
  • Do encourage friends and colleagues to join us for at least one night; remind them it is a fun social occasion  as well as vital help in the protection of an endangered native bird.
  • All beginners are paired with an experienced counter. Prior experience is not necessary.
  • Usually we meet at the Kawakawa Bay Dairy.

When we do our counts in autumn we may have some cool nights  so we normally take: warm clothes and a back pack, something to sit on, at least one torch, (the LED headlamps are popular) a charged cell phone if you have one, a watch, a pencil, insect repellent, snacks and drinks if you need them.   You will be provided with  a small safety kit on the day. These are great nights and quite an experience to sit in bush and listen for Weka calls.