All the weather prophets are predicting a severe El Nino event over the coming summer.
Tony, our weka guru at the Department of Conservation, has sent us the message below :-
We are about to enter another very problematic period for the Kawakawa Bay weka population if the El Nino is as bad as 1997-1998. I hope that we can hold the adults so I will not be all that concerned if we have very limited breeding this spring. We really do not want the birds over-taxed with breeding if they cannot find food for the chicks and more importantly to recover themselves.
What does it mean for our wildlife? And our weka? The bush will be drier, the leaf litter will have fewer little bugs, and the streams where they normally find water will be lower or even dry. Some plants will produce smaller and fewer fruits. All our birds will be hungry!
What can we do here in the Bay if the dry period happens and is as intense as forecast?
Water, water, water!!
Not just water for the weka but for all our birds.
Fill up your bird baths! Or put out bowls of water. Ice-cream containers work well. On the ground of course if you are in the weka area.
How to feed the weka – a few tips
If you have a compost bin, open it up. The weka will forage for food scraps and also the worms and other invertebrates that live there. Any food you give a weka should be in small pieces. Simple foods includes dry rolled oats, whole kernel corn, small pieces of WET wholegrain bread, apple cores, grated cheese, a chicken carcass or even corn cobs after you have eaten the corn.Weka are omnivorous!
For tui and silvereyes you can put out half an orange; it will disappear in hours! Once you get them coming to the fruit you can wean them onto a dish of sugar water – I tablespoon of brown sugar to a cup of warm water. But do remember to keep all bird feeders out of the reach of cats!
DO NOT FEED MOULDY BREAD TO ANY BIRDS!!! It will give them a disease called aspergillosis! Don’t ask!!
Thu, 03 Sep 2015
Lottie was keen to be involved in the weka release into the holding aviary. Credit: Kate Graeme
Nine year old Lottie Clarke, a KCC member from Tauranga discovered she had quite a fondness for weka after a trip to Able Tasman.
It was here that she shamelessly fed scroggin to a cheeky pair who hung around one of the huts.
Lottie was then very excited when she found out that Forest and Bird were going to reintroduce weka at their community project at Aongatete, in the Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park.
She helped out feeding them during the 9 weeks they spent in the aviary while they got used to their new home.
Credit: Kate Graeme
The weka were then released into the forest at Aongatete but Lottie knew that this was when the hard work really began.
To help keep the weka safe from mustelids (stoats and weasels), Lottie put out fundraising jars at the local dairy and takeaways and raised $44 to buy a mustelid trap to put in the forest.
Ka pai, Lottie! I expect weka are now pretty fond of you too
Want to know more about Forest and Bird’s work at Aongatete? click here
In early July the Aongatete weka, now accustomed to the forest around them, will be allowed out of the aviary. In preparation for this a free weka-aversion training day for dogs was offered to walkers, locals and hunters. Dogs are fitted with a special collar which administers a brief shock when the dog goes to sniff a bird-scented lure – for our day the trainer Guus used a dead weka and also stuffed kiwi and whio. They quickly learn to avoid the bird scent. Dogs that took part in the training were then certified to go in forests where these threatened species are present. The response from dog owners, keen to support the project and help the weka, was very encouraging.
A summary of the talk given to the WekaWatch AGM on 29th March 2014
Basil and Ann Graeme have always loved weka with their feisty personalities and fascinating behaviour. In 1989 they had a dream, to reintroduce North Island weka to areas of the mainland where they had been numerous in earlier years but had now disappeared. It had been thought that the severe decline in their numbers, a 90% loss in the Gisborne area over the 1980s alone, had been due to drought, habitat loss and disease.
They knew that relocating adult birds did not work because weka have a strong homing instinct and as soon as they are released they head for home. One adult released in the Waitakeres in 1980, for instance, was found 3 weeks later in Taneatua in the eastern Bay of Plenty, heading for its home in Gisborne.
It was thought that relocating juveniles might be better and so the Graemes, with the support of the Department of Conservation and Forest and Bird, set up a captive breeding programme with about 15 breeders. Some pairs happily started producing chicks but in other cases the pair of weka did not like each other and refused to perform.
The Karagahake Gorge was chosen as a suitable mainland release site as there was plenty of bush in the area, it was close to the Kaimai Ranges, and had never had a drought. A pre-release aviary was built and the young birds transferred to it. After a few weeks, trapdoors were opened allowing the weka to move out into the bush and to return when they wanted to. For a time this seemed to be a success and weka were heard calling in the surrounding area; but there was a neighbour with a dog. If a weka went onto this property the dog killed it. The solution? The Graeme’s bought the dog and advertised it in Tauranga. “Free to a good home, friendly family dog, kills weka and chickens”. Problem solved they thought.
There were more Karangahake releases but they found these weka were being killed by ferrets. There had been a ferret fur farm nearby and when it failed the owner just released the animals to the wild!
So a decision was made to release the young weka onto islands where the predator problem would be very much less. In 1996 birds were successfully released onto both Whanganui Island in the Coromandel Harbour and Pakatoa. Pakatoa is just a short boat ride from Kawakawa Bay and our birds have a strong DNA link to these weka. Perhaps they were brought here when the weka on the island became too numerous. We will never know for sure!
The first confirmed weka report here in the Bay was in November 2004. Knowing that weka are so rare on the North Island mainland, our birds here in the Bay are national treasures. We must do everything we can to protect and enjoy them.