– 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.
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.