Release into Moehau

By Carol Nanning
“One out of a box” described the bright, clear day that dawned for the release of Brown Teal at the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula. After being flown from Christchurch to Auckland, Hauraki Aero Club delivered the birds safely to Waikawau Bay by fixed wing, and they were spirited by van to their release site in “an operation that went like clockwork,” says Jason Roxburgh, Programme Manager – Biodiversity Assets.

Photo: Leigh Marshall

Tiwi Nichols, Tangata whenua, opens the proceedings A festive feeling filled the air of the small settlement of Port Charles as a small crowd of locals, media, stakeholder and recovery group representatives gathered to celebrate the release of the 38 Pateke. After they were blessed by tangata whenua, the birds were released into Tangiaro Stream.
Long time locals and Department of Conservation staff who have been involved in ecological restoration work at Te Moehau are ‘fizzing’ that the hard work and long years of pest control have culminated in the release of Pateke in their patch. One local, Tina Morgan said “It is a joy and a pleasure to have these birds released into our community; we hope that it will be the first of many such releases”.

This initiative is “an excellent example of partnership between interested parties working towards achieving recovery of a threatened species” said Shaun O’Connor, the Pateke Recovery Group leader. The Pateke released were bred in captivity and are part of a captive breeding programme which is a private co-operative network of ‘Brown Teal breeders’, private aviculturlists and zoological institutions from Dargaville to Invercargill.

Photo: Leigh Marshall
Pateke are blessed before being released by Shaun O’Connor

Originally Brown Teal were found throughout New Zealand but the wild population is now estimated at less than 1000. Four more releases are planned over the next four years with the aim of producing a population of more than 50 breeding pairs

Photo: Leigh Marshall
Ducks Away

Originally Moehau and Rowi (South Okarito) Kiwi Sanctuaries were chosen as the best two sites nationally for establishing a new Pateke population. However, due to this season’s high stoat numbers at Okarito, Moehau was preferred.

Photo: Leigh Marshall

Intensive predator control targeting mustelids and feral cats will continue in the surrounding private property, and the Kiwi Sanctuary. Several supplementary feeders have been set up on a property adjoining the release site and the birds will be fed for the first month, to help them to settle in.

Photo: Leigh Marshall
Brown Teal Habitat, the mouth of Tangiaro Stream

Each bird has been colour banded and carries a transmitter, so its progress can be monitored over the next twelve months. Tomas Jehly (Ranger Trainee) is using telemetry gear to keep tabs on the birds to determine survival rates, dispersal patterns, whether they breed and cause of any deaths. He will also be checking on how well the supplementary feeders work.

Nearly a week after their release all 38 birds are alive and well – enjoying the streams, tidal harbour, forested areas and pastoral land around Port Charles. They are taking to their release like ducks to water!