Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rescuing shearwaters at Kaikoura-

Rescuing shearwaters at Kaikoura-
Peter Langlands
E: –
M:0274 501 916

From March to early April Hutton’s shearwater fledglings depart their breeding colony. The only colony is located on the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains and the flight to the ocean is a short one, as the mountains meet the sea along Kaikoura Coastline. Yet some of the birds run the gantlet of being dazzled and attracted, like giant moths, to the lights of Kaikoura Township. The shearwaters only fly across land at night. Once shearwaters have landed on flat ground they are highly vulnerable with a limited ability to take off again (generally they require a steep mountain slope or water to take off from).
The shearwaters lie motionlessly on the round, with their dark colouration on top and low profile making them hard to spot by the volunteers who patrol Kaikoura township lights at night. Invariably young birds are grounded, with their fresh plumage and elegant form, they are beautiful birds. Yet it is important that the shearwaters are picked up quickly as when lying on the ground they are vulnerable to being killed by cats and dogs or being road killed.
Over a five week period it is estimated that 3-500 shearwaters are grounded, a significant number of birds for this endangered, slow breeding and like other seabird species likely to be a long-lived bird. On some nights up to 30 birds are collected.
Once collected it is best that the shearwaters are placed in a box with some ventilation and a small blanket below them and kept until dawn and taken to Dolphin Encounter at Kaikoura or to the local Department of Conservation where during daylight the fledglings can be released over water making their first baptism on water. On occasions the shearwaters are banded so that their fate can be followed. Some of the shearwater fledglings are also placed in burrows on at the artificially created Kaikoura Peninsula colony in the hope that they may return to this predator proof breeding site where burrows are artificially constructed for the shearwaters behind a predator proof fence.
By searching the towns lit up araes at night people can play an effective role in helping the chances of this endangered seabird. Stoats predating nests on the birds breeding colony combined with habitat damage by introduced mammals are two of the main conservation concerns for this species.
1. A fledgling Hutton’s shearwater – an elegant looking bird with its fresh plumage

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