November 2013: In 2006/7 we helped Kate Steffens and her DOC team with funding for a trap line in the Fyfe river valley in south-east Kahurangi National Park. At that time only two pairs of whio were known to be there. DOC was then to carry on maintaining the line after our initial input. Kate reports that a May dog-assisted survey found 15 whio in the Fyfe valley, which included 6 pairs and 3 single adults. Two of the adult males (Old Blue and Little Blue) seen were the original males from 2006.
The Fyfe is part of the Wangapeka/Fyfe whio security site which has a management objective of protecting 50 breeding pairs of whio by 2017. This will be achieved by trapping for stoats along 70-90 km of waterway, carrying out aerial 1080 operations every 5-7 years, and boosting the population through the Whio Operation Nest Egg (WHIONE) program.
Monitoring of nesting success and adult survival during the nesting/moult period has shown that this population must contend with weka preying on eggs in the Wangapeka catchment and stoats, possums and rats ‘visiting’ whio nests. At least one nesting female has been lost to predation, although the predator was not identified.
I think the concept of the whio security sites is a good one, given the huge breeding territories of these birds and the expensive trapping infrastructure needed. With finite money, concentrated effort in a few key sites is better than a piecemeal approach over their entire range.