Weka Get One-way Trip

It was early in the piece that we decided Puangiangi needed to be given a fair shot at becoming the seabird island it once was. Our minds were focussed in December 2012 when we discovered sooty shearwater visiting one of the speaker sites.

Weka are known predators of seabirds, and are well known to attack chicks in their burrows or nearby. We now have lots of film of weka trying to get into the shearwater burrows on Puangiangi. Peter obtained a permit to remove weka from Puangiangi and to translocate them to the Garne and Saville Scenic Reserve about 30 minutes by car from French Pass on the mainland, which should be far enough away that they don’t swim back.

Weka were very obvious on the island when we arrived to begin the project in May 2012. My ultra-scientific estimate put the population at 20. We find that weka are drawn in to the field centre where they are attracted by food, shiny new plumbing fittings and for some reason my dive booties which they love to drag away. Through hand netting, cage trapping and even grabbing one while it was poking through our gear on the landing beach, we have caught 97 of the 20 as at June 2015. Encouragingly, the catch and encounter rates are much lower now, but we still know of one or two on the island. We can hear them calling from Tinui (where the population must be at carrying capacity), and Peter is aware of one on Wakaterepapanui, but we have no idea of the re-invasion rate if any from the other islands in the group.

Speakers Attract Sooty Shearwaters

December 2012- Our surveillance camera has picked up activity at the hoped-for seabird colony only a month after the first speaker system went in. The above was sent to a cellphone back in Wellington showing a sooty shearwater landing?/exercising? at 1 AM on 3 December.  The speaker is at top right.

These seabird-attracting systems are fast becoming standard practice and they are helping, unsupervised, to found colonies of burrow-nesting seabirds- the keystone species of any self-respecting seabird island- in many locations.  Fauna Recovery NZ is now up to its 6th system, including one on Wakaterepapanui, next island up from Puangiangi. Sooties were certainly on Puangiangi late (1980s/1990s) into Ross Webber’s tenure and it’s reasonable to assume that they lasted longer than the smaller shearwaters, petrels and prions in the face of rat predation. Peter and I had a good look in May 2012 for any activity at the old burrow sites, and everything looked long-abandoned, with no tell-tale cleared areas around the burrows, or seabird smell. On that basis our conjecture is that the speakers might well have been responsible for these sooties coming in for a look around.