Female Bellbird

Female Bellbird
Female Bellbird

Friday, 6 September 2013

N I Robin Transfer - Kapiti Is to Wainuiomata

Several of our group were involved with the recent Toutoutwai/North Island Robin transfer from Kapiti Island to the Wainuiomata Mainland Island. After being postponed 3 times it finally took place on 24 & 25 August, in perfect weather. Unfortunately having been available for the first 3 attempts I was unable to make the successful one but they did very well without me.
The journey - From Watery Island to Mainland Island
The "Team" catchers, runners and banders
Photo Dave Cornick

The birds were caught with Clap Traps and despite having only five catchers, (plus Nikki for some of the time), 63 robins were caught in one day. Three were rejected: one with a crossed bill, one with avian pox and one being underweight.  The remaining 60 birds were kept overnight and transferred by helicopter the next day.
Geoff (Wellington OSNZ R R) & Nikki (Greater Wellington Regional Council) carrying Robins in "Cat" boxes.
Photo Dave Cornick 

The Robins being farewelled.
Photo Dave Cornick

Into the helicopter they go.
Photo Dave Cornick
They all seemed in great condition when released and Nikki spent the next 2-3 hours in the forest observing them. He identified 22 individuals and was pleased to see them behaving fairly normally & foraging well.
He also witnessed the first recorded interaction between a Morepork and a Robin in the Rimutaka/Orongorongo ranges. In one of those ‘don’t know whether to laugh or cry’ moments, he flushed a Morepork from the track with a small feathery bundle in its claws and when he checked where it had flown from sure enough there was a pile of freshly-plucked robin feathers on the ground.  
This was the second of two transfers. After the first transfer last year very few of the 60 birds were re-sighted; therefore it was decided to try to train the birds, before the transfer, to associate an audio cue (clapping) with food, to try to improve their detectability in their new home.
This has worked very well, and 40 individuals have been seen in the first 10 days, most of them more than once. None of the birds are particularly hungry, indicating that they've adapted well to their new home and are having no problem finding food.

None of them have settled into territories yet and they will continue to disperse, some of them over long distances (last year one was seen near the top of the Rimutaka Incline). So if you or your friends are walking in the bush, do keep your ears and eyes open, and you may be lucky enough to see a Robin. If you want a refresher on what they sound like, check out NZbirdsonline  http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/north-island-robin#bird-sounds. Check out the tomtit too, just to be sure!
  If you see or hear a Robin in the greater Wellington region (not including in or near Zealandia), please let me know, with the date and location, and whether it is banded or not. If you are able to read the band combination great: bird’s left leg- top, bottom; right leg- top, bottom (like reading a book – left to right, top to bottom).

A photograph would be good too. There have been a few reports over the last year or so and there may be quite a few Robins around by now as there have also been several transfers by MIRO to the bush around Eastbourne, and some of the birds will have bred successfully.

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