by Alison Ballance
Phil Bradfield (holding chick) and Mike Fraser in the Hutton's shearwater study area in the Kowhai River, and a Hutton's shearwater chick (images: A. Ballance)
It is Seaweek and Our Changing World is marking the week with a marine-themed show. Our first marine story is about seabirds – although it actually takes place in the mountains! The seabirds are Hutton’s shearwaters, which breed high in the Seaward Kaikoura Range in two wild colonies, up the head of the Kowhai River (108,000 burrows) and at the top of Shearwater Stream (8000 burrows). The birds are the focus of a project by the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust to create a third ‘insurance’ colony within a predator-proof fence on the Kaikoura Peninsula.
Last week Alison Ballance joined a team from the Trust on a chick-collecting trip into the Kowhai River. The team included Phil Bradfield from the Department of Conservation, Mike Fraser from Wildlife Management International Ltd, and trustees Lindsay Rowe and Nicky McArthur. Nicky runs Kaikoura Wilderness Expeditions and owns the land at the Shearwater Stream colony.
Another Hutton’s Shearwater Trust team, led by Mike Bell from Wildlife Management International Ltd team is currently feeding the 45 chicks that were collected on this expedition. Another trip is planned in the next few days to collect more chicks to bring the total transferred to one hundred.
The translocated chicks are kept in artificial burrows and fed sardine smoothies until they fledge – you can hear about this side of the process in a story about fluttering shearwaters, recorded last summer on Matiu-Somes Island in Wellington Harbour.
Geoff Harrow, who rediscovered the Hutton's shearwater's breeding grounds in the early 1960s was interviewed by Deborah Nation for Spectrum - you can find that interview here.
Looking down the Kowahi River towards the Kowhai Hut - more than 100,000 pairs of shearwaters breed on the sides of the valley in tussock and under mountain ribbonwood (image: A. Ballance)