Bellbird sightings welcome

By: Richard Chambers

The arrival of hihi (stitchbirds) at Shakespear Open Sanctuary last month (HM July 1) means that all three of New Zealand’s honeyeaters are now in residence, the other two being tuis and the korimako (bellbird).

Tuis are a regular feature on the peninsula but bellbirds less so, despite the fact they’ve been coming and going regularly since becoming a common bird on Tiritiri Matangi Island.
In the mid 1990s I counted 12 bellbirds on a walk from Okoromai Bay to the top end of Waterfall Gully, a number I haven’t seen since. When we found them breeding in the park TVNZ and TV3 news crews turned up and bellbirds featured on the news.

When Tawharanui Regional Park became a sanctuary it almost immediately filled up with bellbirds thought to have come from Little Barrier Island. When Shakespear Park became a sanctuary in 2010 we all expected a similar thing to happen, but it failed to eventuate.

In the last two years, however, bellbird numbers at Shakespear Open Sanctuary have been building up. In spring I saw a pair feeding two newly fledged young just above the waterfall in Waterfall Gully, and they won’t have been the only pair breeding in the park. A pair was even thought to be nesting on the peninsula at Coalmine Bay.

It may be a while before we know if this is a turning of the tide but at least it’s a step in the right direction. And if bellbirds are doing well in the open sanctuary it won’t be long before we see them on the coast on a more regular basis. I was thrilled in late summer to hear a bellbird singing just behind the Weiti Yacht Club where Forest and Bird will soon be setting up a new community trapping line. This will control the rats and possums that prey on bird’s nests and give pioneering bellbirds such as this a better chance of success.

It would be great to get a better idea of how many and how far bellbirds are moving down the peninsula. If you have bellbirds coming to a feeder or see them anywhere on the Coast please email Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird’s Jenny Hanwell, j.hanwell@forestandbird.org.nz to add your sighting to the big picture.

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