Last month saw the re-introduction of the first 20 North Island Robins (toutouwai) to Shakespear (HM April 20). These birds were once widespread but are now restricted on the mainland to forest areas in the centre of the island.
They were released at the end of the peninsula and as far from the pest-proof fence as possible, but quickly spread to all the bush areas in the Sanctuary. We know this because a very keen volunteer goes out every day to track them down, and to date she has located all except one.
By the time you read this there should be another 20 robins there, this time coming from Tiritiri Matangi. As they are quite territorial the new arrivals should soon be even more spread out, making it more likely that you’ll spot one on a bush walk. They are exceptionally friendly and will come right to your feet. The best place to see them is on the Kowhai Glen track, but there are also a few pairs on the Waterfall Gully track. If you do see one please try to note its leg band colours, reading the colours from the bird’s top left leg to bottom right, and report them with the date and location to our email address. The acronyms of the colour sequences have led to some useful nicknames for the birds, so see if you can find BOOM.
The robin tracking has also revealed more about other species, so we know that the whiteheads released last year are also doing well with several new fledglings being spotted (no leg-bands). They tend to get around in small groups but you are more likely to hear these than see them – listen for a noisy, high pitched chatter. Several bellbirds have also been located which is good news because these are re-establishing themselves more slowly than expected.
The distribution of geckos has also been recently surveyed again. This showed a healthy and growing population of the Pacific gecko, with a high proportion being juveniles. There is some optimism about other species too, but their low density and the hit-and-miss nature of the surveys precluded definite results.
Pest management at the Sanctuary has been going really well, recently reaching an exceptional 280 days without any rat incursions. Contrary to the views of some, this means that the fence is working very well. It is obvious that pests can simply walk around the ends, and from time to time they do, so there are several hundred traps and monitors inside the fence to clean up any intruders. This means a lot of work by many volunteers, and for ever, so if you’d like to help please do let us know.
The SOSSI nursery has again got thousands of seedlings ready to plant, and as usual we’d really appreciate your help in getting them planted. The planting dates this year are June 12 and 19 and July 17, with more information on our website.