A small number of North Island Robins (NIRs) were first released into the Mainland Island area in the East Harbour Regional Park (EHRP) in 2008. This population was not seen as self-sustaining because the birds have an average life expectancy of only three years and the population was likely to become extinct before numbers could increase.
At least two more translocations are needed to develop a self-sustaining population and thus ensure the NIR returned to part of its former range. The establishment of a viable population in EHRP will also further increase the chances of the species’ survival, and possibly provide a source for future robin transfers elsewhere.
The objective of this second translocation (and the third listed for 2012) is to:
• establish a self-sustaining population Mainland Island area in the EHRP, and
• provide the public with a greater opportunity to interact with this inquisitive little bird.
MIRO’s intention was to have a 100% successful outcome, with all birds transferred safely and released in the Mainland Island area. A considerable amount of planning went into ensuring MIRO would achieve this highly desirable outcome. The hard work to achieve this result started with a detailed application to the Department of Conservation (DOC) for approval to proceed with the capture and translocation of 40 birds in 2011, and a similar number in 2012.
Once MIRO had DOC approval the focus shifted to developing, in consultation with DOC, the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and local Iwi, a translocation plan for 2011. A considerable amount of work also went into bringing together the team of people needed in a translocation – vets, people expert in capturing and banding, volunteers to work with the experts, volunteers to prepare the translocation boxes (one per bird), and the large number of volunteers needed to carry the birds to the release area after they arrived in Eastbourne.
As part of the final preparations, five MIRO people spent a weekend on Kapiti Island in March 2011 locating suitable sites for capturing the birds and completing arrangements for the translocation. This included confirming that, subject to weather conditions, the translocation would take place 1-3 April.
An advance party of 10 people travelled to Kapiti Island on 1 April and set up the capture operation ahead of the main party, which arrived by chartered ferry at dawn the next morning. MIRO’s careful planning and organising paid dividends as the capture of birds was completed successfully by mid-afternoon. All 40 birds had been checked, banded and settled in their transport boxes by the time the main party left Kapiti Island.
The final morning (Sunday) involved checking and feeding the birds before setting up their boxes for the flight by helicopter to Eastbourne. A kaumatua accompanied the birds to Korohiwa, where they were moved by vehicle to Muritai Park and met a party of 70 volunteers who had already been briefed and were waiting their arrival.
The carrier party walked in to the Butterfly Creek area where the birds were progressively released into the bush. There we found all 40 birds had survived the journey and in most cases were ready to fly into their new ‘home’ (a small number seemed to like the comfort of their box and delayed their departure!!). It was even more pleasing to hear the birds calling each other as they started looking around.
The most pleasing feature was the fact that MIRO was able to advise DOC and GWRC the translocation had been 100% successful. A ‘feather in the cap’ for MIRO and the many volunteers who helped secure that result.
MIRO wishes to extend its sincere thanks to DOC, GWRC staff, MIRO members, people who provided advice on translocations, and the experts and many volunteers who helped set up a very successful translocation.
Preliminary planning is now under way to conduct the next translocation from 30 March to 1 April 2012.