20160527 D868990Thirty Toutouwai (North Island Robin) from Pureora Forest now have a new home some 400km north on pest-free Urupukapuka Island in the Bay of Islands.

They didn't get there on the wing, it took twenty people, five days of bird pre-feeding and catching, travel from and to the Bay of Islands and then a bumpy boat trip out to Urupukapuka Island for the job to be completed. All this was expertly managed by Project Island Song (a partnership between Rawhiti hapu Ngati Kuta and Patukeha, community conservation group the Guardians of the Bay of Islands and DoC ), members of Ngati Rereahu hapu from Pureora and conservation biologist Dr Kevin Parker.

Ngati Rereahu made this possible by generously allowing catching teams access to their birds deep in the stunning Pureora Forest.  This is the second translocation of their Toutouwai to the Bay of Islands, forty were successfully released on Moturua Island in the Bay of Islands in 2014.

A combination of  traps and four & eight metre long mist nets are used to catch the birds. Once one is caught it's carefully handled into a cotton bag and whisked away to Kevin Parker's base camp where it's weighed, measured, banded and placed in its own translocation box complete with electronic equipment that monitors its movements every split second. Captured birds are feed an a diet of meal worms and water twice a day until their release. How many meal worms can a Toutouwai eat?  One of them got through the whole 10gms in a sitting. You'll see a pic of what 10mg looks like in a can in the slideshow below. Hungry little critters.

The birds were transported north carefully through the dead of the night in a motorhome courtesy of Wilderness Campervans with the air con blasting cold. They arrived in Paihia at 2:15am, transferred to Fullers Great Sights boardroom for the night before being loaded onto one of Fullers vessels for a slow trip to the release site in Entico Bay on Urupukapuka Island.

The skies magically cleared as the boat arrived at the island and the forecast 45 knot gusts seemed to abate.  The release was dedicated to Teina Hook, a keen conservation worker from the Ngati Kuta hapu who died tragically earlier in the year. His children and his father Russell released the first boxes of birds. A crowd of 100 people had gathered to watch the release and for the unveiling of a pou dedicated to Teina.

What a wonderful team of committed folk doing fantastic work. Thanks so much for letting me tag along to take pictures.


Toutouwai / North Island Robin


The release was dedicated to Teina Hook

russell- release

Teina's Dad Russell releases the first Toutouwai


Teina's children unveil a pou dedicated to their Dad


Jamie and Richard opening some boxes

release fullers

Nardia (far right) opened up the Fullers boardroom at 2:00am in the morning so the birds could get a good nights sleep prior to release


30 boxes meticulously stowed and padded in the Wilderness Campervan


Magnificent Pureora Forest Park


Ed Emery from Ngati Rereahu hapu


Alice Hosted from DoC Kerikeri wth a Toutouwai


Kelvin and Rana luring Toutouwai with recorded calls from a cellphone via bluetooth to a boom box.


Alice and Rana spotting birds


Once the birds are spotted they are fed mealworms to attempt to bring them down to the ground.

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Rana setting a trap

mealworms in the jar

The traps are baited with mealworms in a jar and one wriggling on a hook


Phil Brown from DoC Kaitaia sets a trap

rana hold

Rana holds a totutouwai before transfer to a cotton bag

rana and ali

Rana Rewha and Alison Beath clear a Toutouwai from the all but invisible mist net. You can see the mesh against Ali's face.


Rana Rewha and Alison Beath remove a Toutouwai from a trap.


One more in the bag, Alice Hosted and Rana Rewha


Jamie Werner and BJ Black with a bagged Toutouwai ready for transfer to be weighed, measured, banded and put into a translocation box


Richard and Morag with a sucessful capture from the mist net.


Kelvin, Ali, Rana and Alice


Rob happy after catching one of the first birds...


Richard Robbins, project manager extraordinaire


Conservation biologist, Dr Kevin Parker weighs a Toutouwai


Conservation biologist, Kevin Parker measures a Toutouwai prior to transfer to its translocation box.


Kevin Parker and Sharon Kast.  Sharon is in charge of Toutouwai care from the time they are caught including making sure they are well fed!


To feed a Toutouwai - 10gms of mealworms twice a day...


Premium care for Toutouwai - Sharon Kast's notebook


Kevin demonstrates the trap's operation


Accommodation for up to three days - two perching spots,  meal worm and water containers, and electronic movement sensors.


Translocation boxes...


Pre-catch planning

catch bag

Catch bag manufacturing in full swing


Deb and Helen fed us to within an inch of our lives :)


A fantastic group of folk working for conservation