A Busy Season for Taiko

by Emma Cronin


It’s been a busy Taiko/ black petrel season to date with exhibitions, sculptures, fisher and school visits, information and monitoring all occurring. Biz Bell returned to the island in December to continue her annual monitoring regime of the Hirakimata population and to scout out Little Barrier Island for this species, then returned in February to check burrow progress and continue to band new birds on Hirakimata and scout additional areas on GBI.

Following the February monitoring, Biz suspects that breeding success will be below average, possibly owing to birds being displaced from burrows as a result of landslides from the June 2014 storm destroying some burrow areas. This has also meant more birds have been banded than in previous years. Plenty of burrows have returned healthy chicks as experienced by several visitors up the hill to meet the birds including two groups of fishers, the trustees of Southern Seabirds Solutions and kids from Okiwi School & Mulberry Grove School. For many of the visitors it was their first time either to the island or certainly up Hirakimata and they all gained valuable first hand insight about the breeding population with the help of Bizs’ extensive knowledge and experience, and some really impressive photos, making their hike up the ‘hill’ really worthwhile.


Okiwi primary School pupils Pippa Cronin and Jessica Woodhouse with a
black petrel chick – in the mountain forest of Hirakimata, Great Barrier Island.

Searches with Jo Sim & her seabird dogs in others areas across the island including Glenfern, Windy  Canyon,  Maungapiko, Whangaparapara, Coopers Lookout and Te Ahumata have returned a few new burrows in hard-to-reach places. Biz will return in April to continue banding – of the chicks this time, which will be approaching readiness to fledge and migrate across to South America.

The monitoring season was preceded in November 2014 by the Taiko/black petrel exhibition at the ‘Spectacular by Nature’ Aotea Art Gallery of a collection of local school students artwork including the sculpture work of NZ artist Jill Guillerman and local jeweller Charmayne Dobson. The plight of the birds was demonstrated in the childrens’ artwork, which was produced as a result of an education resource that was presented to all island schools in 2014 funded by DOC. A sculpture workshop was also organised in conjunction with DOC Conservation Week and Aotea Art Gallery to teach adults and children how to make their own clay black petrel. The results were super impressive with over 25 birds created and later displayed.

Meanwhile, during the peak summer visitor season, information from the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust has been distributed promoting recreational fishers to ‘Fish Seabird Smart’. Posters, brochures and information has been readily available to locals and visitors so they can be more aware of what seabirds can tell us about likely fishing locations and how best to avoid catching a bird when out fishing. The recreational fishing information follows on from SSSTs work with commercial fishers aiming to improve awareness of these birds and effectiveness of mitigation measures by commercial fishers.

All in all, its been a busy Taiko season with momentum gaining for the awareness and protection of this remarkable species.


Environmental News Issue 34 2015