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Back from the Dead

Tony Bouzaid reports on the progress of his robin rehabilitation programme in the Glenfern Sanctuary area of Port FitzRoy.

AT THE END OF JANUARY we thought we had come to the end of our robin-breeding season. When Rebecca left us on 9th January she had banded 19 chicks and we still had one in the nest at B45, the only one of 3 eggs that hatched. Suzie Bettany (ex Wildlife International) started working with us a few days before and the chick should have been ready for banding within a few days. However when Suzie checked the chick it was under nourished and wasnít ready for banding. The male had stopped feeding the female and was being antagonistic towards her. Suzie kept feeding the female so that the chick would get more food. Unfortunately when she checked again a few days later the chick had gone and we presumed it had been predated by a morepork, as a rat leaves telltale signs.

On the 15th January Suzie found that our black petrel pair had returned and laid an egg in their burrow under the puriri tree. We checked the band to ensure the bird on the nest was one of the original parents and we set up sticks at the entrance to the burrow to wait for the parents to swap incubation. On the 18th, just before Suzie left we found the parents had swapped over and she pulled out the petrel and established that it was the other original parent. On checking the nest and seeing no egg Suzie reached in and pulled out a petrel chick a few days old! We were thrilled particularly considering that the last 2 years had seen 2 eggs laid but failed. One was infertile and the other the embryo had died broaching the egg. I have named the new chick Suze, in honour of her founder, trying to be generic, as it is impossible to tell whether the bird is male or female. Now we have to protect it from predators until fledging which should be in early May.

Suzie found us another worker, Adam Salmon, who had managed a wetland restoration project just south of London and he started with us early in February.

After Judy Gilbert told me she had two pairs of robins still nesting I decided to check on mine. The pair that first nested at Orama near C32 have moved and built another nest just up from the Wingerís at B12 with two eggs in the nest.

The first female to produce chicks at Q15 nested again with her partner of the last two nestings and had one chick and one egg in the nest now near Q14. With the help of Andrew Nelson from the Zoo over here for a meeting with the Department of Conservation we banded the chick on the 17th February.

When Adam Salmon checked for our robins at L57 on a windy day he couldnít find either bird. This is the pair that nested on the ground twice, the first time losing the eggs to morepork and the second time getting 3 chicks banded and fledged. We assumed that we had lost the female when she hadnít been seen from the 26th December through to the 19th January. However on 16th February Adam and I found not only the male and female but also an unbanded juvenile, which was a great thrill. She must have had her nest so well hidden and didnít stray from it when Rebecca and Suzie were searching. This brings our total of fledged robins to 21.

The other two pairs up Arthurís Valley at Orama have gone into winter mode with the males competing for food and chasing the females away.

On March 17th while driving up the Okiwi hill towards Claris, Mal sighted an unbanded robin on the side of the road. This is good news as it means that at least one pair of the robins that did not stay in the protection of the Kotuku Peninsula managed to fledge a juvenile. There may be more out there so keep your ears and eyes open. With another possible robin sighting near the top of Hirikimata (Mt Hobson) we may be seeing a resurgence of the breed on the Barrier!