The pāteke was once widespread throughout freshwater and estuarine wetlands of mainland New Zealand but has been close to extermination due to predation. Two other species of the New Zealand brown teal have evolved, on Campbell Island and the Auckland Islands and both of these are flightless.
Popular media understandably celebrates the successes of conservation milestones. These celebrations are valuable to remind us of progress and to encourage support. It is important though to also remember the hard work and the frustration that gets us there. An example with Project Janszoon is the checking of stoat traps over 15,000 ha of rough country every month. These workers get wet and sore continually yet their reality seldom features on such occasions.
Not very long ago robins were widespread and common throughout this national park. They have gone from coastal forests in the last 30 years and now they are mostly confined to the higher altitude forests.
For most of us an encounter with a robin in the forest will be close-up and endearing. This is because these small birds are insectivores, feeding on the forest floor and quickly associate our lumbering presence with accidental exposure of their favourite prey. So much the better if we are chopping firewood or scuffing in the leaf litter.
The tomtit (Petroica macrocepha) is a small forest and scrub dwelling bird found only in New Zealand. It has evolved into different subspecies in the North and South Islands as well as the Chathams, Snares and Auckland Islands. While the species has evolved to flourish in these very different climates and in habitats ranging from tall native forest to pine plantations and shrublands it remains vulnerable to predation. Species of the same genus (Petroica) are widespread and common in Australia as are the robins in New Zealand.
It is thought that pukeko first arrived in Aotearoa during the Pliocene (3-5 million years ago). Finding a land with abundant food and no mammalian predators the species evolved into a more efficient form - flightless and large. With the arrival of predators in the last few hundred years this strategy proved most inappropriate and the species we know as takahe are now in danger of extinction.
In early September I was involved with the work of Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust in transferring 40 saddleback from Motuara Island to Adele. This work is likely to result in the establishment of a species that has been absent from the national park for probably 150 years.
Two species of kākāriki or parakeet were once very common on mainland New Zealand. In fact they were so common in the Nelson and Golden Bay areas that they were quite a pest in early fruit orchards. The red-crowned parakeet has now probably disappeared entirely from the mainland because it fed so often on the ground where it was vulnerable to predation. Good populations exist on many predator-free islands such as Kapiti, Matiu and Hauturu. It is the smaller yellow-crowned parakeet that still persists on the mainland and within Abel Tasman National National Park.
I must admit that the prompt for this posting came from seeing the photo from Don Ravine. Given that the rifleman is the smallest bird in New Zealand and, to my eyes, they never stop still long enough for a photo—this really is an endearing image.
Follow our journey as we discover the secrets of this most iconic of National Parks and help nature restore its diverse ecology. Meet the birds, animals and plants that will benefit from this restoration and those that we hope to return to their former glory.