Surprise find delights Kiwiest Kiwi
From the Wanganui Chronicle – 04/01/13
Fragments of eggshell were an ominous sign something was wrong. The fact that each year 95% of kiwi chicks in the wild die, with half the losses attributed to stoats, also supported the assumption that the former inhabitant of this egg had been the victim of predation.
Such was the scene at 2am on December 18 and Daniel McKechnie and his wide Teana tracked kiwis in the Maungataniwha Forest, between the Te Hoe and Waiau rivers in northern Hawkes Bay, while claiming the prize Mr McKechnie won last month for his tattoo, a Kiwiana-themed map of New Zealand. The tattoo, applied to Mr McKechnie’s back in early 2012, was the winning entry in Tasti’s search for the ‘Kiwiest Kiwi’.
The couple arrived from Wanganui had arrived at the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust’s base two days earlier, after being flown from Wangabnui to Auckland and then Helicoptering to the base. Mr McKechnie, a 26 year old plumber, said the rest of Sunday was spent tracking the tagged kiwis in preparation for the main expedition the following night. The group stayed in what Mr McKechnie described as a shearing shed; basic but more than adequate.
On Monday they explored the native bush along old logging tracks in off-road vehicles, then rested in the afternoon, before heading into the forrest around 9pm. The couple were in a group that visited two nests, which the checked every half hour from 10pm.
The female kiwi usually lays one to two eggs which are incubated by the male. Mr McKechnie said they could only approach the nest while the male kiwi was absent, given the risk of damage to those eggs if the adult kiwi was panicked.
They collected two eggs from the first nest about midnight but the second nest was empty and on closer examination it appeared the egg had already hatched and there were grave concerns for the chick’s safety. Kiwi chicks only stay with their fathers at the nest for around 10 days so the chances of finding the chick were slim.
Mr McKechnie said when they returned to check the nest on Tuesday morning, they found the chick alive and well. “It was the highlight” he said. The prize entitled him to name the little kiwi ‘Jake’ after his son.
The eggs and chick were delivered to Rainbow Springs in Rotorua on the group’s return journey. That is where they will be hatched and nurtured until they are moved to a predator-proof sanctuary on the Cape Kidnappers peninsula. When the kiwis are mature enough to fend for themselves in the wild they will return to the Maungataniwha Forest to hopefully breed more kiwi in the future