Rarotonga flycatchers, threatened Pacific birds

This video says about itself:

Rimatara Lorikeet – found only on Rimatara (Tubuai Islands), Kiribati, Atiu (Cook Islands)
Rarotongan Fruit-dove – found only on Rarotonga and Atiu (Cook Islands)
Rarotongan Flycatcher – found only on Rarotonga and Atiu (Cook Islands)
Chattering Kingfisher – found only in Society Islands and Cook Islands

Videos, photography and sound recording by Philip Griffin, April 2014 – Atiu, Cook Islands

From BirdLife:

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation help staff of Cook Islands‘ partner save the Rarotonga Flycatcher

By Te Ipukarea Society, 12 Oct 2016

In August the conservation of the colourful Kakerori (Rarotonga Flycatcher) got a boost through a hands on training of local staff from visiting predator control specialists from New Zealand. Te Ipukarea Society project officers Liam and Alanna got up close and personal with the rare bird in the Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA) where they joined staff of New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) as they traversed the rat baiting tracks, which are crucially important in keeping rat populations low enough to ensure the Kakerori’s survival. The two young officers learnt valuable techniques from the New Zealanders including setting up of mist nets and learning how to catch, measure, weigh and band the birds before releasing them back into the forest.

The Kakerori are the main characters in an inspiring Cook Islands conservation story. They were formerly common around Rarotonga, yet by the 1900s it was assumed they were extinct. However, in the 70s and 80s, surveys found that the Kakerori persisted in small numbers on the Southern side of Rarotonga. In the spring of 1987, Rod Hay and Hugh Robertson from New Zealand and Cook Islands biodiversity expert Gerald McCormack launched the Kakerori Recovery Programme, under the auspices of the Cook Islands Conservation Service, with volunteers. The first two breeding seasons established that the total population of 38 Kakerori were restricted to an area of about 150 hectares in the headwaters of adjacent valleys and that their eggs and nestlings were being destroyed by rats, the most common being the Ship Rat (Rattus rattus). And that the population decline was accelerating!

New Zealander Ed Saul became the backbone of the programme during the third season (1989): poisoning rats, protecting nests and documenting nest success. As a result of his continued efforts, initially as a volunteer and later as a member of the Cook Islands Conservation Service, the number of Kakerori rose from the low of 29 initiating his first season to more than 132 at the start of the 1996 breeding season. Today it is estimated there are over 400 Kakerori on Rarotonga. There is also a population of over 100 on Atiu, where a group of 30 birds had been translocated between 2001 and 2003, as Atiu is free of the ship-rat. This was done in order to further protect the species, in case something ever happened to the population on Rarotonga. Atiuan bird expert ‘Birdman George’ has been instrumental in the protection of these new inhabitants since their arrival on the island.

Passing on the expertise to a new generation of conservation leaders is essential to continuing the progress made in saving the threatened birds and nature of the Pacific and building on a project that owes so much to the dedication of individuals like Ed Saul.

New Zealand rat control and wildlife conservation

This video is about New Zealand wildlife.

From BirdLife:

Battle against expected rat explosion funded by New Zealand Goverment but core conservation funding cut

By Mike Britton, 30 May 2016

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand (DOC) has been allocated an extra $20.7 million to help fight back against an expected pest population boom caused by a heavy forest seeding, or mast. This autumn around a million tonnes of beech seed will drop to the forest floor, providing a bonanza of food for rats and causing their population to boom. As rats increase due to the readily-available food source, so will the number of stoats which feed on rats. Once the seeds germinate and the food source disappears in early spring, the plague of millions of starving rats and tens of thousands of hungry stoats will turn on native wildlife, bringing disaster if nothing is done. This is the second mast year in a row and places whole populations of endangered species at risk.

This occurrence is a worldwide phenomenon but in New Zealand it is particularly significant given the ability of the invasive predators to prey on New Zealand’s indigenous species. Previous mast years have led to massive decreases in populations of previously widespread birds like mōhua.

The so called `Battle for our Birds’ this year will see DOC ramp up pest control by 500,000 hectares, to cover more than 800,000 hectares of land. Aerial 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) operations will be backed by on-going trapping and ground control programmes. Pilot projects will also be run to test the effectiveness of using self-resetting traps to keep pests permanently out of an area following a 1080 operation.

Priority will be to vulnerable great spotted, brown and tokoeka kiwi, kaka, kea, whio/blue duck, mohua/yellowhead, kakariki/orange-fronted parakeet, rock wren, long and short tailed bats and giant snails. Research from DOC’s 2014 Battle for our Birds programme showed breeding success rates in areas treated with 1080 were far greater than in areas with no control. An example is the rock wren which raised three times more chicks than birds in an untreated area in 2014-15 and five times more chicks when the birds bred again a year later.

This is a victory for the advocacy of BirdLife New Zealand partner, Forest & Bird, which predicted this threat last year and advocated strongly for the response which has now been agreed.

But regrettably the hand that gives has also taken away. In the New Zealand budget announced this week, the allocation to the Department of Conservation, which looks after almost a third of the land area of New Zealand, has been cut – up to 9% according to some commentators.

Since its establishment DOC has faced a number of restructurings and significant budget cuts – and it is badly stretched. Large areas of the protected lands and national parks are receiving no pest or weed control and all the time people pressure on New Zealand’s natural areas is increasing. Tourism is growing exponentially and is now New Zealand’s biggest industry. And they all come to enjoy the beauty and nature of the country. Trying to cope with visitors is further reducing the Department’s ability to adequately look after the plants and animals and special places that so define New Zealand.

Forest & Bird is at the front line of advocating for the proper management and protection of nature in New Zealand.

Kākā parrots, welcome back in Wellington, New Zealand?

This video says about itself:

Kaka, New Zealand Parrot. Hear its various calls

12 August 2015

Kaka –Stewart Island, New Zealand. Very ‘talkative’ – love their calls.

Many years ago, I was privileged to see and hear kākā parrots, on a small sanctuary island just south of Stewart Island.

From BirdLife:

Return of Kākā to Wellington sparks controversy

By Mike Britton, 31 May 2016

Do city dwellers really want a return of wild species to the areas they once lived? It is a question being asked in many places, especially where some of the species moving back can conflict with the new inhabitants. In Wellington the impact of species reintroduced to the region by the Zealandia Sanctuary and the noise and ‘damage’ they can cause is creating controversy.

For most of the twentieth Century the birdlife in New Zealand’s cities mainly consisted of species European settlers brought with them, plus a few that got here by themselves from Australia. And they were mainly species that could survive the predation of other imports like rats and stoats and possums. Indigenous species like tui and New Zealand pigeon only survived on the city edges and were rare and special sightings for most people.

When I was in New Zealand then, I was lucky to see a New Zealand pigeon in a patch of forest just outside Wellington.

But the control of possums in and around cities and more areas where rat and other invasive pest control created safer neighborhoods for birds tipped the balance and allowed some like tuis to move back into urban places. The establishment of predator free sanctuaries was also a huge factor in providing safe places for species to be re-introduced to places from which they had largely disappeared. In Auckland the restoration and removal of invasive predators from islands in the Hauraki Gulf and also in the regional parks was the catalyst. This includes New Zealand BirdLife partner Forest & Bird’s hugely successful Ark in the Park, an area of almost 3000 ha, where invasive predators are controlled by its volunteers.

But in the capital, Wellington, the big tipping point was the establishment, 25 years ago, of the Zealandia Karori Sanctuary in a water catchment valley and its fencing with a predator-proof fence. This has transformed the bird life of the city. Species that now can call Wellington home include Hihi (Stitchbird), Kakariki (Red crowned parakeet), Tieke (saddleback), Takahe and Little Spotted Kiwi. Some prosper only behind the safety of the fence but combined with the possum control by the regional council and the big upswing in public and private predator control in Wellington generally, other species are spreading out from their secure base, and even starting to nest and fledge young.

Cats have been identified as a major threat to these species reclaiming their heritage habitats, in some cases, for the first time in over 100 years. There is now debate in Wellington over how cats are managed (and controlled) with limits on cat numbers and compulsory chipping, to identify pets from wild cats, are all some of the (controversial) ideas being considered by the Wellington City Council. Creating a halo around Zealandia, where predator control is extended, is another idea actively being promoted in the community.

But is the re-invasion of long gone birds to their historical habitats always welcomed by the new residents? When tui came back Forest & Bird regularly got calls from the public asking it to “control its noisy birds”. And they are noisy – one of the most beautiful songs.

This video says about itself:

Tui song

31 May 2014

New Zealand native tuis, native wood pigeon (kereru) and waxeyes (tauhou) in Purakaunui near Dunedin.

The BirdLife article continues:

But the latest controversy is about the impact of one of the magic parrots of New Zealand, the Kākā Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis. Kākā are a large, olive-brown forest parrot and is a ‘cousin’ to the alpine parrot, kea, a bird about which almost every visitor to New Zealand’s South Island alpine areas will have tales to tell.

Kākā have a loud call and also some beautiful songs and whistles. The word kākā can mean ‘screech’ in Māori. Kākā had effectively been extinct in Wellington since the early 20th century until they were transferred back into the wild at Zealandia in 2002.

From just 6 birds there is now a population of over 200 birds. But like their alpine cousins, Kākā can be mischievous and target exotic trees like pines and eucalypts. Kākā will tear bark off these trees looking to feed on insects and sap – and maybe just for fun. They like fruit too! Potential opponents note that now Wellington is once again becoming a suitable place for previously locally extinct birds to reclaim, what is the future? Potentially these populations will continue to grow and with some aspirational goals for controlling invasive predators, in the future more and more indigenous species may once again be wanting to share our cities with us. A kiwi in every garden is one of the (very) long term aims of the ‘save the kiwi’ campaign.

This raises many questions about our interaction with wildlife, our responsibilities and their rights. And in places where there are indigenous people with a long history of their own in the interaction with them – yes for food but also in their cultural context – their views are a critical part of the discussion. As conservationists we have a responsibility to be advocates for the birds and other animals when they start to return to places where we once were responsible for their loss. It’s their home and we need to share. But we need to be active in educating, informing and helping minimize conflict where we can.

New Zealand ‘Lord of the Rings’ volcano eruption?

This video from New Zealand is called Mt Ruapehu Crater Climb (February, 2016).

Mount Ruapehu is well-known because much of the movie The Lord of the Rings was filmed there; scenes depicting Mordor and Mount Doom.

From the New Zealand Herald:

Ruapehu on alert after 20C rise

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

By Chris Schulz

Mt Ruapehu’s risk of eruption may have increased, but GNS volcanologists say nearby residents should not feel concerned.

GNS today announced the mountain’s crater lake temperature had doubled in the past few weeks, rising from 25C to between 45C and 46C over the past couple of days.

Duty volcanologist Geoff Kilgour says scientists made two visits to Ruapehu yesterday, one flight to measure the gas output and other to sample the crater lake water and make additional ground-based gas measurements.

Volcanic gas measurements indicate an increase in the amount of both carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) output … Seismic activity at Mt Ruapehu is usually dominated by volcanic tremor. Since the volcanic earthquakes in late April the seismicity has been dominated by volcanic tremor at varying levels. The level of tremor has increased but is not exceptional in terms of the last few years.”

Volcanologist Brad Scott has quashed a few “urban myths” about why there is currently an increasing level of activity in the volcano.

“It’s got nothing to do with weather. And White Island, they’re [volcanoes] all independent of each other.”

Mr Scott says the activity is caused by molten lava getting trapped inside the volcano itself.

“When that new pulsar heat and hot rock comes into the volcano it’s whether or not it can flow through the volcano and get out of it and if the holes in the volcano aren’t big enough to let the gas through it just over pressurises and pops.”

And for those in surrounding towns worried that a lahar will swamp them, Mr Scott says debris is unlikely to travel more than a few kilometres from the volcano itself.

“One of the biggest eruptions, in 1995, only a few blots got past the 3km or 4km mark and that was really rare. Being away from the volcano is very safe and even the standard places you can go. Different story if you go and climb the thing and you’re camping at the crater lake or something.”

As for where it travels, Mr Scott says the majority head out towards the Desert Rd but there have been some eruptions producing lahar on the northern side.

“If you’re at the ski lodges, they’re safe as. Ruapehu only affects within about 3km of the lake and the nearest part of the ski fields are about 4km or 5km away so it does make it a fairly safe environment and the rest, once off you’re off the bottom of the volcano, nothing can touch you.”

Mr Scott says Ruapehu Alpine Lifts has shifted all of its infrastructure – ski tows, towers, cafes – out of the valleys in case it did head in that direction.

As for how the volcanic unrest occurs? “That’s the $64,000 science question of volcanologists all over the world.”

The Department of Conservation also issued a warning to climbers and trampers on the mountain, to not enter the Summit Hazard Zone on Mt Ruapehu until further notice.

The Summit Hazard Zone is the area within 2km of the centre of the crater lake.

It encompasses all the peaks in the summit area, with Te Heuheu Peak at the north end of the summit area at the edge of the zone, and the upper Turoa skifield at the south.

Climbers and trekkers should refer to the Summit Hazard Zone map or use their map and GPS reading skills, to determine when they are approaching the zone.

“We recommend climbers, trampers and walkers do not enter the zone,” said Paul Carr, DoC‘s operations manager for Tongariro.

“Guiding companies should also heed the advice and not take people into the zone.”

No ski areas, other facilities or roads on Ruapehu or elsewhere in Tongariro National Park – including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – are affected by this warning.

French state terrorism against Greenpeace ship, documentary film

This video says about itself:

The Rainbow Warrior – Trailer

13 April 2016

The Rainbow Warrior: It would go down as one of the first acts of state-sponsored terrorism

Available on iTunes: here.

The plot summary is:

The Rainbow Warrior had set out to protest against French nuclear testing. But in the late hours of July 10th 1985, as the laughter and birthday celebrations of the crew filled the air, two French divers were planting two bombs on the bottom of the Rainbow Warrior. When the bombs exploded the ship was sunk, one man was killed, and a ten year battle between New Zealand and France began.

“If all they were trying to was to stop us then they could have done it in far less spectacular ways”, says head of Greenpeace, Steve Sawyer. In fact, the options of poisoning the diesel or using a single bomb were preferred by all agents involved.

But Charles Henu, an alcoholic and a womanizer and also the French Minister of Defence, was determined to strengthen French military independence. He dispatched three action teams for ‘Operation Satanic‘, many of whom speak here for the first time. “Of course I regret that somebody died”, says Dr. Xavier Maniquet, “but we were just following orders”.

His crew were part of action team 2 and had a near miss with the New Zealand government. Agents Marfur and Prieur from action team one were not so lucky. After making a series of phone calls to a known DGSE number in France, they were intercepted and imprisoned.

Yet what about the action team responsible for planting the bomb in the first place? Head of Operation Satanic, Louis Dillais, now sells arms to US Special Forces in the war against Terror. Banned from speaking by the French government, he can only hint: “No one wanted it to go this far”. The French government’s report on the mission was a whitewash – no second bombs, and some of the men in this documentary wiped from the pages of history. Yet the evidence of the New Zealand Police made a mockery of the cover-up. Speaking about the mission for the first time the former Prime Minister speaks revealingly of how the details of the mission were kept from him. This eye-opening investigation lays the secret workings of a government bare.

New Zealand wildlife, new plan

This video says about itself:

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand

6 November 2011

Forest & Bird has been protecting and restoring New Zealand’s natural environment since 1923. We are a not-for-profit independent registered charity that dedicated to the conservation of wild life and wild landscapes in New Zealand.

We are a community based organization. We have 50 volunteer branches throughout New Zealand. Our 3000 active volunteers manage and restore native forest and wetlands on our land and on public land. Each year they set over 10,000 traps and plant over 200,000 trees on our land and on public land. Our contribution to New Zealand since 1923 has been immense, as the Governor General Sir Anand Satyand said in 2009, “It would be difficult to imagine New Zealand without the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.”

From BirdLife:

Forest & Bird launches ambitious strategy for New Zealand’s nature

By Mike Britton, Fri, 18/03/2016 – 03:15

At the end of 2015 Forest & Bird (BirdLife New Zealand) launched its new strategic plan. It is ambitious and based on the vision of, in Aotearoa (New Zealand), ecological resilience being at the heart of everything the community does. Its mission is to protect and restore nature.

Reducing climate-damaging emissions, building resilience in ecosystems and promoting an economy that is both sustainable and enhances biodiversity are key parts of the strategy. For bird and nature lovers the control and eventually eradication of introduced rodents, mustelids and possums, that have so decimated New Zealand’s ecology is a key, aspirational, but potentially achievable goal.

Over its 75 year history, the protection of New Zealand’s natural areas has been a key focus for Forest & Bird and now it wants to make sure that these hard fought for protected areas are fully protected and managed against threats. The challenge goes on to see protected areas on land extended to protect the full range of the county’s natural heritage. A big part of that work will be built around finishing the identification of terrestrial Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) and seeing them projected.

Forest & Bird has recently completed identification of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) at sea and on land for marine and coastal birds. It is starting further work to identify IBAs for terrestrial birds. As part of its strategy for managing threatened species, Forest & Bird aims that all IBAs in New Zealand have been protected or are being managed to ensure species recovery by 2040. With its 50 community based branches, Forest & Bird has the capacity on the ground to achieve this goal.

With almost a third of New Zealand’s terrestrial areas in protective status, protection of the marine environment lags well behind. The strategy aims for a comprehensive and representative network of marine protected areas with ecological integrity established over at least 30% of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone within 10 years. The recent agreement by the Government to establish a 620,000 square kilometre marine sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands, as result of a campaign by Forest & Bird and other partners, gives hope this target is also achievable.

An exciting new part the strategy identifies that nature does not recognise political boundaries. Many of New Zealand’s indigenous species migrate through the region and across oceans. Forest & Bird intends to work with partners in the Pacific and globally to protect and restore the habitats of New Zealand’s indigenous species, wherever they migrate. Building international partnerships and also undertaking international projects to enhance the protection or habitat of a New Zealand migratory species is part of the strategy.

Ambitious the strategy is, but for New Zealand’s biggest and oldest nature conservation agency, and its 70,000 members and supporters, achieving the impossible has never been a restraint.

The strategy can be downloaded here.

Forest & Bird and Birds New Zealand complete the identification of New Zealand’s Marine Important Bird Areas: here.

Baby blue whale nursing, video

This video says about itself:

Baby Blue Whale Nursing (Exclusive Drone Footage)

2 March 2016

While researching pygmy blue whales in the South Taranaki Bight region of New Zealand, Leigh Torres used a drone to capture footage of a baby blue whale nursing. This is believed to be the first time that aerial footage has documented the nursing behavior of this endangered marine species.