Funded by Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund
Equipment funded by Craig Butcher
Supported by DOC Wanaka
This project aims to develop a community kea catch trip, survey and nest monitoring program for the Matukituki Valleys, Mt Aspiring National Park (NP). This will be achieved by: i) running an initial catch trip to enable attachment of transmitters and bands to adults and bands to fledglings and juveniles, ii) monitoring kea nest productivity and predator impact through the breeding season and, iii) running a kea survey in January 2017 and combining with all other data to provide a baseline for the local kea population.
An initial catch trip to be run in partnership with Department of Conservation Wanaka was planned for the 16th – 22nd March 2016 (as part of a combined threatened alpine species initiative which also takes into account Rock Wren). The aim was to identify and catch up resident adult females and attach radio transmitters to enable tracking back to nest sites this breeding season.
The trip was initiated in the the East Matukituki Valley with the kea catch team (Robin, Sarah, Reuben, Mark, Donald, Corey, Tamsin and Matt). We were originally planning to piggy back in with the Rock Wren survey group (who had team members also trained in kea) however as we missed this we went in with DOCs predator monitoring team (Corey, Matt, Donald and Reuben) who were being paid by DOC to set out pest tracking tunnels throughout the Matuki. The team was paid by us for the kea survey/catch trip portion of the trip which meant we did not have to cover any transport costs getting to or around the survey location. A number of kea were sighted during the pm/am survey on the 17th – 18th March up the East Matukituki Valley (1 adult female (with a possible fledgling) at point 2 and 5 juveniles at point 3 (refer map below)), however no birds were caught. On the 19th March, the trip was postponed due to heavy rain.
The catch trip has now been rescheduled to restart at the end of January 2017 and will be run in conjunction with the summer survey. Weather at this time should be more settled and breeding pairs with fledglings more easily identified on the hills.
A second kea survey was run from the 20th -29th January 2017in the east and west Matukituki Valleys. The survey team consisted of 7 experienced kea handlers; Corey, Liam, Rachel, Paul, Donald, Flo and Sarah. Five kea were caught during the trip, one adult female, two adult males and two fledglings. Bands were attached to all captured birds and a radio transmitter was attached to the adult female (named Aspiring) to allow her to be monitored during subsequent breeding seasons.
2017 Follow Up
November 2017 – The adult female Aspiring, was followed thoughout the 2017 breeding season by Tom Goodman to ascertain nesting success. She was not found to be nesting. Aspiring was located in Gloomy Gorge on the 1st November to the east of French Ridge hut and visited the hut that evening with 5 other kea; an adult male, an adult female, a sub-adult female and two juvenile males.
The adult male and both juveniles were caught and banded and the sub-adult female (named Monty) was banded and fitted with a transmitter. This will enable her to be followed up in subsequent years as she matures.
December 2017 – Five banded kea were sighted at Aspiring hut between the 21st and 23rd December. Aspiring (adult female w/ tx), Barff, Basso, Dew and Flow were part of a flock of 12 kea to visit the hut.
A total of six kea were newly banded on the evenings of the 21st and 22nd December. These were made up of two sub-adult males, two juvenile males a juvenile female and a sub-adult female. A tx was placed on the sub-adult female (named Kelly) for future nest monitoring.
At the conclusion of the trip, one kea remained unbanded from the flock of 12. One unbanded adult female was also briefly sighted at French Ridge Hut.
In January 2018, the annual summer catch trip was cut short due to a cyclone however 6 kea were still able to be caught and banded over the 3 day period and the blood lead levels of one subadult female was tested (7ug/dL). No fledglings were sighted. Two follow up trips were carried up by a small tam resulting in the capture of a juvenile female in March and the recapture of two kea in April – one of which, an adult male Tatra, was also fitted with a transmitter. Signals for all other transmitters (Kelly, Monty and Aspiring), were acquired.
2018 Follow up
Two follow up trips were carried out in October and December. three of the four radiotagged kea were confirmed alive and not nesting (2 subadult females and 1 adult male) while the adult female, Aspiring, was unable to be located. this may indicate that she is nesting in a ‘black spot” or has moved to another valley.
For the first time, our survey team encountered a perfect weather window and were able to vitis 13 sites:
West Matukituki: Shotover Saddle, Aspiring Hut, Cascade Point, Cascade Saddle, Liverpool Hut, Scott’s Rock Bivouac, French Ridge Hut, Gloomy Gorge and Rob Roy Stream. East Matukituki: Duncan’s Knob, Sisyphus Peak, Wilmot Saddle and Albert Burn Saddle.
A total of 23 new kea were captured and banded and two adult females were fitted with radio transmitters.
Out of the 23 kea, 6 were fledglings which was very exciting to see. Three of these were hanging around with an adult pair – Isobel and Beau Jangles.