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First Egg Laid At New Hutton's Shearwater Colony In Kaikoura

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust received an early and unexpected Christmas present when a shearwater was discovered sitting on a freshly laid egg at the new man made colony being developed on the Kaikoura Peninsula says Trust Chairman Paul McGahan. He said this is the most fantastic news the Trust could hope for and caps off two amazing years since the Trust was formed in which time it has raised over $350,000 enabling a predator proof fence to be built around the new colony and for research projects to be started. This will assist in their future protection and conservation.

The news has taken the Trust by surprise as breeding was not expected to start for at least another two years. It was thought that it would be five or six years before these shearwaters breed but this bird is only three and a half years old.

Project Manager for the predator proof fence Lindsay Rowe got the surprise of his life last Wednesday when he was inspecting the site and lifted a burrow lid to find a banded shearwater sitting on an egg. He quickly managed to get a photo before closing the lid. There is evidence that several other shearwaters are visiting the site but at this stage it is difficult to know how many as they usually feed offshore during the day.

It has taken several years of hard work to make the peninsula colony a reality said Mr McGahan who assisted with translocations of Hutton's shearwater from the Kowhai colony high in the Kaikoura Ranges where this species naturally breed at between 1200 to 1800 metres. The Department of Conservation in conjunction with landowners Whale Watch and the local Iwi initiated the project. DoC undertook translocations between 2005 and 2008 to establish a third colony for this endangered seabird because of threats faced in the two remaining wild colonies.

Birds at the new colony were at risk without a predator proof fence to protect them so in 2008, Geoff Harrow who confirmed the location of colonies in the Kaikoura Ranges in 1965 founded the Trust with a goal to raise funds for a predator proof fence. The Shearwater Trust negotiated a licence to occupy a 2.1ha area of land on the peninsula with the landowners, Whale Watch, and by February of this year had completed the fence, securing the future of shearwaters returning to this location. The fence was completed and officially opened by the Minister of Conservation in August, just in time for the new arrival.

Hutton's shearwater are a migratory species, spending winters in offshore Australia and returning each spring to breed only in the Kaikoura Mountains and now the new colony on the Peninsula. The Trust recognises it will take years for the colony to become fully established but the fact that an egg has been laid is a good indication that chicks translocated to this site will succeed at this location. It is around 50 days from egg laying to chick hatching and a further 83 days before a chick fledges so it will be an anxious but exciting few months ahead. Breeding pairs only lay one egg a year. The size of the egg at 70g is huge and equivalent to about a quarter of the bodyweight of a female shearwater.

Mr McGahan says that the many volunteers, funders, organisations, and the Kaikoura community can be proud of their support for this project which is helping this iconic species. Development of the peninsula colony has been a partnership between the Trust, Whale Watch, DOC and Te Runanga o Kaikoura.

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