Day 15

Report by Stephen of a visit with Barbara and Liz to find the Taikos.

One amazing day on Chatham Island: 15km on dirt roads to meet Mike Bell the resident warden at Tuku and his family. Here we transferred to his truck for another ride across sheep pastures to the securely fenced area where Taikos are nesting amongst fern bush with a peat under-story. He took us to a unique site where the critically endangered Magenta Petrel nests. The site of seven acres is high up, securely fenced from predators, such as cats, rats, possums and hedgehogs. In this area nest a few of the estimated 100 breeding pairs of a very rare petrel. Applying modern technology it is possible to play pre-recorded calls to attract birds when they come ashore at night to find nest sites; they track movements in and out of occupied burrows. Mike tracks birds with fitted radio positioning devices. Climbing through the damp bush ducking under fallen trees and dodging ferns, we found marked underground burrows. At some excavation was evident by heaps of fresh soil. At others occupancy was proven as tell-tale sticks left by Mike had been moved by a visiting bird. To cap the experience Mike lifted the lid on an artificial burrow to show us an incubating bird. We felt very privileged to be viewing the dark brown plumage of one of the world’s rarest seabirds and testament to the great efforts the locals have exerted to ensure their protection.


Barbara, Liz and Mike at Taiko nest site

In the same area are Chatham Island Petrels – still special as only 5,000 exist on an outlying island. Work is in progress to translocate young and encourage new breeding on an adjacent island. Similar efforts at translocation of young are in early stages with the rare Chatham Island Albatross. Supported entirely by voluntary contribution and charitable funding this is a big step to redress the harm done by colonisation and unwitting introduction of predators to island communities.

After contrary winds and a bouncy crossing from Napier, it was a pleasure to hear the calls of skylarks over the pastures and sightings of local harriers, pigeons, tui and fantails. Now refreshed and enthused, Mike said we should see seven types of albatross in these waters and a chance to see the petrels in their ocean environment.

We set sail in the morning on our way to Cape Horn.

Stephen Chapman Aft Port