Te Rae o Atiu 2022-23 season report

27 July 2023
A comment today from someone that this site has not seen much activity has prompted this brief update.   The comment is true enough, because we no longer have a paid administrator, and all activity is now purely voluntary, and most of us are busy in multiple roles.   And there is always more to do than people to do it.

The 2022-23 season was a reasonably successful one for our colony.

We had 86 birds return, up 1 on the previous year, but 8 of our previously regular returnees failed to return.   That is probably an indication of an extremely harsh season in early 2022, which saw us having to supplemental feed our chicks for a couple of weeks to keep them alive.   Most birds seemed to be underweight prior to leaving for Australia.   Looks like about 10%  of breeding adults didn’t make it there and back, it might be a very bad year for chicks.

Our season at Te Rae was reasonably successful.  No supplemental feeding required.   We had 35 eggs laid, 19 hatch, and 18 fledge – with the unexpected late death of what looked like a chick ready to fledge.   At 55% that isn’t great, but it is slightly better than average (53%).

It wasn’t a great hatching rate, but it was a very wet spring, with many burrows being flooded.   That lead to us having several working bees where we installed drainage into about 20 burrows, and did a lot of remodeling of terrain to divert water away from burrows.

Lots of issues that always happen in a project of this scale, and we are making progress, and we are learning a great deal.    The old recorder boxes are being replaced by new ones of a new design, which makes their upkeep easier and the data more reliable.   I rewrote the download software to be fully automatic and to speak when something needs attention, which made the process of downloading data from the recorders about 5 times faster – it is hard to see laptop screens and mouse pointers in sunlight, so keeping interactions to a minimum, and speaking as well as displaying information, has made a big difference.

Toni has been doing a lot of work keeping the growth under some sort of control, and in the process has found 4 carcasses of chicks that didn’t make it from previous years.   That too seems to be something natural.   In my time in the Kowhai colony observing birds at night with thermal imaging gear, I have seen chicks fail to take off and crash into hohera trees on their first attempt.   What really amazes me is that over half of the eggs that are laid manage to fledge (about 53%) and over half the chicks that fledge come back to our colony (about 55%).    We cannot be sure if some of them go to other colonies, or if the ones we don’t see have died, but given that they are essentially on their own from when the fledge, and they have to find food on instinct, and navigate to Australia and back multiple times (3+) before we see them again, it is quite something.

Marine heat waves don’t make it easy for our birds, and they are surviving.   They are tough.  They need to be.

Thanks for your interest in reading this far.

If you are interested in volunteering time, please contact Ted (027 442 4281)