Last week, Te Atiawa Iwi Charitable Trust was invited by DOC Biodiversity Ranger Jo Carson and her conservation labrador heading dog cross called Tai in a monitoring field exercise of whio, the rare native blue duck (featuring on the NZ $10.00 note).
The planned excursion commenced at the lower reaches of the Kaiauai (Kaiauahi) River, off Alfred Road, Kaimiro on the outer bushline boundary of Te Papakura o Taranaki (Egmont National Park) within Te Atiawa territory. With heightened senses and a super-sensitive nose to seek and sniff out whio, Tai led the team upstream with ardent intention investigating every gap and crevice along the river banks, searching under decaying fallen trees, rocks and boulder formations. The 4km exploration was an opportunity to assess the quality of the whio’s natural habitat; water quality, water flow consistency, aquatic insects- larvae count, algae build-up and bush habitat on the banks of the river.
Although fiercely territorial, and moulting at this time of year, the team observed two vibrant male whio and two calmer female whio. One of the more spirited males displayed his defiance by extending his whole body on a rock projecting his neck and head forward and whistling at high pitch letting anyone and everything in this location that this was his territory and you are going to know about it! There were another two whio identified by Tai but they were too well hidden in their roosts.
It was fantastic to be on our mounga immersed in an environment conducive to the growing population of whio, a testament to those working tirelessly to ensure the health and wellbeing on our mounga continues.
Te Whenua, Tai Tangata, Tai Ao tihei mouri ora.
📷: TKOTA, DoC.