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Egg Lift in the Waitaangas

As the new trust manager I thought I had better get out and get a line on what goes on at an egg lift.

They start early that’s for sure, the team of myself, Jenny, Doddy, and John led by our trained Kiwi handlers, Sue, Kevin and Michelle were up and out of bed in the dark for a 6.30am meet up in Stratford.

From there it is a one and a half hour drive, partially on a gravel road to the Waitaanga Conservation area. Vehicles are abandoned on the side of the road and three teams set off in different directions, armed with a water bottle each, equipment for transmitter changes, telemetry gear and a small chilly bin, both of which are cumbersome in the bush.

We head down a ridge on a faint track ending up in a beautiful river bed after about fifteen minutes, we have some directions from Kevin as to the whereabouts of our bird Winter. Sue and I rock and bank hop up the riverbed for another fifteen minutes, a piece of fabric tied to a tree gives us an idea on where we need to start looking for Winter. This is where the telemetry gear is engaged and we get a signal quickly and write down the codes it gives us, providing valuable information on Winter’s recent activity, which is encouraging to a newbie like me. But from there it took us over an hour to track down Winter’s burrow, it would seem this is not unusual, an exercise in patience for the most impatient person in the world, peppered with clambering up and down banks, crossing a small tributary of the river on very slippery papa several times, all while trying to be quiet!

Eventually with me guarding the gear Sue delves amoungst the branches of a fallen tree and identifies the burrow, a bit of a mystery to me how she pinned it down I must confess! Obviously there is a bit more to using the telemetry gear that meets the eye, as the old needle in the haystack analogy sprung to mind. Following a little bush whacking Sue backs out of the branches with Winter, it is my job to hold him while Sue changes his transmitter, does a visual health check, weighs him and measures his bill.

I had some training at Rotokare Scenic Reserve previously on the correct way to handle a precious kiwi but this bird was much bigger than the small chick Prince. Luckily Winter was calm while Sue replaced his transmitter for one with a new battery. She then went back into the burrow to retrieve the two huge eggs nestled there, they went into the chilly bin in a new burrow of work socks which had been warmed previously using a hot water bottle. Winter was then returned safely to his nest and we set off sliding down banks, clambering over trees and rock hopping back up the river, but this time I had been entrusted with the cargo, two kiwi eggs!

We met Kevin and John just in time to climb a very step bank so they helped out with the cargo. We all met back at the road and compared notes. Not everyone was successful, Michelle and Jenny caught their Kiwi in open ground but were unable to find the burrow, so no eggs for them. Kevin, John and Doddy found theirs easily and were almost back at the car before we found ours.

The four eggs were inspected, one of ours was cold and the team felt it was not alive, this was later confirmed by the hatchery. By now it was one o’clock, and extremely hot, we skulled water, piled back into the cars and headed to the rendezvous with our volunteer driver who had the responsibility of delivering the precious eggs to Rotorua.

Not quick work I ascertained, this egg lift gig, I got home at 3pm!

Egg Lift in the Waitaangas Celine Filbee Trust Manager
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