1 August 2021
by Dr Janelle Ward
I recently attended the annual Hihi Recovery Group meeting – this year held at the delightful Raumati Beach with views to Kapiti Island. These recovery group meetings are on the smaller side, involving 15-20 delegates from DOC, The Hihi Conservation Trust, sanctuaries and researchers. A diverse range of topics was discussed including adaptive management strategies for all sites, how we are tracking against recovery group goals, how to report effectively, and ways to improve social media and advocacy to raise awareness of hihi. The possibility of a hihi awareness week was raised as an idea and was positively received. Training was also given at the workshop including male, female and juvenile identification and banding methods.
Other than two sites (Maungatautari and Hauturu-O-Toi), current hihi populations are heavily dependent on sugar water but many sites have issues with bellbirds consuming large quantities and have issues with wasps. Currently there are no methods for excluding bellbirds but wasp mitigation measures are possible and many sites including SMM plan on wasp control this season.
New hihi bands with imbedded microchips are being trialled at Tiritiri Matangi with dataloggers installed at feeders to retain information about feeder usage of hihi. The data can also add to the population estimates data and start to reveal patterns of feeder usage by different individuals over time. This technology could be rolled out to all sites for a relatively cheap cost. The meeting was concluded with a site visit to a magnificent old growth forest area in Wainuiomata that has potential as a future hihi site.
Following the meeting, conservation officer Mhairi McCready started her annual survey at Maungatautari in July and included a training session for nearly 20 SMM volunteers. They learned some of the background of hihi recovery, how to identify hihi calls, read bands and physical identification. The volunteers will largely work in teams of two to sight unbanded and banded birds with the idea that any identifications will improve the population estimates. Also finding unbanded birds will assist Mhairi’s trapping efforts while she is here.
Mhairi will be onsite again in August and October to complete the annual survey – you can tell who she is as she will be carrying mist net poles! Please do say hello if you see her across the mountain one day. Finally, the hihi annual report (glossy) is now complete and printed versions have been distributed to all sanctuaries – copies will be available very soon at the Visitor Centre!
Hihi population estimate at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari