Last month I was lucky enough to join the Pycroft’s petrel recce trip to Red Mercury Island. Red Mercury is the second largest of the seven Mercury islands and home to the largest colonies of Pycroft’s petrels.
Later this month we are hoping to translocate 70 Pycroft’s petrels into artificial burrows on Motuora Island where they will be fed for up to 4 weeks before they fledge. So the point of our trip was to suss out how many and which chicks would be ready to be translocated.
A team of 6 of us were dropped ashore on Red Mercury and after managing to scramble all our gear ashore over slippery boulders we set up camp for the week.
We spent the next 6 days checking burrow after burrow. The grey faced petrels and fluttering shearwaters which also breed on the island had already fledged so the only occupied burrows had Pycroft’s petrels in them. If a chick was found we extracted it from the burrow, and measured its wing length which is used as an age indicator. During our time on the island we checked over 2000 burrows and found 210 that were occupied. 30 had just adults and 180 held chicks.
Each night the island came alive with pycroft’s petrels calling and dropping from the sky through the trees. We saw and heard a number of little spotted kiwi and were also lucky enough to see the Mercury Island’s tusked weta.
Thanks to our awesome team! Also a big thank you to John and Kay for organising the trip and to Colin for transporting our gear to and from Whitianga. Good luck to the collection team heading back out to Red Mercury tomorrow!
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