Little Barrier Island Supporters Trust

Kakapo habitat selection on Hauturu-o-toi in relation to plant phenology

Abstract: Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) breed only when certain gymnosperm species produce unusually abundant mast seed crops, events that can occur up to 5 years apart. Kakapo were first translocated to the offshore island refuge of Hauturu-o-toi (Little Barrier Island) in 1982. Despite the absence of known breeding triggers, several breeding attempts did occur prior to the birds’ removal in 1999. Although kakapo were reintroduced to Hauturu in 2012, the question of what triggers them to breed there remains a mystery. This paper re-examines unanalysed datasets to explore the link between kakapo habitat selection and plant phenology patterns on Hauturu during the 1990s. By comparing plant phenology with breeding attempts, we provide insights into potential breeding triggers, and the potential future of Hauturu as a sustainable refuge. We also provide an account of plant phenology patterns occurring on Hauturu. Resource selection ratios were calculated to determine habitat selection preferences using kakapo location data and a vegetation map of Hauturu. Analysis of plant phenology within preferred habitats was then undertaken to determine potential breeding triggers using a dataset of over 70 plant species collected from 1991–1995. Female kakapo that attempted to breed on Hauturu preferred Agathis australis (kauri) dominated vegetation to any other vegetation type. Phenology patterns coincided with kakapo breeding attempts, and attempted breeding years on Hauturu were years with high A. australis female cone abundance. The association between A. australis and breeding suggests that A. australis cone production could trigger kakapo breeding on Hauturu. With an increasing kakapo population and a limited number of suitable refuges, understanding the potential reproductive productivity of kakapo on Hauturu will be vital for their future management and recovery. 

Download the full file to read more:

April 2016 Working Weekend Report

Sarah Mason writes about a memorable April visit to the island. 

I had a dream to one day return to Little Barrier. Years ago, my family visited the Blanshard family, who were the resident rangers at the time. On that day the mooring conditions were perfect for Dad’s launch. Our family of six piled into the dinghy and negotiated the boulder landing; no quarantine then, or fancy ramps to transport the arrival craft over the boulders. The Blanshard children were experts at running over the boulders. We city kids had a lot to learn! 

The island left a huge impression on me. Now, 50 years later, I had an opportunity to go back to the island on a working weekend with other like-minded enthusiasts. I noticed many changes: the very strict quarantine, excellent landing systems and the development of infrastructure to support what is now a very focused operation to care for Hauturu. 

Even though we knew we were going to be in for something special, everyone was immediately awed by the magnificence of the trees and the chorus of many birds. The island rangers were very welcoming and outlined the first day’s tasks: weeding the tuatarium or cutting back the tracks. I opted for track cutting, which meant I could explore the island at the same time. 

When our afternoon’s work was completed a few of us went for a swim in the crystal-clear water, hardly needing a mask to see the snapper and curious moki. In the evening, we had a shared meal and I discovered that the barbecue area was where the living room of the Blanshard house had once been. A few brave souls went for a night walk to spot kiwi, but the heavens opened and sensibly the kiwis remained in their nests. 

On Sunday morning we awoke to the most amazing dawn chorus: the mournful cry of the kokako, busy saddlebacks, robins, bellbirds, tuis, stitchbird, the penetrating call of the kaka and more… just fabulous. 

Sunday’s task was to retrieve the camp and electronic observing equipment used by the experts who had been monitoring a female kakapo and her nest. After a two-hour climb, boulderwalking, stream crossings and scrambling over rough tracks not used normally by volunteers we arrived at a remote camp concealed in the dense bush. It was challenging to say the least, but extremely rewarding; we all felt that we had been useful by carrying out the equipment that had made up the hi-tech observation post. Again we were privileged to hear incredible bird song, spend time in stunning bush and see tuatara in their natural habitat. 

Our time on Hauturu came to an end quickly. New friendships had formed, knowledge had been enriched, and we all felt tremendously satisfied that we had been part of the dynamic Little Barrier team for 24 hours. I have huge admiration for the work that the rangers and their wives, DOC, supporting experts and the Hauturu Little Barrier Island Supporters Trust do to ensure that Hauturu is kept a perfect place for our native birds, flora and fauna. This is truly a treasure for New Zealand. Thank you, Lyn Wade, for making this weekend enlightening and memorable.

Dates for the Spring/Summer 2016 Working Weekends have now been confirmed. The target dates (weather permitting) are:

  • 19/20 November (back-up dates 26/27 November) and
  • 10/11 December (back-up dates 17/18 December)
For further details and to register your interest in either of these weekends, please phone Sandra Jones (09) 817 2788 or email [email protected] The deadline for enquiries is Friday 30 September.


Dates for the two working weekends are planned for later this year have been confirmed!

November 19/20 (back-up dates November 26/27)

December 10/11 (back-up dates December 17/18)

All participants need to be reasonably fit and agile and prepared to cope, if necessary, with a wet and difficult landing over large and slippery boulders. We will do a variety of jobs for the rangers, plus there will be time for walking, bird-watching and botanising.

For further details and to register your interest in either of these weekends, please ring Sandra Jones, ph 09 817 2788,
or email [email protected]z

The closing date for enquiries is Friday 30 September 2016

Welcome to the new website

It’s been a long time coming but the new Hauturu website is here, thanks to our very clever and generous friends at Vega. We’ve had hugely positive feedback, particularly on our gorgeous imagery and the lovely recordings of Hauturu birdsong made by composer and sound artist Peter Willis. You will hopefully also have seen our new Facebook page. The new site, this blog, and our Facebook page will enable the Trust to communicate and share information with our supporters more quickly and informally than has been possible in the past. It is also now possible for you to renew your subscription online through the Support Us section of the website.

August 2013 Working Weekend Report

‘It’s like going back in time,’ Hauturu has often been described to me. One imagines that the bush is prehistoric somehow, as if a dinosaur might step out round the next corner. I did find Hauturu indeed had a strong sense of the past, and was as we might imagine New Zealand to have been before people changed the landscape, introduced predators and reduced habitats. But when I got to Hauturu it was not a sense of the past that intrigued my mind and inspired my curiosity as much as a sense of the future, of what it can and will hold, of the possibilities, and how this will be made possible through the minds and physical commitment of not just environmentalists, conservationists and enthusiasts but also through the knowledge, perseverance and quest of science. ‘Yes, yes, all set, packed and ready for the quarantine check,’

I announce, while busily emptying my jacket pockets of bits of goodness knows what. How did I forget to check my own pockets? As organised as we think we are, it was amazing how there were still nooks and crannies for us all to find a bit of possible ‘no-no’ to clean out before we begin our adventure to the island.

Good boat trip over, a little rough, but good weather and exciting. ‘Nice boat! Thanks Dave!’ There was much fun and challenge landing in the rubber ducky; when they say ‘bring two pairs of shoes’, they really do mean two pairs of shoes! Second quarantine check and we’re here. Marks, set, go!

The most experienced of our party was off to the bunkroom to select his bed in a mighty rush. I thought, I’d better follow suit, he must know something I don’t. Turns out the bunkrooms are great, and there are no worries about which bunk to take. Maybe it was because he had the best cake and wanted to get started on it as soon as possible!

There are two classic occurrences for me when I am away from home: getting lost and getting injured. By the time we had started the first group activity or job – really, it was too much fun to be called a job – I had banged my head on an overhanging pohutukawa branch and had wandered off to see the ranger’s children’s hut and raft (the most amazing hand-built collection of recycled objects I have ever seen). I lost my group in the bush and was now all alone, calling, ‘Anyone? Anyone at all?’ How far could they have gone? We’re on an island!

I loved the ‘job’, creating homes for lizards and geckos using black rubber butynol sheets and black corrugated squares placed in double layers with sticks in between to allow the geckos to crawl inside. The butynol sheets were tacked around tree trunks, so the geckos can crawl up underneath where it’s nice and warm. The shelters were spread out in as straight a line as possible from the first marker point, and mapped on a GPS so they could be found easily later for checking.

I took my camera, and came back with fabulous shots of rocks and boulders. There were shots of birds too, but mostly of boulders; they were much better at posing. The shore is an amazing wild expanse of rocks and driftwood. The flora creeps its way right up to the shore in naturalised areas of grasses, flaxes and muehlenbeckia (on whose berries the kereru feed in huge numbers). A landscaper could not have done better. The ranger Richard and his wife Leigh, an experienced ornithologist, were amazing, so giving of their time, energy and knowledge. Even though the island on its own is intoxicating, having these two passionate, experienced environmentalists share their amazing knowledge and expertise highlighted the intricate secrets and wisdom of the island, its ongoing projects, research, discoveries and future possibilities.

There was something for everyone during our weekend excursion, from a challenging walk up the Valley Track to valley walks for the quiet day trekker. We had night adventures discovering the incredible giant weta hanging out on the pongas and hunting for the elusive kiwi. We watched kokako climbing in the hedge next to the ranger’s house and then swooping down to the lawn to waddle about eating daisy heads. We enjoyed feasts ofhomemade baking, a festive shared dinner, and someone even thought to bring the coffee plunger. Well-done team!

Leaving the island was as adventurous and fun as the arrival, with groups relayed out to the boat in the rubber ducky. It seemed we were the last bus leaving as everybody jumped aboard to head for the mainland except for Leigh and her two lovely children, who stood on the shore to wave us good-bye, no doubt thinking, ‘Fabulous, the island to ourselves at last!’

Thanks so much to Lyn Wade for organising our fantastic experience. I know everybody in our group was touched in their own way by the magic of Hauturu, its history, its journey and the stories it has to tell.

May 2013 Working Weekend Report

On a surprisingly cold May morning in Warkworth our group of nine volunteers (Paul, Jenny, Peter, Anthony, Mary, Robin, Fiona, Jamie and Melanie) plus group leader Lyn Wade met outside DOC, apprehensive following the postponement of our trip from the previous weekend, to begin the quarantine for what would be the first visit to Hauturu for almost all of the group. A couple of hours later, after a moderately rough crossing, we arrived at the WestLanding, at which point intrepid volunteers Jamie and Anthony swam to shore to help rangers Richard and Nichy carry the inflatable boat down the boulder beach.

After introductions, a cup of tea, a change of footwear and a thorough health and safety briefing, our afternoon’s work commenced. Members of the group assisted with a variety of tasks including laying rat bait, replacing pitfall traps and weeding in the tuatarium – tasks that gave volunteers a unique insight into the maintenance and pest management procedures on Hauturu. Other volunteers, who had spent the afternoon checking first aid kits, got a surprise visit from a group of eight kokako, who spent about half-an-hour hopping around the lawn outside the ranger’s house.

Cold and unstable weather ruled out having the traditional barbecue but a pot-luck dinner in the bunkhouse accompanied by the usual fancy dress (not to mention Fiona’s three-litre cask of wine) more than compensated. After dinner Nichy tested our knowledge of not only Hauturu but also a wide range of New Zealand plants, birds, natural history and geography. Lyn’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all of the above gave her team a narrow victory over Richard’s. This was followed by a night walk searching for kiwi and weta, both of which were found, with kiwi in particular providing considerable entertainment. Some managed to see eight individual birds, returning to the bunkhouse (exhausted) around 11pm knowing that they would need to be up early to hear the dawn chorus.

Hauturu’s capacity to inspire visual artists is well-known, but on this occasion the dawn chorus on Sunday morning was a particularly valuable opportunity for our two composers, Anthony and Peter, who set out before dawn with their recording equipment to capture samples of birdsong to use in future musical projects. Jamie had less luck with his fishing, but displayed remarkable perseverance despite the apparent absence of fish.

After breakfast the group set out for a walk up the Thumb Track and back down the Waipawa Track, providing opportunities to see some of the island’s magnificent native flora, including epiphytes (Hauturu’s predator-free environment allows these to thrive at ground level), blechnum ferns, kidney ferns and green hood orchids. Sunday afternoon provided the opportunity to explore individually before a quick tuatara feed and back to the West Landing for departure.

Those who had hoped to catch a glimpse of the reintroduced kakapo will need to wait for another occasion (likewise those who had hoped to see dolphins on the boat trip back to Sandspit!) but the incredible variety and abundance of indigenous wildlife provided a memorable and enriching experience for all attendees, many of whom hope to return to Hauturu. Our thanks go to the Hauturu Supporters Trust for providing this wonderful opportunity, to Richard and Nichy for welcoming us to the island and involving us to such a full extent in their activities, to Dave Wade for getting us safely there and back, and most particularly to Lyn for her outstanding leadership and expertise.

From Hauturu Expedition To Art Exhibition

Little Barrier – An Island Sanctuary

Group exhibition: Russell Jackson, Tony Ogle, Brian Strong,

Paul Woodruffe and guest artist Don Binney      

This group exhibition, featuring paintings by some of New Zealand’s best known landscape artists is the result of an ‘artists in residence’ expedition to Hauturu last November, organised by Parnell Gallery owner Sally Souness.

Artists Russell Jackson, Tony Ogle, Brian Strong and Paul Woodruffe, with special permission from the Department of Conservation, stayed on the island for three days to draw and paint the unique endangered flora and fauna which make Hauturu one of the country's most important sanctuaries.     

Guest artist, Don Binney, Patron of the Hauturu Little Barrier Island Supporters Trust, has a long association with Hauturu. He joined the group on its voyage to the island, and has contributed three fine works to the exhibition – stunning views of Hauturu from the sea.    

Other paintings depict the untouched landscape and many of the rare birds and insects that live on Hauturu and which artists would not normally have the chance to study.

"Seeing these creatures in their natural habitat is in itself pretty amazing," said Sally, "but what struck the artists was to see them in such abundance. Whole flocks of kaka and kereru tumbling around in the pohutukawa groves and literally dozens of stitchbird and saddlebacks darting through the forest.    

"There are some very unusual landscape features as well, such as the massive boulder beaches. It was a feast of material to get the artists' creative juices going."

Click Here To View a Selection of the Works