By Sasha Dowling and Renee Denby.
For twelve evenings throughout June, over 90 volunteers from 22 conservation groups, sat in the dark across 55 Hauraki-Coromandel locations, listening for kiwi calls.
This marks the second year of the Predator Free Hauraki Coromandel Community Trust’s (PFHCCT) Region wide Kiwi Call Monitoring, an initiative to monitor kiwi populations and foster community participation in conservation efforts.
Established in 2022 through Jobs for Nature funding via Save the Kiwi, the original survey was established by Katharina Hecht to provide a baseline. This year the monitoring is being coordinated by Sasha Dowling and Renee Denby from PFHCCT. Sasha says, “We’ve been thrilled by the enthusiastic response from the volunteers involved in the monitoring, as many participants returned for another year, joined by several new faces. We added five new sites for 2023, as we had such great interest from volunteers.”
The Coromandel has a long history of kiwi surveys, with the first co-ordinated peninsula-wide survey by Sid Marsh in 1992-93. Since then, community conservation groups and DOC have conducted localised and independent surveys, while the current PFHCCT work is the first peninsula-wide survey in 30 years.
The survey's reach extends from the northernmost point of Port Charles to the Maratoto Valley near Hikutaia. Renee says “Although we have many eager volunteers, the isolation of some of the sites and the landscape of the Coromandel Peninsula means we have also deployed automated acoustic recorders at a number of sites. These recorders have been generously loaned to us by Waikato Regional Council and the Department of Conservation and provide us with comprehensive data from harder to reach locations.
Species monitoring is a critical part of conservation as it helps determine success, aids in measuring population and habitat trends, and helps with decision making. Thanks to many years of dedication and effort from the peninsula's many community-based conservation groups, we already know that the Coromandel has several hotspots for Coromandel Brown Kiwi. Therefore, the sites we are monitoring are in areas that do not have known or high kiwi populations. What we hope is that in future years, this monitoring will show the spread of kiwi populations into these strategically chosen sites as the areas with high kiwi numbers begin to reach carrying capacity.
Not only is kiwi monitoring crucial to collecting data, but it has also been great for connecting like-minded conservationists in the region. In preparation for the survey, kiwi call refresher training evenings were held at multiple locations on the peninsula for volunteers to brush up on their listening skills and meet other listeners from their area. We also had a community chat group, providing a platform for listeners to share results and photos from listening evenings.
The intention is that PFHCCT will continue this annual monitoring once the Jobs for Nature Funding expires next year. If you are interested in getting involved in Kiwi Conservation in your area, please contact PFHCCT for more information.
Caption: Sasha Dowling and Renee Denby.