Te Papa vertebrate curator Dr Colin Miskelly recently spent 12 days on Ohinau Island (east of Whitianga, Coromandel Peninsula) as part of a Te Papa seabird research team. This blog reports on the landbird species found on the island.
Ohinau is a 43 ha forested island owned by Ngati Hei, and lying about 7 km south of other islands in the Mercury Island group. The island formerly held populations of Pacific rats (kiore), mice and rabbits, but has been free of introduced mammals since these were eradicated by Ngati Hei and the Department of Conservation (DOC) in 2005. The forest is low in stature and diversity, with canopy species including mahoe, mapou, karaka and pohutukawa.
The island was very dry during our visit, and it is possible that some of the more mobile landbird species (especially red-crowned parakeets) had flown to the larger Mercury islands with their more mature and diverse forest. We saw only two parakeets on one day during our stay, whereas previously 30-40 birds were estimated to be present.
The following images were obtained by making a small water-bath on the forest floor near our camp, and waiting to see who visited for a drink or bathe. There was no other freshwater source for the birds on the island (we had to take all our own water requirements with us).
Common native landbirds of Ohinau Island included bellbirds, fantails, grey warblers, welcome swallows, sacred kingfishers and silvereyes. We heard a single shining cuckoo, and swamp harriers were seen on most days.
Common introduced landbirds were blackbird, chaffinch, dunnock, house sparrow and starling, with song thrush and goldfinch recorded occasionally.
With thanks to Ngati Hei for permission to visit Ohinau Island, and DOC for logistic support. Robyn Blyth, Lizzy Crotty and Liam Miskelly assisted with field work during my visit.
Life through a burrowscope lens (Part 4) – subterranean Ohinau Island