TOSSI - Bringing back the birds
Something I love about volunteering with TOSSI is finding myself in the back and beyond of Tāwharanui Peninsula – exploring hideaways within the open sanctuary that most visitors miss. A recent tour hosted by Auckland Council park rangers and experienced TOSSI members was an opportunity to discover more about the whenua and witness the outcomes achieved by visionaries.
An intriguing project is the seabird nesting boxes, hidden on a clifftop away from hordes of trail walkers. Seabirds are remarkable beings, spending long periods at sea and then crash-landing into coastal pōhutukawa and dropping to the ground where they dig nesting burrows. Grey-faced petrels and fluttering shearwaters are no longer a common sight on mainland coastal cliffs, preferring to nest on islands where they are protected from rats, stoats and cats.
Monitoring seabirds at night at Tāwharanui.
Seabirds have discovered relative safety within Tāwharanui sanctuary and from early autumn onwards they arrive at the site to peruse the latest real estate on offer. Recorded seabird calls project from a nearby sound system to attract and anchor them to the site. After choosing their mate and their home, the birds disappear for several weeks before returning to the nesting boxes to lay a single egg. The boxes were introduced to accelerate the development of a seabird colony in the sanctuary and they are so comfy, little blue penguins have become uninvited squatters in some of them. There are a few neighbourhood squabbles and even bloody battles between the native species. It is a good sign that some seabirds prefer to do the hard work and dig their own nesting burrows.