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Waitangi Forest Kiwi Monitoring

PF Olsen is the harvest manager at the Waitangi Endowment Forest located east of Waitangi between Kerikeri and Paihia in the Bay of Islands. The Department of Conservation (DoC) manages the approximately 502 hectares of land, of which over 80% is planted in exotic forest plantations, primarily Radiata pine. Regular small annual harvests are conducted in the forest, with the 2012/13 harvest planned to be approximately 13 hectares.

The forest supports healthy populations of the North Island Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli), which regularly use the exotic forest habitats for both breeding and foraging.

Prior to the commencement of any harvesting operations, DoC conducts kiwi surveys to determine the presence of any kiwi in the planned harvest areas. Such a survey was conducted prior to the commencement of harvest in the forest in late October of this year.

The survey was conducted by Tom Herbert & Diane Prince using two trained kiwi dogs. They camp in the forest and listen at night to determine the general location of any birds, and then use the dogs to identify specific locations of any roosting or nesting birds. Any birds nesting in the planned harvest area, or are likely to frequent the harvest area, are captured and fitted with small leg transmitters.

This year's survey resulted in the tagging of three birds and was most notable in that the male was not only nesting in the pines, but was sitting on an egg nearing readiness for hatching and a recently hatched young chick. The young chick was relocated to another compartment in the Waitangi Forest which had suitable cover and habitat, and the egg removed to be reared at the bird recovery centre in Whangarei.

Once the birds have been tagged and the clearance to commence harvesting has been given by DoC, a pre-work meeting is held with the harvesting crew (Tom Harrison & Sons). DoC provides a radio receiver and aerial and instructs the crew as to their use. Every morning prior to the commencement of logging the crew will 'sweep' the area of the day's planned work to determine the presence of any of the tagged birds.

Some adjustments have had to be made to the harvesting to accommodate the birds, but these have all been manageable. The crew has been able to develop a routine to check on the location of the birds, even before the start of any early morning load outs. The harvest operation has yet to be disrupted by any birds roosting in an operational area, but the ground-based harvest system means there is flexibility to move to another part of the stand if this were to occur.