After two days of being confined to the rat’s nest by the rain, Jane, Bokyong and I were brimming with excitement when Jo and Rua returned bringing Brook Mells, Jo’s partner, with them on the Friday night and Dan the morning after. By mid-morning the rain had cleared and by early afternoon the bush had dried out enough to do an afternoon of burrow checks. Following Nikki’s departure we would spend the rest of the time prioritising burrow checks over transects. The next few days were spent working in the same areas though we split in to two teams and bunny hopped burrows. Jane and Bokyong took off the study lids and took notes while Dan and I took out, weighed and identified the birds. Our second day of burrow checks took us out to Mount Heale hut where we admired the view while having lunch in the first bit of sunshine we had seen in 4 days; a welcome reprieve to dry out our sodden clothes.
On the morning of our last day of our second round of burrow checks (the day before we were due to leave) we had a group of year 7 students from the local school in Okiwi come up for a visit with their two teachers. They had stayed the night at Mount Heale Hut and met us down the bottom of the summit steps early that morning. We talked to them about the birds, what we were doing and why it was important. A few of the students had been up to the summit to see the work that was being done on black petrels before. They were all really interested and asked lots of great questions. After our Q&A session we split them in to two groups one which came with Bokyong and I and the other which went with Dan and Jane to help with a few of our burrow checks. Bokyong and I had a group of three girls and one boy. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm in helping with the work. All the girls had a go digging out the study hatches (despite painting their nails the night before). They all put their hands up to feel inside the burrows for a chick or egg after I had pulled the adults out. We were able to take one chick out which was sitting in front of its parent. We unfortunately found one dead chick inside a burrow which although sad, ensued a lot of interesting discussion around feeding regimes, bycatch and other risks these and other petrels face on land and at sea. It was so awesome to get to be a part of these kids experience with black petrels, to encourage them to do things they wouldn’t normally get to do and hopefully inspire them towards being more environmentally aware. It was also really interesting learning a bit more about their lives growing up on the barrier; all three girls were off to high school next year on the mainland as Great Barrier doesn’t have a high school.
Finishing our burrow checks we headed back down to the rat’s nest for one last gourmet dinner and celebrated a job well done. The next morning we packed up and headed down the windy canyon track towards Okiwi. We were picked up by two lovely DOC ladies and taken to one of their units near the DOC office. There we enjoyed showers (a luxury Bokyong, Jane and I had not had in over two weeks!), games and a night of general merriment. Following a nice sleep in, breakfast and exploring some neighbouring brown teal ponds, which Jo used to monitor as a ranger on Great Barrier Island and got her in to working with conservation dogs, we were dropped off at the airport ready to depart. Packed into our 10-seaterplane we enjoyed the views as we flew over Great Barrier Island and the Hauraki Gulf on our way to Auckland Domestic Airport. It was such an incredible two-week experience on Great Barrier Island, getting to work with such awesome birds, people and a dog.
BLAKE DOC Ambassador 2016