Forest Harvesting Crew instrumental in rare New Zealand Falcon protection

12/02/2013

A forest logging crew working in a pine plantation on the East Coast has taken steps to protect four Karearea New Zealand Falcon fledglings following their discovery in early January.

Contracted to local forest company Ernslaw One, Forestland Management Ltd are currently harvesting in the Waitahaia River valley, a remote location inland from Tokomaru Bay, where New Zealand Falcon are known to populate. The company had already identified the area as a Falcon Management Zone prior to the harvest starting.

The crew of loggers from Forestland Management Ltd discovered the four fledgling New Zealand Falcon while harvesting logs with their cable harvesting operation.

Faller Colin Marinan, on discovery of the fledglings, immediately notified the Ernslaw Harvesting Operations Manager Dan Herries, who implemented Ernslaw One’s Falcon management plan. This involved immediately halting the operation around the birds and contacting Department of Conservation (DOC) Gisborne Whakatane Area Ranger Jamie Quirk, and Debbie Stewart from the Wingspan Bird of Prey Trust in Rotorua.
Between the organisations and the crew, a plan to ensure that the harvest operation would not affect the birds and a pest management plan was established to ensure the best chance of survival.

To protect the New Zealand falcon from predation Ernslaw One and DOC installed a number of kill traps in a perimeter around the area the birds occupy as Cats had been noticed in the area,  and within a few days a stoat was caught.

DOC Ranger, Jamie Quirk said “the find of four fledglings is very rare as usually only two will make it through to independence.” “The efforts of Ernslaw One and the Forestland Management crew in helping to protect New Zealand’s unique wildlife is fantastic and with us working together we hope to achieve a positive outcome for the NZ falcon”.

Ernslaw One North Island Environmental Manager, Richard Heikell said the company is committed to the protection of rare, threatened and endangered species. Throughout its forests they undertake extensive predator control programmes, monitoring, set aside reserve areas and enhancement plans to ensure that plantation forests continue to be a great habitat for some of New Zealand’s threatened treasures such as Falcons, Kiwi, Native fish, Hochstetter Frogs and Blue Duck. The New Zealand falcon has adopted many harvested areas within the country, so it holds a special place for many crews in the bush. It has become forestry’s bird.

Wingspan Bird of Prey Trust Chief executive and founder Debbie Stewart said ” New Zealand falcon, are found nowhere else in the World, and there are not many left, it is a bird that is even rarer than our kiwi, and they need all the help they can get. The efforts by these loggers to recognise and protect these fledglings in Waitahaia River Valley demonstrates how commercial interests such as forestry partners and conservation interests complement one another. What a team!”

While the Trust’s Falcon expert Dr Richard Seaton also said “evidence suggests that the highest numbers of New Zealand falcons now occur in exotic plantation forests. Considering the falcons threatened status this expansion into a novel habitat is highly significant in the fight to save the species from the threat of extinction. The actions of Forestland Management and Ernslaw One are highly commendable and a fantastic example of how a collective will to do ‘the right thing’, coupled with effective management strategies, can allow threatened species’ to thrive.” 

The members of the logging crew have been very co-operative and have taken an interest in the bird’s welfare despite the interruptions and changes they had to make to their plans.  All involved are looking forward to the day when the four fledglings join their parents, who are regularly seen at the site, in hunting the picturesque area.

The 2012 Bird of the Year winner ‘Karearea’ New Zealand falcon is our most threatened bird of prey but like most New Zealand native birds evolved in the absence of mammalian predators and humans. As a result they commonly breed on the ground and the eggs, chicks and adults are highly susceptible to predation by introduced predators that include rats, ferrets, stoats feral cats and even possums.  As a result falcons have few places to safely nest and catch the food they need to raise their young.  Predators aside, the plantation forest environment is ideal for the birds with the combination of a mosaic of harvested areas to older trees and significant areas of indigenous forest providing a high abundance of small prey suitable for breeding falcon.

For more information about Karearea New Zealand Falcon check out www.wingspan.co.nz