Ever seen a pūweto, a spotless crake? Possibly not… but you can, soon, albeit digitally. Matuku Link will be featuring in the next episode of Wild Heroes, the Auckland Zoo series on the work their staff do outside the zoo. Zoo staff have been helping Matuku Link since we started, doing the pest control monitoring, search for pāteke by drone and lending a hand with the pūweto survey like they did this weekend. Two Auckland Zoo staff members, three film crew and ten volunteers looked and listened for this tiny, elusive bird. The survey protocol is quite strict – listen, play the call of the pūweto three times, listen again… write down start time, location and if  you see or hear one. And any other observations of special birds. Walk/kayak to the next location and repeat. Because we’re doing it with a lot of teams at the same morning, and we can compare the time when we see/hear a pūweto, we should at least not count that same bird many times.

Today we were very lucky with the weather: overcast but no rain until we were back and almost windless. The downside were the huge number of Canada Geese – when disturbed they fly up and honk very loudly! The native bush at Matuku Reserve forms a perfect bowl to echo those honks, which seems to set off even more geese, and even louder spur-winged plovers! Sometimes it was hard to hear any other, quieter, birds during this cacophony… though we did hear and see other species: pūtangitangi (paradise shellducks), pāteke (brown teal), a kuruwhengi (shoveller), mātātā (fernbirds), and many native bush birds like tūi and kereru. For me personally it is always a very special occasion – on the water in the wetland in the early morning, quiet and still and see the sun rise, the birds starting their morning chorus and the survey team floating quietly in our kayaks.

John Sumich organises this survey every year, with a land-based crew and a team on the water in kayaks. As we don’t own enough gear ourselves, it is always a lot of work borrowing the kayaks, the Foxpro sound systems, the GPS units – plus working out who goes where and does what. Add to that the fact we start at 6.15am in the morning in the dark, and you can imagine we all relished the coffee, tea and Spotless Cake when returning at the barn!

Thank you to everyone who made todays survey happen: access from your property, parking, lending kayaks, peddles, life jackets, sound gear, GPS units, gathering people and materials, providing maps & info, arranging good weather – and of course: everyone for getting up this early!

And what was the result? We’ll be making a full report on all the wetland birds later when all recordings are in. But a preliminary overview is that a small number of pūweto were heard, one was seen, a larger number of pāteke were floating about and all participants go muddy and wet!

If you’re interested to learn more about the wetland survey or what we do, contact me at hello@matukulink.org.nz.

Ngā mihi nui, Annalily

Pictures by Stefan Marks and Eric van Essen