Just a little update on the value of our kea sightings project so far. We’ve only had it all up and running a few months now and we still have lots of modifications to do on the website but in the meantime, it’s been amazing value for effort so far!
I just wanted to share with you a couple of observations from my perspective on the useful things that we are starting to see.
We already knew that Arthur’s Pass acts as a bit of a “focal point” and kea from all over the place appear there throughout the year. Because we have really kept on top of the banding all year, and the community keeps really good observations too, we know that a steady stream of different fledglings have been arriving all year (compare this with last year when not much happened at all). The latest bunch showed up a few weeks ago and we manage to catch and band most of them this week.
The value will be when people start reporting sightings of these individuals appearing in other places and having these individuals uniquely identifiable (and lots of them) means that the chances of reports coming in and seeing where they end up are higher.
Re-sightings of older birds
We are getting fairly frequent sightings of older banded birds from the back country. People are really great at sending the photos in—they usually send their best ones to the contact us email and often I can’t quite read the bands, encourage them to keep looking out for the band numbers on the metal bands and then turns out they’ve taken a whole lot more photos, end up sending those in and we can ID the bird from zooming in on that. e.g. we’ve had one sighted in the Edwards Valley and managed to figure out that it was a kea called Raoul who we banded on the 2010 survey on the Blackball ridge in the Hawdon.
Banded kea from our area are showing up all over the place (e.g. Romano appearing up the Whataroa recently, older banded kea from Otira, AP and ski fields work in past years are occasionally showing up in the sightings too) so it’s all very encouraging as to where this can go and the longer term value of this data.
Tracking deaths and lead poisoning
We are able to determine which individuals are dying in the area and account for those that won’t be dispersing anywhere. We are also able to identify which ones we need to keep track of who have been reported sick or tested for high lead levels, making them a bit easier to find and catch. I estimate we have perhaps 80-90% of kea around the AP, Deaths corner area banded at the moment.
Awareness and advocacy
We are getting excellent feedback and people are enjoying contributing to the sightings project and becoming meaningfully engaged. We’ve had over 1900 different people look at the database in the last three months and over 370 sightings logged. Ski-field staff, locals and regular passers-by are getting really into it and want to help and we are getting a lot of one-off sighting reports from tourists. There are several DOC staff in other areas of the South Island who are making regular contributions (Milford, Haast) and this will be really valuable if kept up.
Loads of people seem to be making excellent use of the kea kiosk at Arthur’s Pass too which is great. Well done to Mark for driving that enormous job and really making it happen (with the help from numerous others).
We’ve already had our education person, Lydia, do a few kea talks to some interested students at Chisnallwood Intermediate. The kea at Willowbank and Orana Park are all now loaded into the database, so people can learn about the birds they see and learn all about the project.
There are a lot more things I’ve thought of over the past few months to report on but that’s enough for now.
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