Every year I travel back and forth to Motuora Island to release kiwi chicks. From August onwards, Michelle from Auckland Zoo sends me an email giving projected dates kiwi chicks will hatch and an estimated date of release. I then book the water taxi and check to see if the date suits the rangers on the island. I invite people on a waiting list to come along. They are volunteers on other environmental projects, sponsors, raffle ticket winners, fundraisers and local iwi. I send them the relevant information such as biosecurity details.
Sometimes the trip is delayed because the kiwi chick has not put on enough weight, or because they are ill, or the weather forecast is not good enough for landing the boat on the island. When we do go ahead I meet everyone down at Sandspit wharf. I check to see everyone's shoes are weed and seed-free, and their bags are zipped so no mice can crawl in or out. The boat then sweeps us past peninsulas and deserted islands. On special occasions dolphins escort us part of the way.
Twenty minutes later, the island ranger meets us with her inflatable dinghy and transfers us to Motuora Island. We group together to talk about the BNZ Operation Nest Egg programme. The rangers share what is happening on the island, and I tell everyone how the programme started and who keeps it going. Next, we walk up a steep rise to form a semi-circle under a tree. The zoo keepers lay the wooden kiwi box on the ground and unscrew the hatch. The ranger lifts out a three weekold chick. The crowd one-at-time stroke the kiwi and then we release it into a man-made burrow. Sometimes we only release one chick, sometimes two, and occasionally three chicks. It all depends on how busy the kiwi season is up North – where the eggs originally came from.
Back on the shore we eat our lunch. Swallows build their nest above us, quails play peek-a-boo amongst the long grass, and dotterels stand still watching us; believing we cannot see them. On the beach shags and gannets dive bomb the sea. Sometimes a blue penguin snoozes in a nesting box, and oyster catchers strut up and down the beach; pulling the injured wing trick if they think we're too close to their nest.
All to quickly the water taxi picks us up to take us back to the mainland. When we part ways, we each take a precious memory of meeting a kiwi chick up close and having an enjoyable day with people who care about what happens to kiwi.
FYI: I've since written another children's book called 'Operation Nest Egg Chick' released in October 2014 available from
Long White Cloud Books.