November 2015 Workday Motuora

First pohutukawa flowers on MotuoraEarly pohutukawa flowers greeted the 27 people who ferried to Motuora for the last workday for 2015.

It was warm and overcast and a little light rain failed to dampen the spirits of the MRS members and volunteers who worked to help clear tracks, improve the fencing to protect shore skink and gecko areas, selective weeding and pricking out carex seedlings.

Ray Lowe, retiring MRS Chairperson, and Kit Brown retiring MRS Secretary, erected an information sign at the gannet viewing site. Some 20 gannets are nesting, one chick has hatched and there appears to be at least 3 birds sitting on eggs.

Ray on Motuora after his final committee meeting as Chair

Chris Green from DoC and the Auckland zoo team briefing MRS members about the translocation of Wetapunga.

Chris Green from DoC and the Auckland zoo team briefing MRS members about the translocation of Wetapunga.


Chris Green co:ordinated a team from the Auckland zoo in transporting and attaching 100 bamboo huts inhabited by half grown wetapunga to branches in established forest.

Labelled bamboo houses containing half grown wetapunga ready for attaching to trees on Motuora

Labelled bamboo houses containing half grown wetapunga ready for attaching to trees on Motuora






This is the fourth translocation of wetapunga to Motuora and tracking data provides evidence that previous populations have successfully bred a further generation of wetapunga so it appears that the zoo breeding programme and the lack of predators on Motuora are key factors in helping this species to survive.

Ben from Auckland Zoo and Liz, MRS Committee, attaching a wetapunga house

Ben from Auckland Zoo and Liz, MRS Committee, attaching a wetapunga house.

Nattu, MRS treasurer, attaching bamboo wetapunga house.

Nattu, MRS treasurer, attaching bamboo wetapunga house.













The first ever fluttering shearwater chicks have hatched on Motuora as a result of a sound attraction programme on Motuora. John Stewart, MRS Chairperson, and co:ordinator of the seabird translocation programme assisted by Kay Milton banded the month old chick. The other chick was only 10 – 16 days old so was too small to band.

The first fluttering shearwater to hatch on Motuora about to be banded by John Stewart current MRS chair.

The first fluttering shearwater to hatch on Motuora about to be banded by John Stewart current MRS chair.

John briefing volunteers and MRS members about establishing fluttering shearwaters on Motuora

John briefing volunteers and MRS members about establishing fluttering shearwaters on Motuora









The first fluttering shearwater to hatch on Motuora about to be banded by John Stewart current MRS chair.

The first fluttering shearwater to hatch on Motuora about to be banded by John Stewart current MRS chair.

The second fluttering shearwater to hatch on Motuora.

The second fluttering shearwater to hatch on Motuora.

A gallery of photos from the November 2015 Motuora workday, click on image to see full size:

Workday Sunday August 30



Despite a threat of heavy morning showers 19 people assembled at Sandspit for a workday trip to Motuora. We skimmed over a calm sea as gannets arrowed from on high into the sea near a pod of dolphins. It was warm, heralding spring, an impression reinforced by the breeding plumage of the 2 pairs of New Zealand dotterels scampering on Home Bay as we landed and the abundant brilliance of kowhai and manuka blossom.


A pod of between 6-8 dolphins spent the morning circling Motuora. They too seemed to notice that spring had arrived. (Click on images to view full size versions).

Dolphins off Home Bay, Motuora Dolphins off Home Bay, Motuora

Dolphins off beach at Motuora Dolphins off Home Bay, Motuora

In-fill planting was completed on two sites by many of the volunteers while Ray and Kevin planted posts to hold signs indicating the date when trees were planted on Motuora. The threatened heavy showers never eventuated.

In-fill planting

Planters taking a tea break from in-fill planting on steep bank

Ray and Kevin using post ram

Ray and Kevin using post ram

Signpost dating forest planting

Signpost dating forest planting


Above Motuora

In March this year Simon Chamberlin arranged for Angie Cole to take some aerial photos of Motuora. Simon’s parents farmed Motuora prior to its purchase by the Government in the early 1960s and he served on the Motuora Restoration Society Committee for many years so he is keen to see and have a record of the restoration work that MRS has overseen since he can no longer visit Motuora.

In 2004 Ray Lowe took the following photo of Motuora. It still looked like a farm but you can see some the plantings of 1998-2002 at the southern end (top of photo) and a sprayed area for the 2004 planting at the northern end of Motuora. Compare this image to those that follow.

Motuora 2004

Here is a similar view of Motuora taken by Toby Shanley in 2012:

Motuora 2012

And Motuora in 2015 as seen in Apple Maps:

Angie Cole’s photos taken in March 2015 provide a closer aerial perspective of Motuora.

  • Looking North from Pa site. Home Bay to left of open area:

  • Looking North with a view of Home Bay to the Northern tip of Motuora:

  • Looking south west at 1998 and 2003 plantings. Note the density of the pioneer forest:

  • Home Bay showing nursery, potting shed, manager’s residence and solar panels:

  • Looking across Motuora to Home Bay:

  • Looking NE across Motuora. Home Bay to right out of picture:


New Island Managers Farewelled, New Manager Welcomed and AGM

During the April workday on Motuora the chairperson of the Motuora Restoration Society, Ray Lowe farewelled Sian Potier and Toby Shanley, island co:managers since 2012 and welcomed the new manager Vonny Sprey.

Sian & Toby previous Island managers with Ray MRS chairman and Vonny new Island manager

Toby Shanley, Sian Potier, Ray Lowe and Vonny Sprey

Ray Lowe with Sian and Toby after presentation of Raoul Island book

Sian and Toby came to Motuora after honing their conservation skills on Raoul Island in the Kemadecs. Their unique combination of skills enabled them to manage Motuora superbly. The Motuora Restoration Society delights in the accomplishments of these young professionals and the prodigious work that they have done on Motuora. We are sorry to see them leave but wish them well as they continue their conservation work and start a family. In appreciation for their work for the Motuora Restoration Society Ray presented Toby and Sian with a book on Raoul Island and the Kemadecs.

Vonny Sprey the new Motuora Island Manager


Remarkably the Society has managed to employ a new island manager, Vonny Sprey who has also honed her environmental skills on Raoul. Originally from a farming background she has much conservation and outdoors experience. Apart from Raoul and her Turangawaewae—Kapiti Island—her favourite places are Enderby Island and the diving around the Poor Knights but she suspects that Motuora will be added to that list. The Motuora Restoration Society is pleased to welcome another well qualified and capable person as the Manager of Motuora.

The Annual General Meeting of the Motuora Restoration Society was held on May 25th in the Silverdale St Johns Ambulance building. Originally scheduled to take place on Motuora the meeting was transferred to Silverdale because the weather forecast predicted winds that would make landing and leaving the island difficult.

Twenty-two members attended. Kit Brown, Treasurer, presented the Chairperson’s Report as Ray Lowe was unwell. (Click to download pdf copy of Report)

The following members were elected to the Motuora Restoration Society:

Chairperson: Ray Lowe; Treasurer: Lakshmanan Nataraj; Secretary: Kit Brown; Committee Members: Colin Cordes, Les Buckton, Kevin Hawkins, Helen Lindsay, Liz Norquay, Bruce Ross and John Stewart.

At the AGM John Stewart formally thanked Jill Thomas for her 11 years as the Society’s Treasurer. Her vital contribution ensured that the Society’s accounts were diligently and efficiently managed. After a vote of thanks, passed with acclamation Jill was presented with a small gift.

Jill Thomas, Treasurer of Motuora Restoration Society 2002-20014

Stephen Wallace, a masters student at Auckland University,  presented the initial findings of his study of the insect population in the newly planted forest compared to established remnant bush on Motuora. This is a follow up study on the work done by Robin Gardner-Gee 10 years ago. Watch this space for a blog by Stephen outlining his findings.

Stephen Wallace presenting at AGM

Apart from farewelling Sian and Toby and welcoming Vonny the 14 volunteers and members worked during the April workday on Motuora to clean the gannet site and decoys, tend to some track clearance and weed nursery seedlings. Below is a gallery of photos taken during the April workday. (Click on each image to see full size)

Island Minding

Pycroft’s petrel burrows prepared for chicks

Sian and Toby are away on Red Mercury helping with the collection of  Pycroft’s Petrel chicks for translocation to Motuora. Later this week some 100 chicks fly by helicopter to specially prepared burrows on Motuora. The chicks are fed by an experienced team of bird feeders until they fledge in about a fortnight. Last year all the 70 Pycroft’s Petrels translocated to Motuora fledged.

While Sian and Toby are away various members of the Motuora Restoration Society volunteer as substitute managers. It was my turn last weekend (7th-9th March). The weather was perfect so the camp ground was full.

Home Bay camp ground full of tents 8th March 2014

Decoy gannets set up 6th June 2010

I didn’t manage to see kiwi this time but did spend some time near the new gannet colony where  two juvenile gannets (taakapu) are  only days away from fledging. These are the first juveniles to mature on Motuora since the decoys were set up in 2010.

It took me 40 minutes to photograph a juvenile flexing its wings.

Juvenile gannet flexing wings. Only days away from fledging. (2nd juvenile in lower left)

These are large birds with a wing span of about 2 metres and weigh about 2.3 kg. They keep their juvenile plumage for about a year and over 3 years progressively get more white and the distinctive yellow head reaching maturity after 3-4 years.

The Maori name Taakapu comes from taa ‘to strike’ and kapu ‘hand’ which means ‘to strike with hand’ an action that produces a splashing noise a bit like the sound of a taakapu hitting the water.

Gannets dive for fish and often dive vertically from 30 meters so they hit the water at a tremendous speed. Just before they hit the water they fold their wings back over their tail and a third opaque eyelid closes to protect the eye. Inflatable air sacs beneath the skin on their breast and lower neck cushion the entry shock. The image below shows the juvenile practising the backward movement of a wing.

Juvenile gannet stretching wing. When gannets dive they stretch their wings behind them as they enter the water so this is preparation for diving.

It was interesting to watch these young birds as they stood for the hour or more I was at the site as they were constantly grooming and transferring their weight from one large webbed foot to another. It seems they are plucking up courage to fly. No adult birds were present as this was between 2 and 3:30pm. When these juveniles fledge they will most likely end up with other juveniles in the coastal waters of Australia returning when they are mature birds.

Dried up pond March 2014


Motuora is very dry with the water tanks at their lowest since the new tanks were installed. The pond adjacent to the water tanks has dried up and the camp ground has little green grass.



Home Bay camp ground after campers departed, March 9th 2014 (note brown grass)


Schofield, Paul & Brent Stephenson (2013) Birds of New Zealand: A Photographic Guide. Auckland University Press pp. 216-217

Heather, Barrie & Hugh Robertson; Illustrated by Derek Onley (2005) A Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Penguin Books. pp.238-239

Photo Gallery

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