The call came through on a Friday. I was sitting lazily by a river in the sun, watching white bait. It was one of those warm and dreamy Spring days and I was feeling sleepy, contented and pleased with life. Then my phone rang …
” Lynne, can you and Mica help us next week? We have a nesting whio and can’t locate her.”
And so it was set, the DOC ranger would pick me up on Tuesday morning and we’d attempt to locate the bird.
I was a tad nervous, Mica is a proven kiwi dog, but I must say she’s never been so good with whio. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t smell good ( to a dog) or perhaps she is happier in the bush than a river bed. Whatever the reason, we had never found a nesting bird and now the pressure was on.
Three Department of Conservation staff had looked for this female and not found her. They wanted to take the eggs to a captive breeding facility to minimize the risk of predation and give the ducklings a much higher likelihood of survival. Now it was up to us to find this untransmittered bird
The walk in was stunningly beautiful. The river was tannin brown, the forest rose above us, huge rocky cliffs surrounded us and friendly bush robins accompanied us
Mica and I on the river.
We arrived at the spot where the bird was thought to be. A search method was decided on, and so we crossed the river and the hunt was on. Firstly I looked in a big crack in the cliffs, it went deeper and deeper into the bank, the air temperature chilling dramatically. It was a dark and foreboding place. There were no tracks in the cavern floor and Mica wasn’t at all keen to walk in, so we abandoned looking and went back into the warm sunshine. Next we looked underneath a huge rocky area that was covered with flood debris… nothing. I was dirty after belly crawling in small places but we had barely begun!
Kate and I scrambled over a large group of boulders. Mica thought blow that – she jumped into the river and swam around to meet us. The male whio watched us from close by. The female must be here somewhere! As we got over the boulders I looked around for Mica. She was indicating at the base of a very big boulder.
I got my torch and got down on my knees. There was not a nest there. However Mica was strong on her indication and I’ve learned to trust her. I climbed around the rock and up the bank. There was a large crater. I dropped into it, but no bird. Where was she? I clambered out of the crater and as I stood my eye caught something ..
The female whio on her nest
There in the fissure of the rock sat the whio. It was one of those moments in time of excitement, pride and phew all rolled into one. Yah!!
We left the bird and walked out – our job was done.
Huge rocky bluffs surrounded us
The following day DOC would come and uplift the eggs and take them to Christchurch.
For me … I am proud and now confident to say Mica is truly a kiwi AND whio dog!
Crossing the swing bridge
P.s. I got a text from one of the DOC staff … they suggested naming the female whio Mica … was I happy with that? You bettcha 🙂