Hatching season no breeze

Predator control . . . Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust ranger Ben Goldsworth sets traps to catch stoats and rats at Okia Reserve. PHOTO: ELLA STOKES

The arrival of warmer weather heralds heralds hatching season on Otago Peninsula but with predators around, it isn’t always a breeze for birds.

The peninsula is home to many bird species and at this time of the year many people are busy doing their bit to keep them safe.

The Otago Biodiversity Group is in charge of trapping possums.

Group trustee Rod Morris said that over the past seven years, the group had removed 12,500 possums from the area.

Although this had resulted in a noticeable increase in numbers of birds such as tui and kereru (native pigeons), many destructive pests were still to be caught.

A wet winter had caused high levels of plant and pasture growth and the extra food had brought more pests, such as stoats, rats and rabbits.

Some pests not only injured or killed animals on the ground, but could also climb trees and destroy nests, Mr Morris said.

People who lived on or near the peninsula could help during hatching season by controlling rat numbers in their homes, Mr Morris said.

Unsecured compost bins and food left out around the home attracted rats and could create a breeding ground for them.

Another group protecting the peninsula’s wildlife is the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust.

Trust manager Sue Murray said penguins were just starting to lay their eggs, which would begin to hatch in October.

The worst thing people could do was disturb the penguins by following them or trying to find their nests, Mrs Murray said.

If people got between them and the beach, there was a chance penguins would not return to their nests to tend to their chicks.

If walking a dog in an area known to have penguins, owners should keep their pets on a leash.

And if someone wanted to get a closer look, binoculars were a good option.

Hatching season will continue until January for some birds.