Against Expectations, Whio!

Going into this Winter, I did not have great expectations or hopes about the success of the Whio or Blue Duck breeding season. The easterly weather patterns since last Winter had brought regular flooding, and the continuation of these patterns meant that the primary breeding streams in the Ruahine Ranges were experiencing regular high water events.

These are not conducive conditions for a duck that generally has its nest not far from a waterway and prefers living on clear, fast-flowing, rocky rivers and streams.

Last Winter, we saw a record ten Whio, primarily juveniles, we think, on the Grade 5 section of the Rangitikei River. They generally disappear by late Winter, probably to carve out some breeding territory on a remote stream. I had thought to myself that if we saw any ducks this year, then that would be a bonus.

I was about to be pleasantly surprised. We have seen a total of six ducks in the same section as where we saw ten last year. While down on the year before, this number would still have to be reckoned as a success and may be the second highest number counted.

Whio Wintero 2023

Whio spotted recently right outside the lodge

Whio Winter 2023

What does this tell us?

It tells us that even with a cascade of unkind weather events, the ducks will do the rest if you control the predators, such as stoats. And when you think about it, this season from a weather event point of view has probably not been the only one like it in their evolutionary history.

The other thing it tells me is that in situations such as helping out Whio, one of the most important things to remember is that you can only control what you do. In our case, regular checking of trap lines ensures low numbers of introduced predators. Low numbers of introduced predators, such as stoats, ensure successful breeding.

Only worrying about the things that you personally can influence is the way forward.

Now where have I read that before?

Brian Megaw