ARC “gets ratty” after bellbird death

01:00, Jun 23 2010
culprit
CULPRIT CAUGHT: park ranger Andy Spence holds up the rat thought to have killed a bellbird

The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) chairman is calling for a revenge strike on rats after the remains of a dead bellbird were discovered last week.

The bird was one of 100 released on the island last month following their translocation from Tiritiri Matangi Island and a regional park on the mainland.

The remains were found by Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee and park ranger Andy Spence in a road reserve along Glenbrook Road, Rocky Bay.

They had tracked the bird by following a signal from its transmitter.

Mike Lee says he and Mr Spence initially suspected the signal to be coming from what looked like a rat's nest up in a dense tangle of vines.

But the gruesome evidence was soon discovered among leaf litter on the ground.

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"We found a shocking-pink band which, along with the metal band, was still on a gnawed bellbird leg.

"After about 15 minutes more of ground searching, I finally found the transmitter, aerial, and tail feather.

"I called for a revenge strike on rats in the locality and Mr Spence immediately set traps around the site."

It has already met with some success, with the culprit suspected of having killed the bellbird recently found dead near one of the new traps.

Examination of the corpse has led the ranger to believe it was a well-fed male ship rat.

Mr Lee says he is pleased with the result.

"That'll teach him. Don't mess with the ARC."

Meanwhile, bellbird spotters are reporting good news from rat-free Motuihe island, where 100 birds were also released at the same time as those on Waiheke.

A flock of five females has been seen feeding in kanuka trees in the south of the island, with 11 others spotted at feeders elsewhere.

And people sighting bellbirds on Waiheke are still being urged to let park rangers know where the birds are - particularly now transmitter batteries are beginning to wear out.

Call the park office on 372 5647.

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