Surprise entrance by blue duck

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 30/09/2011
Blue duck (whio)
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
ENTHUSIASTIC: One of five whio retrieved as eggs from the West Coast emerged shortly after arriving in Christchurch.

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One of Christchurch's newest and rarest residents has burst on to the scene within minutes of arrival from the West Coast.

Five whio (blue duck) eggs were taken from a nest in Doctor Creek, a tributary of the Hokitika River, yesterday, flown by helicopter to Hokitika and carefully driven to the Peacock Springs Wildlife Park for rearing.

As curator Anne Richardson gently removed the eggs from their portable incubator yesterday afternoon, one eager duckling suddenly thrust its wet head and bill from its cracking shell as it lay in her hand.

"That's the first time that's happened," Department of Conservation (DOC) Hokitika biodiversity programme manager Dave Eastwood said as the duckling made its surprise entrance in front of the watching media and department and Isaac Construction staff.

The eggs were the first whio clutch collected this breeding season from the West Coast as part of a DOC project to boost numbers of the nationally vulnerable endemic bird in key areas, helped by sponsorship from Solid Energy.

Eastwood said the nest was found on Sunday by ranger Paul van Klink and his tracking dog.

He and another ranger, Jeff Campbell, flew to the area to collect the eggs yesterday, which had already begun hatching. Eastwood said there were about 30 breeding pairs in the Hokitika area and only about 2000 blue ducks nationwide.

The soft-billed bird, which nested on the ground, had poor ability to repel predators.

"The bird sat on the nest all the time I took the eggs and the best it could do was pinch my hand with its bill," he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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