Cast of falcons 'perfect Christmas gift'

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 11:30 27/12/2013

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The Marlborough Falcon Trust has released two endangered New Zealand falcon chicks on to a back-country farm near the Waihopai Valley.

This was the trust's first release of endangered falcon chicks born in captivity.

Trust avian manager Diana Dobson said one bird, Flight, flew out of the box and soared about 120 metres over the Avon Valley.

"It was really special."

The second bird, named Pioneer by Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman, checked out her surroundings first before flying off, Mrs Dobson said.

The birds were released on December 20 and spotted together two days later sitting in a tree where their box had been housed for 10 days as they acclimatised to their new surroundings, she said.

The trust chose the site above the Waihopai Valley because it had none of the uninsulated transformers that had electrocuted falcons in the Wairau Valley. Habitats ranged from scrub to forest and craggy ridges with plentiful food and low numbers of predators such as cats, stoats and ferrets.

Traps were set while the birds acclimatised but no pests were caught, Mrs Dobson said.

The chicks were born about seven weeks ago in an aviary on Marlborough Brancott Estate vineyard in Fairhall, in the Wairau Valley near Blenheim. Brancott Estate chief winemaker Patrick Materman, who was at the release, said it was the perfect Christmas gift. The company donated $1 from each bottle of Brancott Estate Living Land wine to the trust to pay for the breeding aviary to be built.

So far $295,000 had been raised, he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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