Autumn has arrived with shortening days, crisp mornings and leaves beginning to fall. But leaves are not the only things falling from the sky. Young huttons shearwaters are also beginning to hit the ground.
It is the time of year when these locally endemic birds fledge from their alpine burrows high up in the Seaward Kaikoura ranges to begin their life as a seabird, where they will feed and mature before returning to their birth colonies in the mountains.
On their maiden flight toward sea level they can become disoriented by the lights of Kaikoura, especially during bad weather, and will land in the streets and backyards.
This is a problem for the birds as they are unable to take off again on level ground and are vulnerable to cats and dogs or being run over.
They are endearing creatures, often retaining some soft down that they used to keep warm in their alpine burrows, but they do not make good pets!
The best thing to do when found is to catch them and keep them in a box overnight.
They are often dazed and can be easily picked up though some may have a fighting spirit, but their thin bills do little damage and the reward for saving the life of a wild creature is well worth a little scratch!
In the morning take them to the water's edge, preferably with an onshore breeze, hold them securely but safely by the body to let them stretch their wings.
When they begin to flap throw them high up into their air towards the water. The bird will begin to flap its wings rapidly and just as you think it will crash into the water it will often regain control and fly off out to sea to resume its life.
Anybody who is unsure about releasing a bird, or who has any questions regarding the huttons shearwater, can contact the Department of Conservation or Encounter Kaikoura.
And by turning off unnecessary outside lighting you may not only save money but also lives.
- © Fairfax NZ News