Takes care from us all to have weka back in gardens

KATHRYN MARSHALL
Last updated 14:48 23/06/2014

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On Mother's Day a weka was on my lawn. This weka settled in and before long my hebes and hedge had weka tunnels at various locations.

I put out an icecream container full of water. This was appreciated and used daily and often lifted up and poured over the weka's back.

I had begun a planting programme and as I dug each hole, the weka would feed on the worms and insects before the new plant went in. The same happened as I washed the windows.

The weka followed me around and helped itself to any insects dislodged. At night I could hear weka calling. Before long another smaller weka turned up.

I called on Google, to find out that these were most likely Western weka. The male is the larger one and the female smaller.

The male weka was darker in his colouring, his face was darker and his legs and beak were a darker red.

Before long and in winter, four weka chicks were there with both parents feeding them an assortment of worms, insects, and any offerings. The smallest chick was newly hatched and still appeared spiky.

I put out a large ceramic saucer full of water and the chicks began to regularly wade and play in this.

I saw the adults trying to wash themselves so I tried them with a large plastic container part filled with water. The adults tested this over a few days then began to regularly stand, drink and bath in this container.

We have a bichon and two cats. I showed the weka family to our pets, from behind the window. Our pets understood that I wanted the weka family to stay around. When any of our pets got close to the chicks our pets were simply put inside. There were times when one cat would miaow loudly if the chicks got close to her and I would put her inside. I think the temptation was there.

There is a larger, young, dog in the area that I often had to take home. The chicks and parents had an alarm call that worked well on me. The parents fed and protected their chicks well. The weka were inquisitive and intelligent, in fact far too robust to be uncommon. They even climb the hedge and feed through it. I sat outside to enjoy a coffee in the sun and the area was alive with weka ducking in and out of bushes, popping up to catch insects, digging worms. It was New Zealand as it should be.

All four chicks developed adult coats but still had dark beaks when they were weaned. Initially they hung around in a wider area and the male stayed with me. Then they were all gone, even my male. I was worried and my fears were realised. My neighbour said he had accidentally killed my male weka in his possum trap. He was upset by this and he positioned the trap further off the ground to avoid this happening again. I thanked him for making changes and for letting me know. After I had recovered from this news, I asked the owner of the larger dog to consider a weka training course for their dog. Surprisingly the owner was instantly receptive to this, as hunters on DOC land have to put their dogs through this course so it is already generally discussed.

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In the general area there still are weka and chicks but each time I asked they were one parent families. Then a very scared adult weka arrived back with one chick. I put out food and water daily including chook pallets and a bath for them.

Over winter I had a large fenced area planted in native plants and I planted extra fruit trees and berry bushes. Thank you to the volunteers who trap the pests in our foothills as I credit you all with the return of the weka or woodhen to our gardens. The weka, despite being wonderful parents, will require many of us to help as well.

  • Kathryn Marshall lives in Nelson and owns and runs Key Properties Ltd, a residential development, construction and project management company.

- Nelson

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