Departing Raoul

This is the seabird team’s final blog from Raoul Island.

It was back in May when Rochelle said it looked like the whole whale expedition idea was going to happen and there would be a ‘taxi ride’ to do seabird work at the Kermadecs. Such is the nature of funding for seabird research these days that you jump at opportunities like this, even if it means making the most of a timing that was dictated by whales’ migration not seabirds’ breeding cycles. So plans were made, consultation done and permits sorted. We’ve been here two weeks, achieved what we set out to do – plus. We’ve made some wonderful discoveries.

Over coming weeks and months I will be preparing proposals and aiming to source funding for future research here on the island. One of our objectives was to find accessible study sites for species breeding on Raoul itself. We’ve achieved that. Seabirds have a vital role in helping develop our understanding of the complex marine environment. The creation of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary throws a spotlight on that.

The seabird team with the DOC staff from Raoul Island.

One of my last tasks before leaving has been to prepare for the DOC staff on the island a brief outline of the birds that are either breeding on Raoul Island, or could be in the near future. It’s a simple ID guide with recommendations for monitoring. I made the comment that the ornithological world is watching. That’s because the teams based here, as the people on the ground, will be the first to witness and able to record the changes that are taking place. Inevitably, they will turn up discoveries – it could be the return of a targeted species, or something totally unexpected. What we have achieved this trip has been on the back of observations made by staff over a number of years.

It is vitally important that at the same time biosecurity of island sanctuaries is maintained at the highest standard we monitor post-eradication changes over the long term, as each island’s restoration has its own dynamic. This is especially true for remote oceanic islands like Raoul. We are learning all the time.

The DOC Raoul team on the island have been brilliant. Mark and I have been made to feel totally at home, very spoilt, and we thank them all whole heartedly for their support (Di Makotter (team leader), Ben Blain, Sarah Matthew, Emma McCool, Chris Giblin, Emerson Yoeman and Lan Pharm). Our only regret is that we didn’t get time to make our own batch of home brew!

We also thank DOC staff back on the mainland, Graeme Taylor at DOC National Office, Ngati Kuri, Te Aupouri and the Northern NZ Seabird Trust.

This afternoon we rejoin the main expedition team aboard Braveheart. Yesterday Emerson and I managed to get footage of the whale team on the water tagging a whale. This was in front of the hostel a few hundred metres from shore in quite wild conditions. Plenty to discuss on the way back to Tauranga, in the evenings that is, because there are birds to see during these ocean passages.

Thank you Rochelle for the opportunity!

By Chris Gaskin

I might chime in here just to echo Chris’ thanks to Rochelle for making the trip possible and to the Raoul DOC team for the fantastic hospitality. Like many before; I have been captivated by Raoul Island. The remoteness, beauty and history of the island exert a strong pull on the senses and imagination. And then there are the seabirds. Witnessing extirpated petrels, shearwaters and even storm-petrels return to Raoul Island highlights the successful of island eradication programs and gives the strong sense of ‘putting things right’. With the news of the NZ governments’ decision to protect the EEZ waters surrounding the Kermadecs, the future of seabirds in the region looks positive indeed. Hopefully, I can get back here to find out in the future!

Mark Miller

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One Response to “Departing Raoul”

  1. Karen Baird

    Brilliant work seabird team and a wonderful way to celebrate that the Kermadec’s Ocean Sanctuary will become a reality in the near future. Congratulations on some wonderful discoveries and good luck to the Raoul DOC team in your future monitoring efforts. Ka Kite Ano


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