Flora | Fauna | Maintenance

Makaro Island

Visit to Makaro Island – November 2016

21/11/2016 | Flora | Fauna | Maintenance | 0

On 20 November 2016, Graeme Taylor, Shane and Kieran Cotter visited Makaro (Ward) Island. Unfortunately Mark Ormsby, iwi rep, withdrew that morning from joining us.  Transport was provided by Emma Dunning, DOC Ranger, ex Matiu/Somes Island. 

The plan was to meet Emma at Seaview Marina at 9am and travel directly to Makaro.  She would then collect us from Makaro at 1pm and return to Seaview.  This will give us approximately 3.5 hours on the island.



The objectives of this visit was to;

A       Check the possible white faced storm petrel burrow and any other burrows nearby

B      Visit the white fronted tern colony to see if they had commenced breeding

C       Check and record details of penguin boxes      

D       Collect rubbish from the foreshore



White faced storm petrel

After arriving at Makaro at 9.40am, we went directly to the possible white faced storm petrel burrows on the top of the island at the southern end.  This was quickly located and an adult white faced storm petrel was removed from the burrow.  It was sitting on a single egg.  After being photographed and banded, it was returned to the burrow.  No other burrows were located. 

Of concern, a black-backed gull nest with three eggs was located directly above the storm petrel nest.  Black-backed gulls are known predators of storm petrels.  We moved the entire nest including eggs about one metre uphill away from the burrow entrance.  Hopefully this will not stop the black-backed gulls from incubating these eggs and will provide the storm petrels with a little protection when entering and exiting their burrow.

Returning to the main beach, we began walking around the island checking penguin boxes, collecting rubbish, locating dead birds and checking the white fronted tern colony. 

White fronted terns

White fronted terns have begun to have bred on the rock stack at the north western corner of the island.  Four nests were also located on the steep rock face at the southern end of the bay just south of this rock stack.  Counts of these terns from the shore and later from the boat as we departed revealed up to 30 birds present on the rock stack with many of these appearing to be on nests.  We were careful not to disturb them so a closer inspection was not made.  One nest on the steep rock face at the southern end of the bay contained one egg and a recently hatched chick.

In a review of photos taken of the tern colony stack from the boat, 17 birds can be clearly seen sitting in the posture of incubating birds. With the four other nests on the main island, there are a minimum of 21 pairs. There may be a few other pairs still to lay as there were several pairs seen standing together.

Variable oystercatchers

Nine pairs of variable oystercatchers were observed on our circumnavigation of the island.  Most probably had nests.  One nest with three eggs was located between the rock stack where the terns were nesting and the main island.  One chick was located at the southern end of the island with another two chicks in the south east corner of the island.  

Little Blue Penguins

Penguin boxes when located were checked for occupants. Only one penguin box was occupied.  It contained two chicks.  In an unmarked natural burrow in approximately the centre of the west coast, a banded penguin (P44276) was located sitting on 2 very small chicks.  This penguin was banded by Graeme Taylor as a chick on Mokopuna Island on 11 November 2009.  It has not been sighted since. 

Other birds

There is a healthy population of black-backed gulls on the island. Standing still on the main beach, 39 birds were visible. Black-backed gulls were sitting on eggs with no chicks seen. 

Other birds seen or heard either on Makaro or in the immediate vicinity were spotted shags, little shags, pied shags, dunnock and a blackbird. 


Several spotted skinks were seen sunning themselves.  These were all 15 cm plus in length.  In one long wooded box (with a metal lid just behind the beach) over 50 common geckos were inside.  Common geckos were also seen inside the black plastic bait stations and under lids of penguin nest boxes.


No seals were seen on the island or in the sea surrounding it.

No signs of rats, mice or other predators were seen.


Mallow was pulled out as we travelled over the island.  We removed a significant amount from around the shoreline.  However there is a large amount of flowering mallow on the inaccessible sides of the island. The only way to remove this safely would be on ropes. In other areas it would be easy to remove.  Only small pockets of boxthorn was observed. One boneseed plant was pulled out on the summit ridge. A single boneseed plant was seen at the northern end of the island approximately three metres above the shoreline but was too tricky to reach. Another was seen high on the western slopes.


A rubbish collection was completed as well.  Approximately one third of rubbish sack was collected and removed from the island. This again was significantly down on our previous visit in February 2016. 


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