It was a typical hot sunny day on the West Coast. Sarah and I set off in the heat to replace the transmitter on a relatively close pair of rowi called Tony and Alexis. Our walk today was through some lovely pakihi or swamp forest although due to the amazing hot weather, it was not very muddy. This sort of forest is typified by scrubby trees such as manuka and heaps of bracken fern. There was also a fair bit of garnia – a kiwi rangers most disliked native plant – otherwise known as cutty grass. Ironically it is often a rowi’s favourite place to bed down when they are not breeding. I often wonder if the rowi’s preference for cutty grass is directly related to outsmarting the rangers who have to catch them!
So, surprise surprise, our radio tracking has led us to a cluster of Garnia bushes. Right, we must be very, very quiet….take off your pack….unzip your pocket and get your headtorch ready zzzzzzziiiiiiiipppppp …shhhhhhhh! Look for holes at the bottom of the grass. Quietly kneel and have a look in the hole for kiwi evidence…your gaiters and boots swish loudly against the grass. Cringing at the thought of past memories of kiwi bursting out any side of the bush, I try to see if anyone’s home. Yes, I can see a leg, quick as a flash I reach for it… I’ve got it! But, alas, it was the female without the transmitter. Not to worry as we still need to weigh her and collect feather samples for DNA analysis.
In the meantime the male had made his escape so after we had finished with Alexis and checked she was looking in top condition we continued tracking into Tony.
A minute or two later it became apparent that he had nestled into another garnia bush – cheers Tony. So, same deal as before, quiet as a mouse wearing noisy gaiters and boots, we have a look and suddenly Sarah shouts, “he’s coming your way”. He pops out of the bush and runs up the hill. I turn and chase after him, getting close enough to dive on the ground but… I missed. Fiddlesticks – he got away.
So we tried again, again and again… Tony just moved from one garnia bush to another and could hear us coming long before we could get close… he would often sneak slowly away while we thought we were getting closer to him.
Our mission to catch Tony ended when I turned to Sarah and said with a sigh, “we’ll give it one more go, we have to get him this time”. We had his garnia hideout pin-pointed and, when he burst out the other side, I followed him running parallel to the top of the hill where the track was. He made a sharp right turn on to the track and I followed, hoofing along the track. I called out to Sarah who I knew was ahead of me “he’s on the track”. Tony, with me hot on his heals, rounded a corner and there was Sarah squatting square in the centre of the track with her arms out and Tony ran right into her arms she grabbed him and rolled back legs in the air. Got him!!! Phew!
So after the transmitter change and a lot of laughing, we sent Tony on his way for another year with his shiny new transmitter.