So the much anticipated rowi release day arrived! And it was as hectic as we all feared…35 rowi juveniles to be released in one go is unheard off and it was a logistical feat. The auditorium in the visitor centre was overrun with squeaking boxes and we had busy stations with all rangers on deck trying to worm, hydrate and change transmitters on each bird.
Not to mention Rachel, a masters student from Victoria University, who had quite a strict plan on what bird was going where and with who as it was to form part of her thesis looking at dispersal patterns of the juvenile rowi. To be honest, it all went pretty well and there were plenty of media around to cover the momentous day.
For the release we had about eight teams with varying numbers of volunteers to assist in carrying the kiwi and releasing them at their ‘prepared earlier’ spot. In the days prior to the release we’d been out identifying suitable homes for the young birds to share. It’s very cool when you find a really good little nook for them that you know will keep them safe and dry on their first night home.
My release team consisted of three fabulous people – two DOC staff from Hokitika and Wanaka and a local photographer who took some amazing photos on the day.
Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of our release location, we had to be flown in to the beach by helicopter – and by hoki it was windy! I don’t like flying at the best of times but this was scary. I had the headphones on to talk to the pilot about where to land and had told him I wasn’t a fan of flying so, as the cat was already out of the bag, I thought it was ok to squeal a bit (a bit??) when it got really turbulent…but I was embarrassed to find out that the volunteers could also hear me in their headphones.
But we landed in one piece and set off to our location which took about two hours to walk to – a lot longer than anticipated – and we released our little bundles into their new homes.
The day was not over for us. It was getting late and we had to make it back to the beach in time for our helicopter pick up, so in a rather dramatic fashion we all ran the whole way out. It was exhausting but man the helicopter flight was beautiful on the way home. The sun was setting as we flew toward Franz Josef with amazing views of the Southern Alps in pink and red hues.