Jane Lenting would be stoked if you contacted her to say you’d been dive-bombed by a kārearea/New Zealand falcon. While it may have been an unsettling experience for you, it would be welcome evidence of where kārearea are breeding in the Wairarapa.

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Kārearea (Photo: Pete Monk)

Kārearea are stunning endemic birds of prey. While there were only around 4000 pairs across Aotearoa New Zealand at last count, some of them definitely live near Martinborough.

Between 2014 and 2017, Jane led a project which saw 10 kārearea released into Martinborough vineyards. The chicks were bred at Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua, then most of them were “hack released” with support from Wingspan, vineyard owners and workers, and volunteers.

Hack releasing involves raising a clutch of chicks in a purpose-built nesting box, tending them carefully through a sleeve built into the side of the structure so the young birds don’t ever see the human feeding them.

When the birds are old enough to fledge, the front of the box is opened and three days of watching, with hearts-in-mouths commences. Over these three days, the birds are incredibly vulnerable as they take a literal crash course in learning to fly, and return to the hack box to be fed. Volunteers were rostered to keep an eye on them.

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Kārearea fledging get ready to leave their hack box (Photo: Pete Monk)

A few months ago, a juvenile was spotted and photographed hanging around the Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park. “As soon as they described it crashing through the trees as it tried to perfect its landings, I knew it was one that had recently fledged,” says Jane. “It’s great news in terms of breeding happening, even if we don’t know where the birds are.” Two potential areas where there may be a “scrape” (or nest) site have been identified.

Jane, in her capacity as President of the South Wairarapa Biodiversity Group (SWBG), has recently set up traplines to reduce stoat numbers before the next breeding season.

Greater Wellington, the Department of Conservation, South Wairarapa Rotary Club and the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund have all contributed traps or funds for traps. Now she’s looking for volunteers to help check the traplines.

“We have the most wonderful group of SWBG planting volunteers, and now we need others to help clear and reset these traps,” says Jane. “It may be someone who has a weekender in Martinborough who wants to do something for the community, or a local person who has a couple of hours to spare once a fortnight.”

Jane will also share her experience of setting up a small community Predator Free group, at a workshop on September 11. This is one of the Introduction to Backyard Conservation and Trapping series of workshops being run by WaiP2K in August and September across the Wairarapa.

To volunteer for the trapline, you can contact Jane at swbg@xtra.co.nz

For workshop details, you can contact WaiP2K at kiaora@waip2k.org.nz

Written by Ali Mackisack