Sightings of tui have been made in many parts of Tamahere in recent weeks – a welcome return of the native bird after decades of absence.
Reports of the tui’s return have also come in from elsewhere in the Waikato, including Hamilton, causing great excitement among bird lovers, reports the Waikato Times.
The paper is inviting people to report sightings of the birds and is recording them on maps. Click here to report your sightings.
Tui sightings can also be reported here to the Hamilton Halo project, an effort led by Environment Waikato to bring birds such as tui back to Hamilton city. Use the ‘Tui sightings form’ on the Halo site.
In a Waikato Times report, Dale Lethbridge said she never thought she would see a tui in her Hamilton East yard as long as she lived.
But Mrs Lethbridge, spokesperson for local group Tui 2000, is one of a growing number of Hamilton and Waikato residents who have reported an increasing number of tui sightings.
Several readers have contacted the Times about tui sightings in the city and neighbouring towns, sightings Mrs Lethbridge described as “fantastic and very exciting”.
“I never expected to see one in my garden in my lifetime. It’s one of the most amazing gifts to find them, and that’s how I think people are feeling to have them (tui) coming into their gardens is a great joy,” Mrs Lethbridge said.
She said Tui 2000, formed in 1989, was one of numerous groups which had contributed to a growth of the region’s tui population through pest-control work.
Tui venturing into the city and outlying areas, including Cambridge, Ngaruawahia and Tamahere, are believed to be residents of bush reserves such as Mangakawa, the Hakarimata Range, Maungatautari, Sanatorium Hill and Old Mountain Rd near Te Pahu.
Mrs Lethbridge said it was “absolutely imperative” councils, residents and landowners continued the planting of trees, particularly kowhai, which attracted the tui to the city and its surrounds.
She said she was able to “just peep at them (tui)” visiting her Hamilton East home, through a window. She was not sure about the gender of the tui visiting her home, but noticed none had the bands which indicated they had been part of studies.
She felt tui were “way beyond” the threat of domestic cats, and that those coming into the city were likely to be feeding.
Landcare Research scientist John Innes said the sign of real success in tui populations would be if the birds began to breed in the city or neighbouring towns.
Mr Innes said Landcare Research had worked on tui for a decade, and he credited Environment Waikato’s Hamilton Halo project and other committed conservation groups as being crucial to rebuilding the species.
“This is a real combined effort, a collaborative approach.”
He said residents “who’ve planted the right trees here” could also take credit for the success, and the increasing frequency was “no accident”.
During the late winter, tui head into towns to feed, and then return to their bush homes now safer due to pest control to breed.
Mr Innes said it was difficult to give an exact population of the birds venturing into Hamilton, but it was clear there had been a “steady increase” in sightings over the past few years. A group of tui have been regularly spotted in a group of kowhai trees at the Cobham Dr end of Hamilton’s Dey St.
He said one significant achievement on the tui front was the apparent nesting of a pair at Hamilton Gardens for at least three years. A tui had successfully fledged one chick at the gardens last year, and Mr Innes said it was likely the same family of birds had stuck around at the gardens.
“For some reason, these birds are staying here,” he said.
Mr Innes was keen to hear from people who spot tui with bands on their legs, and he believed reports of tui setting up camp elsewhere in the city or urban areas would be a major step forward. Tui sightings in December would be important, as that was when the birds breed.
Mr Innes described tui as “reclusive” and “secretive”, which made the sightings all the more significant.
Cambridge resident Brian Dunstan said several tui, “up to six sometimes”, had been appearing in camelia trees on his property to feed.
“They’re here before we get up in the morning, and they’re very often here late in the evening.”
Some wore bands indicating they’d been part of the Landcare Research project, and Mr Dunstan had noticed an increasing number of tui, particularly at Te Koutu Lake Reserve in Cambridge. “There are so many, you could almost call it an infestation! But it’s beautiful to hear them,” he said.
Environment Waikato biosecurity officer Ben Paris said: “The number of sightings is very encouraging for the Halo Project.
“Five birds were spotted in one tree alone in Hamilton.
“We have also got a report of about 10 birds congregating at a site near Te Kowhai, and up to about 50 near Maungakawa.”
This spring EW is planning pest control at six tui breeding sites around the city. “We hope this will add further to the tui numbers that we’re seeing,” Mr Paris said.