Hutton’s shearwater celebrated in Kaikoura

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By DAVID HILL

Kaikoura’s Hutton’s shearwater birds were celebrated this weekend.

The Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust hosted a wine and cheese event at the Kaikoura Museum yesterday (Saturday, September 23)  to mark the publication of a book on the famous bird which has breeding colonies in the Kaikoura district.

The book Seabirds Beyond the Mountain Crest: The history, natural history and conservation of Hutton’s shearwater is based on research by Richard Cuthbert, of England, as part of a PhD completed through Otago University.

“It’s a lovely book that tells the story of him and our crazy birds,” trust secretary Ailsa Howard says.

The celebration was part of the community’s welcome home events as the birds return for breeding, which began with a disco at the beginning of the month for local children following the first sighting of returning birds.

“We try to anticipate when the birds will return, but the birds caught me unawares this time.

“It’s amazing with this species, usually they seem to be pretty consistent with the calendar, but this year they seem to have come home early,” Mrs Howard says.

The Hutton’s shearwater population took a hit in November’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake, but as the birds do not return for breeding until age 3, many returning this year would not have been present in the quake.

“It will be interesting to see where they go,” Mrs Howard says.

“Some of the birds don’t come back every year and some would have been too young, so they didn’t experience the earthquake – but they will be returning to a changed environment with many of the burrows destroyed.”

Despite this, Mrs Howard is optimistic the new breeding seasons presents a new start for the endangered birds.

“There’s something very special about new life – we don’t know what’s coming, but we are excited about it.”