Mia, Harriet and Jacob checking a Chatham petrel burrow

School children visit Rangatira

In early July three Chatham Islands school children accompanied Department of Conservation staff to Rangatira or South East Island for a 4-day field trip. The primary purpose of the trip was to check and close Chatham petrel burrows for the winter, however this trip offered an ideal opportunity to expose the next generation to the special nature of the island and its inhabitants, along with the challenges in keeping them safe.

Mia, Harriet and Jacob checking a Chatham petrel burrow
Mia, Harriet and Jacob checking a Chatham petrel burrow

 Their stories are below;

Harriet Graydon
We arrived on South East on the 3rd. Glen dropped us off by boat at about 9 am and we carried all our buckets of food and clothes up to the hut.. We then walked up to the summit of South East and looked down over the island and over to Pitt and the Pyramid, the view was awesome. On the way up we were taught how to check and barricade the Chatham petrel burrows.

 The next day we started doing some proper work and set off in groups of three finding and barricading burrows. We took off the lid off each burrow to look for leaves and check if a chick had been in it and then we would stick our hand down the entrance of the burrow and pull out anything blocking the tunnel and then we would put a wee gate outside each door. Each burrow was numbered and on a map so we followed the tracks to find them. Most of the time we looked for burrows we had to wear these big planks of wood on our feet (petrel boards). They were awful heavy things designed to stop us falling in all the burrows that litter the ground. They did the job and we didn’t fall in the burrows but they did slow us down and made it quite hard to sit down next to the burrows and check them. We got all 250 burrows done that day.After that we went fishing off some rocks and caught 5 beautiful blue cod and had them and a roast for dinner.

On Thursday we went out to the Clears to see some seals. There were also some parakeets around so we ate lunch watching them. We then had to check and rebait the bait stations around the island. These were all around the coast so we walked around and over the rocks looking for each little orange tag marking a bait station. As we did we saw black robins and parakeets. It’s incredible how many birds there are on South East, they are everywhere you go.It was really cool being here. In the last four days we have done some much and had so many new exciting experiences. South East is such a cool place and the people I am here with have been awesome too. It has been so much better than I thought it would and I would definitely come back again if I got the chance.

We got one!
Jacob, Harriet and Mia catching dinner

Jacob Hill
Recently I had the amazing experience of being able to take parting a DOC programme involving a four-day trip to South East Island (Rangatira). The goal of the trip being to block up 250 Chatham petrel burrows for the winter season. This trip really gave me an inside view of what DOC are doing to protect our endangered wildlife and offshore islands. This trip really helped me in my perception of DOC as well as helping me in my decision whether or not I want to follow a similar career or line of work as I have always been interested in these things. In all the trip was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed the activities as well as the obstacles and work we needed to do. It was great to know we were making a difference and helping our endangered wildlife. Overall a great experience and definitely worth it, hoping to get back in November.

Petrel boards
The team sporting petrel boards on their boots

Mia Foley
Spending four days on South East Island was a great experience and very enjoyable. We arrived early in the morning, which went really well, thanks to Glen [our skipper]. It was really interesting to see Pitt from the boat and look back at al the places I had been. Once we arrived at the hut and settled in we walked up to the summit which was cool to see the amazing views out over the ocean and back over Pitt Island. We also checked a few Chatham petrel burrows and went fishing.

The second day we blocked all the petrel burrows around the island which involved checking inside the burrows, cleaning the tunnels and blocking the entrances with gates that had already been made up. We found a few dead petrels and eggs too. For most of the day we had to wear petrel boards which made walking very slow and a little dangerous. Although annoying they did help spread our weight so we didn’t collapse any bird burrows that were underground. We were all very glad to get the burrows done in one day because we knew we could take the boards off and go fishing.The next day we went to the Clears where we saw lots of seals and a few parakeets which was really cool. Then we went around the bait stations and rebaited them all, walking around the coast to do this was cool because again we could see back to Pitt and out over the ocean.

The last day was the first we didn’t have perfect weather. Everyday we had blue skies sunshine and little wind, but on the last day it started to rain briefly.  That morning Steve made us a huge cooked breakfast which was delicious.Staying with Harriet, Jacob, Steve, Juzah and Dave was lots of fun and I would definitely be keen to go back to South East Island. 

Watching a black robin
Watching a black robin

More information
Read more about the trip on the trip on the Department of Conservation Blog or more about Chatham petrels here.

Visiting the Chatham Islands since 1996, Dave works for the Department of Conservation providing advice on the management of threatened species.