Little Blue Penguin Survey

On the 16th of September, members of the Doctors Point trapping team and Halo Project staff undertook the third annual survey of little blue penguins on the stretch of beach from the Doctors Point carpark to the Purakanui side of Mapoutahi Pa. We broke the beach into three sections with one team in each scouring the rocks, banks, cliffs and shrubs for any signs of a penguin burrow.

After two hours of searching, the total number of penguins observed stood at five. A further five burrows were found that penguins probably use as homes regularly but did not contain any birds at the time of the survey. By comparison, a total of 11 birds were found in the first surveys conducted in February 2016 and February 2017. This does suggest a decrease but could be due to the fact that the surveys were conducted at different times of year, and so different stages of the penguin lifecycle. A follow up night survey will be conducted in the coming weeks and will hopefully give us a better indication of the total population size. Past night surveys have resulted in more penguins being observed (15 in 2017) so hopefully the same happens this time.

The small number of birds observed means that we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help this little population continue to survive and grow. The Halo Project trap network established in the area is helping to control one of the biggest threats facing the penguins, stoats. While this is an excellent step in the process other threats must also be managed and they can’t all be done by us. If you’re walking your dog in an area where you know or think there might be penguins, please keep it on a leash at all times. It only takes a second for a dog to grab and kill a penguin. Even the best behaved dogs pose a threat. Also trying to ensure that any recreational activities on the beach have minimal environmental impact will help to preserve the nesting habitat of the birds.

James Tweed - Project Support

Rhys Millar
Coastal Forest Restoration
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Here in the Halo, we’re extremely lucky to have large areas of remnant or regenerating native forest still intact.  Restoring and enhancing remaining forest is a key focus for the Halo Project. But, before we can begin any restoration activities, we have to have an understanding of what it is that landowners are interested in doing, and what help/support we are able to give them during the process. To do this I visited a range of landowners around the project area to have a chat about their views on restoration. These discussions were extremely helpful and I would like to thank those landowners that gave up their time to talk to me. It was evident that everyone I spoke to was keen to get involved in restoration, with most having already undertaken some in the past (e.g. QEII covenants, fencing, planting).

In the last few months I have been working on developing restoration plans for several sites to give landowners an idea of what might go into restoring a site. These sites are areas identified as being important for various reasons and are areas that, if restored, could hold very high biodiversity value. Hopefully in the coming months we will be able to work with the respective landowners to initiate the first steps of the plan.

James Tweed - Project Support

Rhys Millar
West Harbour Halo - Residents Survey

In May we sent out a West Harbour Halo - Residents Survey. We were interested in hearing your thoughts on biodiversity restoration and trapping in urban areas around West Harbour. We will update you soon on this information.

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Rhys Millar
Monitoring the effects of trapping
Inky hedgehog footprints.

Inky hedgehog footprints.

This autumn we’ve started up a monitoring programme in the Inner Halo, to gain a measure of the effectiveness of our predator control over time. The project involves a network of tracking tunnels and chew cards, which we can use to estimate pest population sizes by looking at what proportion have footprints or chew marks left behind by the pests. The lines will be checked four times a year, and are in three habitat types: native forest, exotic forest (pines) and pasture. In this very first check of these lines, we’ve seen a lot of rodent and hedgehog prints in particular, which matches what we’re seeing in our traps – ship rats and hedgehogs are the two most commonly caught predators. Being able to report on how our trapping programme is performing is an important part of making sure we’re catching as many of the predators as possible.

Rhys Millar
Halo Project progress update

The Halo Project has now been operational for 15 months! There are 15 community groups engaged so far, made up of 70 keen volunteers who regularly head out to check traps. We’ve got trapping networks across two thirds of the 3’900 ha Inner Halo area – we’ve nearly got Orokonui Ecosanctuary surrounded. So far we’ve caught over 270 pests, the highest catches being ship rats, hedgehogs and stoats. Full steam ahead!

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   Halo Project trapping networks around Orokonui Ecosanctuary (centre of map). The numbers indicate how many traps are in that area.

Halo Project trapping networks around Orokonui Ecosanctuary (centre of map). The numbers indicate how many traps are in that area.

Rhys Millar
Kaka sightings - we want to hear from you!

The Halo Project and Orokonui Ecosanctuary are interested in finding out where the kaka that leave the ecosanctuary are going, and what they get up to. Maybe you live in a kaka ‘hotspot’ where they visit often, or have seen them flying by regularly. Kaka normally nest from October - March and we are interested in knowing if you’ve seen any related activity outside the ecosanctuary. If you’ve seen kaka flying about, please get in touch with any answers to these questions:

1)  Have you seen or heard kaka near your house?

a.     If yes, how many?

b.     How often have you spotted them? Recently?

c.     Individuals are identified with bands around their legs called colour bands, have you noticed any? *Record the left foot top band first then the bottom band and repeat on the right foot.

d.     Do you have any interesting observations of kaka behavior outside of Orokonui Ecosanctuary (e.g. mutual feeding, mating, or nesting behavior)?

2)  Do you have fruit trees near your house? Or other trees that the kaka feed at? Do you feed them?

3)  Do you have any traps (Halo Project or private) near you?

Respond in any way that works for you... Thank you!

-       Email us at

-       Check us out on NatureWatch under kaka_haloproject

-       Find us on Facebook @beyondorokonui

-      Or post in your answers to PO Box 1320, Dunedin

Rhys Millar
Lizard monitoring in the Halo
A southern grass skink found under a lizard monitoring retreat.

A southern grass skink found under a lizard monitoring retreat.


This spring we started a Halo lizard monitoring project, to find out how the lizard populations in the Inner and Outer Halo are doing, and how much predator control is needed to protect lizards. Monitoring lines of artificial lizard retreats have been set up in areas with and without predator control, and will be checked throughout summer by dedicated volunteers. Lizards that might use these retreats for basking and protection are the southern grass skink (which can often been seen around the Halo scuttling through long grass) and the rock-loving korero gecko. Hopefully we might also find some less common skink species! We plan to repeat this project each summer, to track how lizards respond to our trapping efforts, and to learn what level of predator control benefits lizards. A big thanks to Jo Monks from DOC for her trusty advice, and to the landowners who are kindly hosting these monitoring lines.

Rhys Millar
How safe is my Cat?

We decided to test how safe domestic cats are around traps. Have a look at our video to learn about the findings. 

Rhys Millar