The purpose of the Tiny Museum Project was to introduce some challenging ideas about ecology, restoration, and conservation to people in a small island community in a subversive and unthreatening way. Plus we got together and had a pot-luck supper and a bit of a party. 🙂
The banded rail is a handsome little bird, with bands of orange and white worn like a mask across it’s red eyes, an underbelly of striped black and white feathers, a flourish of orange at the chest, and a stippled cloak of olive brown, black and white. Chicks are black and fluffy, and seen in Summer and Spring.
Photo credit, Toby Hudson
Banded rail live in wetland, in rough pasture, and on Rakino have also been spotted down at Maori Garden Bay, foraging around the spring that runs down to the bay. They are typically quite cryptic, and seldom forage more than a few meters from the edge of vegetation. You are most likely to see them at dawn and dusk, as they prefer to spend most of their time undercover, hunting for food. They are competent fliers, but prefer their feet on the ground, and can often be seen scuttling for cover, if you are looking..
They eat a variety of insect species, worms, snails, spiders, crabs, but will also tuck into seeds, fruit, and dead fish if they are available.
Threats to the little rail are numerous, and sadly they are declining in number. Their habitat is at risk as people remove wetland and mangroves in favour of pasture and marinas, and they are also at risk from the usual introduced predators; rodents, mustelids, and feral cats. Happily this isn’t a problem on Rakino, as people restore wetland and replant habitats, and we are also extremely fortunate to be free of the aforementioned predators.
A few people on Rakino are lucky to have banded rail living on their properties, and want to prevent them from coming to harm. You can help protect banded rail by keeping dogs on-leash around areas where banded rail nest and forage, and also ensuring cats are under control.
There are 18 species of penguin worldwide, and 9 of them breed in New Zealand territory. The korora is the smallest of that unique species, 30cm high, and the only flightless seabird you are likely to see in the Hauraki Gulf.
They spend their days out at sea in search of small fish, squid, and octopus, coming ashore at night in convivial little groups called ‘rafts’, to roost.
On Rakino Island, some fortunate residents have korora nesting under their baches, or sheds, though they may debate the description ‘fortunate’ when they are kept awake at night listening to the squabbling of little penguins!
Little blues come ashore between January and March and must spend two weeks moulting, replacing all their feathers before they can head out to sea again. They are very vulnerable at this time to dogs, so this is a good time to ensure our dogs are on-leash in known penguin areas.
If you see a listless, scruffy little penguin at this time, just give them a wide berth, and leave them to get on with moulting.
The biggest threat to korora on land are introduced mammalian predators; rats, mustelids, feral cats, and dogs. Happily Rakino is predator free, so to keep the korora safe, we only have to ensure that cars drive slowly and carefully at night, when penguins may be on the roads, and that our island dogs are under control, and leashed when penguins might be in the vicinity.