Ducks Unlimited NZ
Thursday, 02 April 2020 11:50

Report on Operation Gretel (Grey Teal)

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Original Etching by David Chepple Original Etching by David Chepple


Neil Hayes reports three clutches "on the go" following the first maintenance/straw replacement visit on 2 August 1981.

He comments that at least 80 Grey Teal were using the lagoon.

Dudley Bell has summarised the 1981 breeding season (to 6 September) as follows:

"Initial inspections were made on 1 August. One new area was inspected but found to be unsuitable. Three areas were inspected, totalling 66 boxes - 31 at Lake Are Are; 10 at Tangirau and 25 at the Mountley site.
Lake Are Area produced no results for this its first season. New hay shavings were placed in a number of the boxes and the area left to the ducks.

Tangirau showed a one hundred per cent improvement on last year with 2 boxes of the 10 being utilised. Both boxes had 8 eggs being incubated tightly by the female. 

Mountley showed its usual excellent results with 14 boxes being utilised and 119 eggs laid. Eleven eggs were already lost to flooding in the lower boxes. A promising start.

The next inspection was at the Mountley site only, on 6 September 1981. Here, this time, was outstanding success with 23 of the 25 boxes being used. 145 eggs were laid. Bl of the previous inspection eggs had hatched giving 68% success. There were 6 eggs lost for no apparent reason — being cold and disarranged in the nest. This left 32 eggs unhatched or infertile. Some may not have been removed on the 6 September inspection as new nests were under way. In some new nests it appeared that old infertile eggs remained — a crowding problem I believe. One nest had 6 newly hatched young and four ready to hatch eggs.

Two broods of young Grey Teal were seen on the area in the open water. One of the broods was young and comprised 7 ducklings and the other almost fledged and comprising 6."

Report on Project Gretel
Mr D.G. Bell reported another successful year for Grey Teal breeding — for the birds and in specific cases for the DU nest boxes. Highlighted areas were Pokeno, Ngaruawahia and Martinborough which enjoyed maximum performance from nest boxes; the "hard—luck" story of the year was at Dunedin where above normal water levels left boxes submerged with disastrous results.

Pokeno boxes achieved excellent results with 1,185 eggs laid, 621 hatched from 801 incubated — the average clutch size was 11 eggs. Mr Ian McFadden, Wildlife Service Officer on the site at Pokeno has prepared a comprehensive report on this two year study from which much valuable information will be obtained. At the nestbox site in Ngaruawahia 18 of the 25 boxes were utilised and the area was "alive" with Grey Teal, 130 eggs being incubated from 156‘laid. This lagoon is about a quarter hectare in size and adjacent willow swamp is no more than one hectare which provides a totally utilised situation for the Grey Teal.

Barton's Lagoon in the Wairarapa recorded an "amazing performance" for a small area - 300 eggs laid in 18 of the 30 nest boxes. Most recent observations have been of 50 Grey Teal inhabiting the area compared with 2 or 3 pairs seen before box establishment. During the year 131 Grey Tal nest boxes were erected in many parts of the North and South Island. A grant of $ 500 was received from the Ministry of Recreation and Sport and enabled box work to be accelerated.

Special thanks were given to the N.Z. Wildlife Service for valuable participation, especially in the monitoring the Pokeno production, and to members and friends who took part in the erection and monitoring of nest boxes around the country. Owners and controllers of wetlands also received a special vote of thanks as without their co—operation the project would not exist.

Mr Bell answered questions concerning the accidental shooting of Grey Teal during the season and comments were received from the floor that this would continue to be a problem in future because of confusion over identification.

Mr Bell concluded his remarks with the comment that it was most encouraging to see acclimatisation societies, with their large voluntary and enthusiastic workforce supporting the DU project; and that Ducks Unlimited would like to see an even greater awareness by waterfowl enthusiasts in New Zealand toward Operation Gretel and its objective to improve Grey Teal numbers.



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