Rare Native Falcon breeding in Takapu Valley? Looking good

We’ve had regular sightings of the rare Native New Zealand Falcon in Takapu Valley over the last few years (and some going back decades), BUT yesterday Rob Suisted (who owns land in upper Takapu Valley) photographed a pair of Falcons –  kārearea (Falco novaeseelandiae), flying together, and vocalising (“ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki”), in what appeared to be courting behaviour.

Here’s one of the shots he took yesterday. It’s very exciting to think we’ve got potential breeding activity happening, as these birds normally need big natural home ranges.

Native NZ Falcon, 1 of a pair, courting in Takapu Valley, 25 Sept 2015

Native NZ Falcon, 1 of a pair, courting in Takapu Valley, 25 Sept 2015

It just goes to show that Takapu Valley is a biodiversity hotspot in Wellington.  Most landowners in the valley trap for possums, stoats and rats etc (it’s so effective that the recent AHB possum control contractors have reported almost no possums caught in the valley), and birdlife is prolific and growing.  No doubt the Falcons are taking advantage of this fresh food resource.

There’s also the tremendously healthy native fish populations in the valley (as a result of no introduced predator trout), the abundance of regenerating native forest, and the Belmont Regional Park adjacent, which makes Takapu Valley an important place for local biodiversity that perhaps needs better recognition and long term protection from development.

FOOTNOTE: Dave Bell (Falcon expert) has been in touch. He identified from the photos a mature female, and also confirmed the behaviour reported is typical courtship behaviour. He supplied his publicaton: Ascertaining the Presence of Breeding NZ Falcon, by Dave Bell, which says:

Courtship: Often the first signs of a breeding pair of falcon will be ‘courtship’ behaviour in early spring, though nesting attempts have been known from as early as June. Early spring weather affects the timing of the breeding season. Even established pairs from previous seasons will undertake courtship. The male falcon circling and “kekking” high above the territory, noisy swooping and chasing flights by the pair and food transfers are all forms of courtship. Also whining “whee-up” calls made by the female are an excellent indication of breeding activity.

Petone to Grenada Link Road ‘Takapu Motorway tack on’ has big recreation implications for Belmont Regional Park

NZTA plans for a new motorway through Takapu Valley (option D), by tacking it onto the Petone to Grenada Link Road, has major implications for Wellington’s outdoor recreation users.

The proposed ‘Takapu Motorway – option D’ will effectively cut off the key access points to western Belmont Regional Park, leaving only southern and eastern points.  These access points are important for mountain bikers, trampers, walkers and horse riders, with the carpark often overflowing on sunny weekends.

Belmont Regional Park access issues by proposed NZTA Takapu Motorway (option D)

Belmont Regional Park access issues by proposed NZTA Takapu Motorway (option D)

We know the Greater Wellington Region is very proud of this park, so loosing these access points is of great concern.  The whole plan has arrived suddenly, doesn’t exist in any district planning, is being driven with haste, will have little consultation, compared to Transmission Gully and the Petone to Grenada Roads which have had decades of consultation.  This is madness.

“Ōhariu MP Peter Dunne is calling on NZTA to drop altogether proposals for a link road between the Transmission Gully Highway and the planned Petone to Grenada road “until it gets its act together.” 

We think the impacts on recreation in the Wellington Region also warrant a major rethink about this sudden adhoc last minute tack onto the Petone to Grenada Link Road.