The archaeologists who have been working at Mangahawea Bay for the last couple of weeks generally knew what to expect when they peered into their excavation pits at the start of a new day. They got a surprise last week though, when they discovered a tangled web of kiwi spoor — and the kiwi responsible.

"The crew came out first thing to walk around, and in one of the trenches they found a little kiwi running around. It couldn't get out," DoC ranger Andrew Blanshard said.

Rather than try to catch the bird, a juvenile male, the archaeologists decided to help it get out by itself. But this was not an easy kiwi to help.

"They put a ramp in and it managed to get out eventually — but as it ran out of that trench it fell straight into another," Andrew said. So they put the ramp into the second pit, and once it had clambered out, the bird disappeared into the bush, leaving the bottom of the trench, which had been perfectly smooth the day before, covered in kiwi footprints.

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"It was definitely a thrill for the archaeologists and for tangata whenua. You just don't see them that often," he said. For the rest of the dig, which ended on Friday, the archaeologists added an early-morning wildlife check.

Meanwhile hikers on Moturua, which, along with its neighbouring islands has become a wildlife haven since Project Island Song was launched in 2009, had reported seeing kiwi, even during the day.

"If you do see kiwi out at weird times, it's due to the drought. We're seeing kiwi at times and locations they normally wouldn't be because they're looking for for water. DoC is getting calls daily," Andrew said.

Anyone who saw a kiwi out during the day should leave it alone..

"And count yourself lucky to have seen it," he said.

The archaeologists were also treated to regular visits by rare tieke (saddlebacks) and kākāriki (red-crowned parakeets), which are now thriving on the island.