In many ways, this was a special event. Not only was it the first Forest&Bird trip after a long break partly caused by Covid-19, this time we were not just going for a walk. We had a job to do! Earlier this year, the Forest&Bird Manawatu Branch had purchased 16 of the 31 DOC200 traps needed to set up a new trap line on the Deerford Loop. Ian Rasmussen, a passionate pest control volunteer from RECAP, initiated the idea and pulled all the strings together to make it happen.
This is how 9 keen trappers turned up at Limestone Road end on this sunny Saturday morning. All of us were excited to find the entire landscape white - winter had finally settled in! About half of us had done lots of trapping but never set up a trap line before. There was a surprising amount of logistics to consider, but fortunately Ian had already made a proper plan for the entire mission. 6 pack frames got loaded up with 2 traps each - together with a day pack that made a load of around 20kg to carry. The remaining traps and installation tools were carried separately. We split up into 2 groups to walk the loop in opposite directions and off we went. Just a few minutes in there was a stream to cross, then the track went up the hill. The snow certainly slowed us down, and it took a while until we figured out how to best place our feet in the snow and prevent sliding.
While installing and setting the new traps, we baited and reset the already installed ones (donated by the Ashhurst Engineering and Construction Company) as well. A few of these traps had flattened rats in them - a first score! However, further up the track we also spotted multiple big rats that looked very alive - they seemed not in the slightest intimidated by the traps on our backs...
A party of trampers passed us and stopped for a chat. They were well equipped and were heading right up to the ridge. At the top junction of the loop we had lunch with the other team of our group. All 31 traps were now set! With empty packs we slid back down the steep track, trying not to get distracted by the beautiful scenery. The snow was starting to melt in the warmth of the midday sun...
Note: The Deerford Loop trap line will be serviced regularly by volunteers from RECAP. If you are interested in helping with this task, please get in touch with Forest&Bird Manawatu Branch (Manawatu.Branch@forestandbird.org.nz).
(Text by Jorinna)
Photos: Anthony Behrens, Jorinna Prinz
We met Paul at the new Queen Elizabeth Park Visitor Centre to check out their small lizard garden. It had been completed recently and so the skinks and geckos have not moved in yet. We learned that a good lizard garden needs several things; a sunny spot with lots of rocks, driftwood and other hiding spots. And native plants! Not too many though, as they can create too much shade. There are even plant species that are particularly beneficial for lizards as they provide food for them and their prey.
At our second stop we walked the first section of the Escarpment Track. Here we were joined by Pete, another committed volunteer from the Ngā Uruora project. Paul stopped at a few lizard friendly stations and carefully lifted a layer of corrugated tiles, but the skinks took off before we could even see them! However, soon after that we got to a big fenced off lizard garden, and there we saw lots of skinks! There were probably geckos too, but those are much harder to spot. This garden was covered with cardboard (to suppress weeds), rocks and piles of driftwood. In between were lizard friendly plants like the sand coprosma (Coprosma acerosa) and speargrass (Aciphylla squarrosa), as well as a few traps to keep out mice and rats. The Ngā Uruora volunteers are also dealing with other lizard predators, like hedgehogs and feral cats.
After a lunch break in the sun with magnificent views along the coast and to Kapiti Island, we turned back and made our way back home. Today we got a glimpse of a hidden and endangered world. And we saw how easy it is to create a space in our gardens for native skinks and geckos...
(Text by Jorinna)
On this beautiful sunny day we drove to Shannon, where we joined up with the rest of the group. With 26 people in total, we were more than double of our usual group size. A lot of people joined us this time as part of Conservation Week 2019 and we were delighted that a few members of the Forest & Bird Horowhenua Branch came too.
Just out of Shannon, we stopped at the first example of a fish passage, constructed at the stream of the local golf course. Logan introduced us to the challenges that local fish face when trying to pass culverts and other man-made constructions. And the challenges of his team trying to modify these obstacles so that the fish can make it through to swim upstream. The kids in our group had fun climbing around the concrete-embedded rocks too!
We traveled to a number of other examples of fish passages nearby, each one with a slightly different situation and design, Logan showed us pictures of how the areas looked before too, and pointed out how willow roots floating in the water and moss-covered boulders help fish to climb upstream where water flows fast. Amazing what those fish can do!
Our last stop for the day was the Mangahao Power Station, where we found a lovely lunch spot by the river. Logan showed us another few fish passages, this time in a bigger scale connected to the hydropower facilities. The last one was so well blended in that it took us a while to spot it!
(Text by Jorinna)
When we reached Rangiwahia Carpark at 10am and started our walk, we got hailed on and it stayed pretty wet and windy for a while. Thanks to our rain jackets we all stayed dry and admired the beautiful beech forest with scattered pahautea (NZ mountain cedar) emerging from the canopy.
About half way, we stopped for photos at the first highlight of the trip, an arching bridge across a deep gorge. From here, the track sidled along a rock wall and eventually reached the bush line, with leatherwood and tussock fields. The hills around us, first covered in mist, became more and more visible. Down coming trampers told us that all the snow on the track had melted, yet we found a few small patches - just enough for a few snow balls!
When we reached Rangiwahia Hut at lunch time, the sun started breaking through as if it had waited for us. The hut was cozy and we gathered around the table and the warm fireplace for a longer break. We were talking to the other trampers while watching the clouds lifting off the landscape. Soon we could see the stunning view with Mt Ruapehu, although its peak remained hidden in cloud...
After learning about the history of Rangiwahia Hut and also about the lovely paintings on the buildings and about the other tracks in the area, we packed up and made our way back down the hill. A piece of cake after the long climb, leaving more room to enjoy the views, listen and look for birds and photograph plants.
(Text by Jorinna)
From the plateau high above the river, Tom showed us where the new highway is going to be built from next year and explained the recent work done to the rivers for banks protection. He also shared interesting facts about river works and how the rivers react to it. We learnt that the Ashhurst Domain area is a former pā site, which is of significance to local iwi known as Otangaki. Their ancestors used the Gorge as a road and stopped in this area for refilling their food, which explains the big abundance of karaka trees planted for food supply. The river island below us was cultivated to grow food too. Now we could see farmed flood plains and wetlands below us in the river valley.
After saying goodbye to Tom who was off to his next meeting, we made our way down to the wetlands. A few ducks and some bigger water birds took off as we came closer, and when we found our track occupied by a group of cattle we decided to turn back and hit the bush tracks. Along the way we learnt about different weed species in the area and the control work that has been done over the years. After passing through a stand of big totara, a side track took us out to the cliff of the river valley, where a recent flood had taken out a chunk of bush. Along the path was a line of fascinating basket fungi (Ileodictyon cibarium), and back on the main track we admired the dense vegetation with the giant maidenhair fern, swamp maire and kiekie. There were many birds to hear and to see flying between the big trees, while we slowly emerged from the swamp back up to the plateau to finish our circuit.
(Text by Jorinna)
May 2019 - A Guided tour of a Biocontrol test site for Tradescantia and Broom and afterwards a walk-through Massey Arboretum
Our May trip was in two parts – the first part was to look at two Landcare Research
biocontrol research plots for tradescantia and broom and then we moved on to visit Massey
On a lovely sunny morning, 10 of us met at the research site and were met by Jack Keast,
Horizons Biosecurity Officer – Plants. Jack first talked to us about biocontrol for our invasive
plants and how they were tested. Then we moved on to the research plot for the
trandescantia leaf beetle. Here we saw how the beetle was damaging the plant which will
eventually lead to the plant dying. We then moved on to see the damage to broom caused
by the broom gall mite. Jack explained at each site how the trandescantia leaf beetle and
broom gall mite worked on the plants and how the biocontrol agents spread. All to soon we
moved to the second part of our trip – Massey Arboretum.
Although right on our doorstep, it was a first for most of us - a visit to the Massey
Arboretum, lying behind Bledisloe Park. Dr. Marion Mackay, Senior Lecturer in Environment
Management, Massey University, led us on a guided walk through the autumn leaves
relating stories and history along the way.
The idea for an arboretum germinated in 1943 but it was only when Dave Bull came on the
scene in the early 1970’s that it really blossomed. As Head Groundsman Dave established
most of the collection from his visits to far off and mysterious places, with a bit of trading
around with other like-minded collectors to get something a little extra. The Arboretum is
certainly an asset to the city.
Peeling bark, winter flowers and autumn colours made for a lovely walk this autumn, but
certainly worth a wander any season."
Text by Anthea McClelland and Vivienne McGlynn
(Text by Jorinna)
After our summer break, the first trip this year took us to Foxton Beach. Arnim, our trip guide, was awaiting us at the edge of the salt marsh, where he already had installed identification cards at some of the local plant species: we got introduced to beaded samphire, oioi, arrow grass and other small marsh plants. Quite often this required going down on your hands and knees to look at tiny flowers and leaflets. We also learned about the various rushes around.
From the salt marsh we went on, up the parabolic dune for a beautiful view across to the ocean and over the Manawatu Estuary, which is a wetland of international significance being a RAMSAR site. Arnim pointed out issues with the use of the area for 4WD activities, which are a thread for nesting birds and for the dune vegetation. We learned to estinguish the native spinifex (a dune stabiliser like the pingao) from the introduced marram grass and made our way down. The big enclosed flat displayed interesting plant communities. Arnim showed us the late flowering makoako, the sand wind grass and many others, while pulling out some upcoming weeds and looking for spiders on the drift wood. We did not find a katipo spider this time but learned lots about its biology and found another native spider instead.
Some of the group had pulled out plastic bags to pick up some of the scattered rubbish around. After a bite to eat we made our way back, still discovering more characteristic dune and marsh plants. So many fascinating species, withstanding strong winds, storms and salt accumulation! Yet the biggest threat is man made, by weeds infestation and disturbance through vehicles. This area needs better protection and maybe a community project for some restoration work, to preserve this rich ecosystem for the future.
(Text by Jorinna)