August 2019

Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Nothing to report this last month. I was away overseas most of it though had traps set for the last 10 days. House sitters very impressed with the tuis & bellbirds feeding within a couple of meters of the kitchen window. Took dozens of photos. Tame ducks back, as are my small flock of quail. Cock pheasant in residence and the odd rabbit. Great to see. Regards, Alastair. Will Reports: Only 78 more natives planted this month but we have been along some of the tracks, picking up natives that have sprung up along the track edges and transplanted them out off the tracks. Some have been taken up to early plantings to help restore the undergrowth. A lot of old plant sleeves have been taken off established plants and removed from the gully. We have reused a lot, sometimes up to four times so guess they have served us well. Our neighbours are doing well too with the Rayward’s clearing of the pest plants and sowing grass while the Wilks’ have been clearing and planting natives and gave us 10 kanuka plants. They might be manuka – we’ll find out in the future. I gather native plant seed and set them out in my little hot house but I’ve been having trouble with sparrows who slip in and feed on fresh shots on my plants for gully. I’ll have to have a little talk to them. On one of Bryan’s Possum Master traps, he has had trouble with a caught animal chewing through the cord and escaping. Twice. Pondering what to do, Kevin suggested using bike brake wire in place of the cord so we set it up, checked it once, but the animal hasn’t been back so I guess we’ve taught it to keep away from those things. The photo shows the bike brake cable installed on the trap. The Possum Master trap with bike cable wire used. Mike Oliver is now attending to the Possum Master and DOC200 & DOC150 traps in the gully (except for Bryan’s). John Wilson recently ‘retired’ (thanks John) and I had been looking after them. Alison Nicholl Reports: Report for August. Many thanks to Will and Shirl for checking my traps over the last month while I was out of action. I am back to normal now. The count for August is 10 mice! It does...
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A Week at Picton

This was to be five days with our 50+ walking group, leaving home on a Monday morning for Havelock to meet up with the rest of the group. Just out of Havelock we turned off towards Picton on the Queen Charlotte Drive, stopping at Ngakuta Bay for morning tea. After that, most started to walk along the fairly new Link Walkway, heading towards Picton. Drivers of the cars then set off for Picton, parked the cars and then headed back along the pathway to meet up with the others at The Wedge arriving just five minutes late. We all then went down a short track to a World War 2 lookout and signal station. Not much remained, just some broken concrete foundations here and there. Seating arrangement on the Link Pathway. A good spot to have lunch with a view out down the sounds though.  We then headed back to the cars and Picton. This Link Pathway is fairly new with the idea of having a walking track from Picton to Havelock following or linking the different parts of the Marlborough Sounds, via some old bridle paths, and the Queen Charlotte Track. Each group walked about 11 km and then we were off to the Waikawa Bay Holiday Park to settle in for our stay.  Barnes Dam. Barnes Dam & then over the Tirohanga Track The next day was a walk up the Essons Valley track to the two dams that supplied water to Picton. Some of the group went to the Humphries dam while the rest went to the Barnes dam. The walk was through native bush following a pipeline with a good selection of native plant species. The Barnes dam itself looked to be leaning downhill but they said it was an optical illusion. It still looked to be sloping the wrong way to me. It was a pleasant walk even if one had to be stepping over the water main pipe all along the way to the dam. Once back at the cars we then walked up the nearby Tirohanga Track to the lookout for lunch with a good view looking down on Picton, the inter-islander ferry wharfs and the Picton Harbour in Queen Charlotte Sound. We watched one of the inter island ferries berthing too.  One of the ferries berthed: from the lookout, Tirohanga Track. The Wairau Lagoons  A good sunny day for the next walk around...
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Nelsonian of the Year for the Environment

An Award for Conservation Work Well, I guess the news is that I’ve been awarded Nelsonian of the Year for the Environment for 2016. Lots of congratulations (thank you). The item was featured on the front page of the local Nelson Mail and also in the Christchurch’s The Press too. You can check out the ‘results’ on the Stuff webpage which has more photos and even has a little video clip. Sorry about the advertisements before the start though. http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/76829444/will-rickerby-nelsonian-of-the-year-for-the-environment Mt Arthur – Just So Far The annual tramp up to the Mt Arthur summit was again called off due to the extreme conditions. We did get to about 200 metres past the track turn off to Gordons Pyramid before turning back. A very strong wind, freezing conditions and the cloud was quite low, it just was not worth pushing on. It seemed as if the weather was okay earlier and once we returned to the car park, the mountain top cleared. Frustrating for sure but I’m always happy to try another day. Back at the Mt Arthur Hut for lunch and is was enjoyable ‘playing’ with the local wekas – they even shared our lunch and fed out of our hands. Ben Nevis Climb Or a walk in the mist and that’s what it was too. It’s not that far as the crow flies but by road it is 65 km and a one hour ten minute drive. Once the Wairoa Gorge road is left, the forestry is rougher in places, steeper but okay for two wheel drive vehicles but they do need some road clearance. From the small car park it takes about eight minutes walk to pass the top car park. From here the access is over private land for twenty minutes to reach the actual park boundary. A helicopter landing pad is nearby with some mountain bike tracks heading off in different directions. I think one would require plenty of nerves to ride these tracks by the look of the starting points. Through native beech forest, passing a number of wind blown trees down along the way to reach a clearing after about 50 minutes. The track across the clearing heads up to an open rocky ridge named Gibbs Spur, with good views from both sides but not this day. We did get the odd break in the mist to look down on the upper...
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Homeward Bound.

Bannockburn On the way back from the Nevis we called in to visit some of the old gold mining remains at Bannockburn. They sluiced for gold here and in a big way in the 1860’s. It looked like river gravels built up along with clay and gold filtered its way down, settling on bands of clay so the miners washed away the gravels and clay to extract the gold. One wonders where the gold came from? Was it up high on the Nevis? How much gold is still there? In the 1890’s the miners arranged a cricket match between the men and women which the women won by 55 runs due to the ‘deadly bowling of Misses’ Crombie and Hancock’. I wonder if there were any underarm tactics played or displayed? No doubt a good reason, if they needed one, for the men to drown their sorrows after the match. The area is now a reserve with walking tracks here and there. I walked up to the top and had a good view of all the workings of years ago. Weeds and thyme covered a lot of the old workings but I did come across a number of greenish coloured beetles feeding on some plants. Cromwell Known as the fruit bowl but nowadays it’s more like the wine barrel. They do still have fruits though as recently they had a Cherry spitting contest. The winner this year was able to spit a cherry out to just over ten metres. They flooded the old part of Cromwell when they built the Clyde dam to form Lake Dunstan so they built a new town centre. It’s okay but the layout with its pedestrian only little streets just doesn’t look or seem to feel natural. I’m sure the public toilets would be the most ‘popular’ frequented building. They are quite good though. There was no free wifi in Cromwell either (except for a supermarket). Goodness, is that the thing nowadays – judging a town by their toilets and free wifi? We stayed one night at the Motor-van Association camp ground near the lake. The area seemed to have a rabbit proof fence surrounding it and from early evening rabbits appeared all around. Maybe the area was rabbit fenced for them to keep the grass down? But it was more like a breeding area to infest other places in reality. The next morning...
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A Trip “Down South”

Late November 2015, the campervan was loaded with the essentials, that was – water, food and wine, so all complete and I was off. Through Murchison, Lewis Pass, past the Hanmer Springs turnoff and on the the Rakaia Gorge. Over the bridge here and then turned left into a camping ground for the night. I was just getting settled in when Val and Geoff turned up in their camper so all was well. That night the wind blew and blew. The next morning while walking to the toilets, anyone watching would think that person was drunk, such as the force of the wind it was hard to walk in a straight line. We didn’t leave early as we waited until the winds dropped a little as we were fearful of our camper-vans getting blown about too much while travelling on the road. Onwards through Geraldine to Tekapo and overnight at the Motor-van Association’s camp ground. A nice spot by Lake Tekapo too. Stopped by the Church of the Good Shepherd, which was surrounded by Asian tourists including a bride and groom getting their photo taken. Maybe they had just been married in the church? I mooched around the lakeside and spotted a rabbit. It wasn’t long before the eyes discovered more rabbits and then some more. There was even a rabbit’s carcass lying exposed which surprised me. The tourists were busy taking photos of themselves among the flowering lupin plants. These lupin flowers seem to be almost the main attraction which is a bit strange to me. I guess we shouldn’t tell them that they are a pest weed.         In passing by Lake Pukaki I always seem to be looking around for the hotel that used to be there. I was told it was flooded when they raised the lake level along with a small island that was featured on the back of our old £10 notes. All gone. Well, at least the road has improved from the old dusty gravel one to a wide tar-sealed highway. A pity about all the tourist buses though. The buses roll into the carpark one after another and when the bus door opens people flow out to the toilets, take a couple of photos of the lake, and mountains, all disappear back into the bus then away they go. The car park can be bustling with activity for...
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The Red Miners of Egremont Turn All Black

Torrent Bay Visit Early October we received an invite to help with protecting the beach at Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park. Due to a mix up Shirl wasn’t able to come so it was Rosie, Karla and me that drove to Kaiteriteri to board the water taxi. Once on the water we soon passed Split Apple Rock, an interesting feature, with its resting seabirds. Torrent Bay village was (or is) a settlement laid out and settled in the early days but now a place of holiday batches (or houses) right by the seashore with the Abel Tasman Great Walk passing through. We were helping to plant some 3000 native seashore, sand hugging plants which we did, with a little time to spare. That’s a lot of plants to dig in but it was easy going as they were all planted in the soft sand. We had time to wander around the streets as such as they are – nothing formed, just sand tracks really. The village has no national grid electric power supply and the only access is by walking track or by boat. There’s something about the place though. A Capital Few Days We flew into Wellington, settled into our motel and then visited Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. We were particularly interested in the World War 1, Gallipoli displays put together by the museum staff and Weta Workshop – of Lord of the Rings fame. There’s no doubt that Peter Jackson and his people certainly can make things realistic. One walked through the displays following a red line on the floor, with the days marked from 25th April, 1915 showing what happened on that particular day until the withdrawal. One New Zealand officer wrote: Total to date: 5000 casualties, about three men per yard of ground gained… Some of the models where about twice life size and the detail was very hard to fault. Sweat on the brow, blowflies and empty shells scattered about. The percentage of wounded or killed was high – 93% for the New Zealanders, the highest (nearly double) of any of the other national force that fought at Gallipoli. Next we called in at the National War Memorial to see more displays by Weta Workshop but here these covered all of World War 1. We did note a display listing men killed on Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli, and...
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I don’t really think I’m that old

A Visit to Collingwood We stayed a couple of nights in the old police station that has been converted to a motel at Collingwood. Our room might have been the “reception” area in days of old. I do know that the sloping floor took a bit of getting used to though. We drove out to the Farewell Spit cafe for a bite to eat and then drove along the road to Wharariki Beach, passing Old Man Range on the way. At the end of the road carpark, a male peacock strutted about showing off his brilliant plumage. It’s about a twenty minute walk over the Farm Park and down over the sand dunes to the beach, passing a creek tidal inlet where usually one can see seals resting but not one was there this day. The Archway Islands still withstood the pounding seas of the Tasman. The tide was just starting to go out but not fast enough that we could walk along the beach to inspect the caverns and arches further south. Another time. We went as far as we could and had our lunch on the dunes and I was surprised to see many fresh deer footprints in the sand. Possibly hare and rabbit footprints too and unfortunately for the birdlife, the usual wild cat footprints. All along the new high mark were many small spiral sea shells. These were the Spirula spirula species and grow to about 25mm long, white shells and quite fragile. All most likely washed up after the recent storm. On the way back to the farm paddocks we passed several patches of native spinach growing where they should be. Wondering if the sea area affected the plants taste a leaf was picked and eaten. It was a nice salty taste for sure but I prefer the leaves from the plants that we have at home. I wonder if a little bit of salt thrown over the home plants would make them grow better? We stopped and followed a track that went to the old remains of the Puponga coal mine. Just a short walk through some regenerating native bush and past some rusting remnants of the old machinery. A bit of local history but very much neglected. I wondered at this and thought it surprising at this neglect especially being such a tourist spot. Some of our heritage just rusting away. Back...
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Mountain Hut Wardens for a Week (Nelson Lakes National Park)

The Walk In: After an instruction period of being told what to do, photographed and given ID cards, Karla & I were driven up to the Mt Robert carpark and let loose. The weather report was for bad weather to come in the afternoon and we were advised to go to Angelus Hut by the Speargrass route rather than up the Pinchgut. It was okay until we were left the last patch of bush and walked into light rain but then we started to feel hail and then snow. Next the wind and mist wrapped around us the higher we climbed so that we could hardly see the next marker pole ahead. Keep plodding. Two young chaps passed us and we kept in touch through the mist but then they disappeared. They told us later that one of them got blown over and they contemplated turning back but realised that they were past the halfway point so kept going. We kept plodding.  The Speargrass track and route to Angelus Hut is 11.2km and takes about 6 hours they say so our 6 hours 15 minutes wasn’t too bad in such weather, considering we called into the Speargrass Hut for a bite to eat. It was a relief to see the Mt Robert Ridge/Speargrass junction sign loom out of the mist though. Only another half hour of plodding until we were at the door of our place for the next seven nights. The only trouble was turning the door lock with our cold fingers! Angelus Hut rests on a ledge next to a tarn at 1650 metres above sea level. It has bunks for 28 people who book and pay for a bunk before they arrive and one of our jobs was to make sure people had booked and paid. $20.00 per night per person while the camp sites (five) cost $10.00 per person. The hut has two bunk rooms with the mattresses laid out in a line – or on a platform. A large kitchen/lounge area looked out onto the tarns nearby. In the lounge area was a small wood burner and a number of tables and seats. The firewood is flown in and the toilet’s contents are flow out, all by helicopter. Our accommodation was on one end of the hut and measured about 5m x 3m, containing two bunks (one up and one below), with a small...
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September Update

The Moon Eclipse on 8th  October 2014 I managed to get up half way through the night to watch this reddish eclipse and it was certainly worth the effort. It was a full eclipse too and they always seem to go slowly except when one is trying to take some photos! Too long an exposure and the moon becomes elongated. In the northern hemisphere it is known as a Hunter’s Moon and more generally a Blood Moon and this no doubt because of the reddish colour as the earth’s shadow passes over the it. The next eclipse will be on 5th April 2015, during the middle of the night so let’s hope for a clear sky, warm clothes and another try with the camera. Weevils and Ducks: An unusual visitor we spotted resting on the wall of the house was an Elephant weevil (Rhyncodes ursus). About 20 to 25 long, with a longish snout which looks quite funny as it shuffles along. The Elephant Weevil lays its grubs and they bore into beech trees and as there are not too many beech trees nearby I thought it more likely to be a Gorse-seed weevil (Apion ulicis) which looks very similar and was introduced by Nelson’s Crawthron Institute to help control gorse. Their larvae feed away inside the seed pods and later when the seed pods burst open in the hot sun, the newly hatched weevils are flung wide to continue their good work. However, as the Gorse-seed weevils are only 2mm long I’m sure our specimen was the former. Over the back fence in the paddock one morning we watched a mallard duck herding her brood through the grass. To the ducklings, the grass must have been like a giant forrest and we wondered how long before the local cats reduced them one by one. A Visit to Australia: Shirl, with her daughter Kathy,  had several days in Australia to attend her brother Kevin’s wedding mid September. It was south of Sydney at a place called Murray’s Beach, situated on the largest salt water lake in Australia. It was an informal occasion in very pleasant surroundings. Conservation Work – Will’s Gully: Shirl and I have been busy spraying along the Borderline fence to keep the weeds from encroaching onto our area. I start off with 15 litres of spray while Shirl carts up the next 15 litres of water...
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April/May 2014

An Estuary Bus Inspection Tour Early April we joined a bus tour. This was for interested people and to bring them up to date on what was happening, conservation wise, around the Waimea Inlet. It was an all day trip with regular stops and different speakers, either on the bus or we met them at different locations. There are a number of different groups and individuals working away either in trapping pests or in plant restoration projects around the inlet and this was a way to get together, hear of what others are doing, their problems and such like. The estuary is about 3455 hectares, has ten islands and an internal coastline of around 65 kilometres. They say there are 22 streams that flow into it, so all in all it’s not surprising that 50 bird species and 41 species of fish are found here. Unfortunately, a lot of damage has been done by humans over the years but hopefully the work going on now, and mostly by volunteers, will help restore things to be something like nature intended. The last ‘port of call’ was at a primary school project at Mapua. They are helping restore an area of marshland and some of the children even escorted us around describing what they had been doing. Their knowledge was quite impressive and I hope they will keep this interest going later in life too.   When in Doubt – Turn Left Some days later we headed off in the campervan with the intention of going deeper south but changed our minds when the weather turned from nice clear days to drizzle and it was reported that there was heavier rain to come. So instead of a deeper jaunt, we turned left and headed for Hanmer Springs. Wandering about the alpine village, we walked around the old hospital buildings. It looked as if some attempt is being made to preserve these old historic buildings but it was sad to see the neglect. The Soldiers’ Block (1916), the Queen Mary Hospital (1916 – 2003), The Chisholm Ward (a women’s hospital 1926) and the Nurses Hostel (1928). The next morning it was still drizzling so we drove south a bit then turned north heading for Rotherham and then onto Waiau. Both small settlements but no doubt quite important in the early days. Waiau even had a lockup jail!  The town boasted a courthouse,...
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Kea, Lodestone


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Robin on Camera


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Black Fern


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