July 2019

Alastair Mackintosh Reports: One rat and two possums. Continuing the vandalised bird feeder story: Yes the “Loose Bowled Bandit” has been re-cycled. Setting up the game camera proved that not only the unknown culprit was a possum, but showed it was visiting the bird feeder just on dusk. Will Reports: Kevin and I have been steadily working away on improving the walking track over the last month. Some time has been spent on removing old plant protection sleeves. The harder green plastic ones seem to get brittle and break up as they age and we don’t want little bits of plastic spread around. Kevin checks out the work done on track improvements on the Holly Steps the other day. Will taking a rest. Thank you to Brent & Bud for their donation of some trees for the gully. A number of the rat traps have been knocked around, dislodged and baits stolen by the wekas. Food must be getting short for them and they have plenty of time to peck about on the tunnels trying to get either the bait or a caught mouse or rat. Number native trees planted this season is 626 so far. This has consisted of 92 from TDC; 45 from Richard Farrar; 24 from Ross; 92 from Georgina Pahl; some from Karla & Alison and the rest from Kevin and me. Plus of course the trees via Brent and Bud’s donation. Kevin also supplied some potting mix and bought some beech trees. Graph of Visitors Using the Tracks This from TDC, shows the number of people per month using the tracks in the Richmond Hills for Easby Park (the most used); one of the bike tracks; Jimmy Lee Creek and Hill Street South (our gully tracks). Nearly all our working visits are not recorded as we go via private property – so there has been a good number of visits not recorded! It does show how popular these tracks are though. And the need for more protection in the native gullies, especially to keep them in their natural state. Total Catches for July: 15 mice; 3 rats; 2 possums. Thanks to the Gully Volunteer team, KRB, Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter, Ewing’s Poultry, Mainly Natives, & Sarah & Rick...
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June 2019

Will Reports: The Problem of Dog Owners: Most dog owners let their dogs run free up the gully and I mean free – running through the bush many metres from them. They are definitely not ‘under control’ and pity any weka that happen to be nearby. They also cut corners along the track, knocking about any plants in their way and scare smaller children no matter what size the dog. Then there is the owner who throw their doggy bag into the bush along the track. We came across a ‘lady’ trying to call in her wildly running dog and when reminded that there were weka nearby (protected wildlife), she said her dog didn’t chase wekas and he was only a few months old. (??) She then said it didn’t matter as there were plenty of weka about anyway. The plant puller is at it again! Eight to ten newly planted natives on Grassy Saddle have been pulled out and thrown aside. The same problem we have had a little while ago and is it the same person doing this? We will probably install a camera to try and find out who is doing this stupid act. The drought has been hard enough on the plants without this carryon! And then we found that some druggie has been puffing away and leaving his ‘goods’ behind. Magpies Heard: To top off this lot of moaning, while re-planting on Grassy Saddle Kevin and I heard a couple of magpies calling higher up in the pines. Crikeydick, what with errant dogs, deranged plant pullers, druggies and now magpies! Should we just give up, stay at home and sulk? But Now the Good News! Georgina (of Mainly Natives) sent this: Hi Will, I FINALLY got myself on your track this week – I had a fabulous loop walk from Jimmy Lee around and out your gully. A gorgeous day to view all your hard work! It’s looking amazing with some interesting plant communities getting a good foothold. Now that I have discovered this walk I will do it more often :)….I noticed that there was some underplanting in the bush just below Grassy Saddle – looked like matai – that had all died (presumably from the dry). If you’d like to try some more, let me know – I have plenty. Got spare totara too. Cheers, Georgina. Thank you Georgina, we will be...
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May 2019

Will Reports: We have been busy working on installing new steps at the Fossil Steps, now completed. Thanks to David, Kevin and Bryan with help from neighbour Peter Wilks too. We also cleared some storm damage down at McGlashin’s Dam. A couple of trees had fallen down with one over the handrail by the dam and another over the decking nearby. A couple of trees fell across the McGlashen’s Dam in a recent storm and have been cleared. Collected 92 plants donated by TDC and we have planted them all; Richard Farrar donated and helped with planting out 17 kowhai and 7 cabbage trees; Kevin’s friend Ross donated 18 kowhai’s plus 6 renga renga’s; from Karla, 1 flax plus about 50 dianella. Which all come to around 257 natives planted so far this season. We have been re-staking some plants and also taking away older green sleeves that have served their purpose and taking out the odd vine and gorse pest weeds. We even had to hedge trim some of the bushes that were growing over the track – a bit of a novelty at this stage! Shirl’s traplines – nil catches; my traplines – 2 rats. Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Less activity this past month. Four rats in all. One extremely black one. (After the large whitish one last month). Quail family have moved on, presumably to their winter quarters. At least 4 Wekas in the immediate area. One juvenile has become quite tame turning up pretty well every evening at 5 for a “hand out”. Mostly kitchen scraps with a preference for meat. Bell birds and tuis quite common at bird feeder. At least 2 rabbits in the area. I must admit I quite like to see the odd one about. Not so the possum I have seen about a couple of times and – so far – have not been able trap. About all for now. Regards, Alastair. Bryan Riley Reports: No catches for May. David walks up the Fossil Steps reconstruction. Alison Nicholl Reports: May catches – 5 mice; 1 rat. I think my catches recorded are below what is actually caught – for example on the 11th I had at least 8 traps dragged to the far end of the tunnels but no visible sign of what was caught for the Weka to get hold of. The plastic trap you gave me to...
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April 2019

Will Reports:  Early in April more weed-eating and spraying was done in prep for planting later during the winter. Some work done in removing old green sleeves around older plants and clearing some of the service tracks too. The Hart Creek steps were completed and a start on replacing and sorting out the Fossil Steps; all this work being done by David Burt of KRB, and Kevin Piper, Bryan Riley & grandson Cole of the Gully Group. First it was lugging the timber in and then helping with the construction. A large flax clump was donated by Alison Nicholls, and after it was cut up, 50 smaller flax clumps were planted out with help from Kevin, and Karla. The flax are used for some wind protection besides providing food for the birdlife. During the last week of the month, Kevin and I planted about 50 – 55 native replacements all up at Grassy Saddle. We have lost some more trees even though a week ago they seemed to have survived the dry period. It appears that rimu, kahikatea and red beech don’t do to well on the dryer rocky parts. These species, plus the likes of totara and matai, have been planted among our plantings, using these as ‘fosters’ for the forest type trees that hopefully will grow up above them in time. Just like how it happens in the natural world. Thirteen rats caught this month, the most for quite awhile. I think most of the gully rats that are left are the courteous ones – You know, the type that says ‘You go first’. Up the gully and more work on the Fossil Steps. Another stage to sort out later. Then we installed a seat further up the track. This is Memorial Corner as, if you look up on the right going uphill, you will see a miro growing. This tree is in memory of June Clark and nearby is a totara, which is in memory of Jim Nicoll. Jim grew many totara plants for us over a number of years.  So stop and have a rest on the seat, and you won’t be lonely. Memory Seat. Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Total for the month: 4 rats & 3 hedgehogs. Quite a few wekas about. One I catch repeatably and let go again of course. Slow learner! Tuis & bellbirds all day at the bird feeder....
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March 2019

Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Better results this past month with 11 mice, 5 rats & 1 hedgehog. Family of quail still around with the seven “little bumble bees” now the size of their mother. Recent guests from France were amazed that they had been able to see such a variety of bird life so close to the Richmond CDB: quail, wekas, pigeons, tuis, bell birds, wax eyes, hawks, a pheasant, fan tails, plus the more common ones. And a rabbit on the front lawn. Alison Nicholl Reports: This month; 2 rats 1 mouse. Sad to see some dead shrubs after the BIG DRY! This week I did see some tiny green bits on the dead looking Silver Fern – so all is not lost. I have also seen and heard Tui, Bellbird, Fantail and blackbirds singing up there. Bryan Riley Reports: No catches for March. Whiteywoods ‘touched’ by the drought. Will Reports: Looks like the drought has broken at last and we can get back up the gully to continue our work. We certainly have lost a number of plants but it’s not as bad as we thought. Some of the larger beech trees have succumbed though which is disappointing.  A lot of releasing of plants have already done the last couple of weeks so a good start in readiness for replanting in a month or so.   One interesting thing is the number of Asian wasp nests that we have found inside the green spray guards. Some were found very close to another, sometimes less than a metre apart. Apparently no border disputes between them! Are they this plentiful due to the drought?   The photo shows a patch of Whiteywoods ‘touched’ by the drought but after the recent rain, some green shoots have appeared so maybe they will...
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February 2019

Will Reports:  The dry continues and as access to the tracks have been closed due to the fire risk, we haven’t been able to do any work up the gully. The trap lines have only been checked once this month and then we noticed a huge leaf fall, stressed plants, and the bush was very open due to many lower shrubs and small plants dead or dying.  Hopefully, things won’t be as bad as in the photo. This is a section of plantings along the Great Taste Trail just over the swingbridge on the West side of the river heading towards Brightwater.  Not a pretty sight! What a shame, especially with all the volunteer effort around the district that has been spent trying to make improvements. A small team did manage to finish repairing the steps going up from the creek crossing before the track closure though. Non conservation work but a great help to the increasing number of people using the track. It’s really disappointing that any genetic research on pests has been stopped by the government. If they had to service traps year after year, after year…….maybe they would think differently? Trapping is only temporary until science can figure out a solution.  Dropping poisons, in anyones language is not good long term, surely. Heavens above, just how much has been spent on research to date? Never mind more ‘occupational’ research, how about some solutions?  Perhaps the minister for conservation could do something like this: It was reported many years ago a Reverend was walking in a meadow and observed a number of rats migrating from one place to another. He stopped still and watched as they passed by. He was surprised when he saw an old blind rat, which held a piece of stick at one end in its mouth, while another rat had hold of the other end of the stick, and thus conducted its blind fellow along with the other rats.  Now this has possibilities. Why not train some rats to do this to lead their mates into the hands of the SPCA (where they can euthanise (kill) or de-sex as they please). Non genetic and better than throwing poison about? Alastair Mackintosh Reports: One rat for the month is all. Am feeding and supplying water for the 15 or so quail that have become quite tame here. Pleased to see that one mother started with 7 little “bumble bees”, and a month later still had 7. Better results than what is normal. To me that shows that the trapping is paying...
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January 2019

Will Reports:  Throughout December, besides the trapping, we have mostly been attending to releasing plants and lot of spraying plus work with the weedeater, trying to keep the weeds at bay. In January 2019 Kevin & I have finished repairing the steps rising from the Hart Creek crossing, combining with Keep Richmond Beautiful’s David Burt. See the end result on the Facebook page.  Kevin had a good idea regarding the transport (lugging) all the timber up to the creek by posting a sign at the start of the track asking anyone passing to carry up pieces of timber to the creek. It worked! A number of people did so and some even going backwards and forwards. All the timber was up within a half an hour! Space was fairly tight plus with the numbers of walkers passing; so we only had a small working team. Kevin’s sign. Some days later we trudged up the track with our working tools and started on the steps. David came a little later with some women folk who were helping him carry up his tools. Kevin asked what did David have that he and I didn’t. He only received some laughter from the women before they carried on with their walk.  – So we still don’t know! The recent strong winds have blown over a number of plants and also a couple of previously ringbarked hawthorn trees across the walking track. Shirl & I have cleared the hawthorns from the tracks. (You can check out our progress on Facebook). Diseased Kawakawa below Grassy Saddle. The photo is of a Kawakawa just below Grassy Saddle so it looks as if the disease is spreading. This is a great pity as there are some very good old specimens growing there and it will be a shame to see them die. Alastair Mackintosh Reports:  Hi Will. Another slow month December. Two hedgehogs & one rat. A very large male. Do not seem to be any wekas about at the moment. Hope they have just moved elsewhere in function of what is around in the way of food.  February: Nothing much to report with regards to trapping this past month. Traps all still set, but no signs of much activity. Tuis, as always, still present, bell birds less so. Quite a bit of activity regarding Kereru and I am pretty sure a couple have nested again in a conifer down my drive way.  For the third consecutive season. Large numbers of fantails about and by the sounds of increased calling, the wekas...
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December 2018

Alastair Mackintosh Reports:  Hi Will. Not a lot again this past month. One rat and two hedgehogs. Both hedgehogs in the same trap as last month and with out moving it. That makes 9 from the same area in two months! As I said previously, what chance would a ground nesting bird have of successfully hatching a brood of eggs in that locality! I am quite convinced they are a much under-estimated predator. The pigeon that flew into the window sat with no sign of life for several minutes. Then if touched it would give a slight tremor. It eventually came to life and gradually started walking away with a pronounced limp. Then after a short distance took to wing. We have not seen it, nor any sign of it, since. One can only hope for the best. Not a lot of wekas calling at the moment, though they do seem to move move about a bit. The ducks, quail and pheasants still around and quite common, so all in all, things not too bad. Regards to all, Alastair. Bryan Riley Reports: Hi Will, Have not caught any critters in the traps in November!  Have put cheese on the traps this time as well as peanut butter so hope this will attract them? Also added apple to the opossum traps! A pair of pheasant on the way up. Alison Nicholl Reports: Total caught for the month = 1 rat. I also have lost one tunnel, trap and all from behind the information panel in Will’s Gully. Extensive searches have not located it. (Will’s comment: Another stolen or maybe added to the weka treasure chest?? I did have a look too but couldn’t find anything so stolen for sure.) Mike Olive Reports: Good news – I shifted my cage trap into the open and catch a female ‘other’ but nothing else caught. John Wilson Reports: Checked traps this month but nothing caught although did see 2 or 3 wekas. NZ flax flowers about to burst out. Will Reports:  Not a lot done this month as have been busy catching up with things at home and Kevin’s gone wandering. Did check some traps a couple of times and had a couple of track patrols. Once after some rain and with heaps of branches overhanging one section of track, did some pruning and got quite wet in the process. No wonder any track walker was...
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November 2018

Will Reports: This month some time spent going over the rat traps and tunnels doing a major cleanup. Most have now been done but the DOC150’s and DOC200’s still to do. Planting update: Still some late planting of kakabeak (seed from Mike Oliver), a couple of flax, Kevin’s 19; of coprosma & hebe which brings the total planted for this season to 1049 – the most ever that we have planted in one year. More weed spraying (45 litres) along the tracks and over the boundary fence and with Simon Rayward’s efforts doing the same (on his side though!) we are pretty well up to-date with this. This recent Spring rain will certainly hurry the weeds along though. The Bottoms Track Sign: Now and then some of our track signs get interfered with and recently The Bottoms track signs have had the S’s blacked out! A funny name? Well, the story behind it (didn’t intend that) is that when we were clearing the weeds and the area being very steep in many places, I ended up sliding down quite a number of times on – well, you guessed it… So leaving out the adjectives on the way down, we were left with The Bottoms! The Scullery? Nothing dramatic here except in the clearing of weeds we used this spot for morning tea and such. And then I found a couple of sheep skulls so I hid them nearby. Later when taking my grandkids for a wander we played the game of hot and cold – to find the ‘treasure’. When that game cooled I tied the skulls to the tree above where we stopped for our tea breaks. Later it just so happened that we made the Top Track pass directly under the tree with the skulls. It seemed right to name the place The Scullery! I was given some more skulls and fixed these to the tree too but unfortunately someone stole them! When working away in the bush and hearing children voices coming along the track, I can always tell when they have reached The Scullery! Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Finally caught the rat I had been aware of and had been after for a couple of weeks. I also caught 5 hedge hogs with a different type of trap, with out deplacing it, and with the same bait (a chicken neck) That I was able to...
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September 2018

Alison Nicholl Reports: Hi Will, Figures for August are 4 mice; 2 rats. Birds heard are Quail, Kereru, Tui, Blackbirds and Chaffinch. Mike Oliver Reports: (The Fire Lookout Trap line) July catches were 3 mice and 1 rat. Will Reports: August was still busy for the planting team with 165 planted. These were some 46 from TDC (matai, beach, kaihikatea and totara); 14 flax from Alison; and a rimu from Eric Peterson in memory of Jim Nichol. We also received nine totaras that Jim had potted up at his home. The balance was dianella nigra, renga renga and some flax. The forest species have been planted throughout our earlier (second growth) plantings and we will make checks to trim branches to maintain a ‘light hole’ for the foresters. Hopefully these nursery shrubs will be taken over by the foresters in ten to twenty years. It’s just too bad that some of us won’t be around to give their trunks a pat! Will this – could this, be a lesson to the young today? Will working on the Fossil Steps. Cecile & John helping to plant flax by the retaining wall at the creek crossing. Jim Nichol’s Rimu has been planted nearby June Clark’s memorial Miro. A good lot of weed spraying was done this month (75 litres) around the newly planted shrubs right up to Grassy Saddle. A number of renga renga plants have been pulled out over the last month. Someone has an objection to the species growing here. Okay, while not being holistic, they have been planted to help hold the soil and to encourage insect life until the other undergrowth takes hold. We will continue with the renga renga but will concentrate with the dianella. I just wish the person would pull the likes of old man’s beard, banana passion vine and Himalayan honeysuckle.  There’s enough of this around to satisfy any cranky person surely!! Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Hi Will. Not much again this past month. Two rats early on and nothing since. Hopefully whittling numbers down but could be that with the warmer weather, they have just scattered further afield. Cheers, Alastair. Bryan Riley’s Trap Catches: No catches during August. John Wilson Reports: Hi Will.  Nothing caught in August. The birds were heard but not seen Friday—not even a fantail.  Regards...
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August 2018

Alison Nicholl Reports: Of interest – I did see a Weka charge at an almost 2 metre vertical bank and with a bit of a scramble made the top and scuttled off! Mike Oliver Reports: (The Fire Lookout Trap line) A catch up of the recent month’s tallies – April catches – 3 mice and 1 rat. May – 2 rats. June – No catches. Will Reports: Kevin, Shirl and I ‘disposed’ of a number of hawthorn and barberry trees that had escaped our weed culls. Some were too large, and as they get hooked up in nearby trees, we left them with a ring bark instead.  The major effort with these was up on Grassy Saddle to make room for a small track adjustment and thus allowing a good space for some future plantings. We think this small area will lend itself with a number of tree fuchsia (Konini) thus providing another food source for the native birds. The fuchsia seem to be very touchy to get growing – is it too hot inside those green covers for them?  More plantings this month with this season’s tally now 802.  There have been some wild pigs wandering about from the locked gate right up and around Grassy Saddle. Coming down to the track towards Hill Street today (Friday) and right on Hart Creek crossing was a fresh pig footprint!A hunting spider disturbed when we worked on the new track. Kevin has a spell after working on the new track at Grassy Saddle. A hunting spider disturbed when we worked on the new track. In Memory of Jim Nicholl: We were sorry to hear that Jim passed away last month. He has sourced local totara seedlings for the gully over a number of years. If you happen to see a totara tree growing anywhere in Will’s Gully and up to Grassy Saddle, it will be one of Jim’s.Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Only one rat. Not much sign of others around in the near vicinity, but they will be around. Perhaps next time. Bryan Riley’s Trap Catches: No catches with all baits except one, mouldy! John Wilson Reports: Hi Will. Only 1 rat caught in July. I am concerned about the unleashed dogs on the tracks—saw 3 this morning. Regards J.W. Kevin has a spell after working on the new track at Grassy...
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July 2018

Will Reports: Kevin and I finally got around to repairing about 3 or 4 treads on the Fossil Steps and it might not be too long before these steps are due for replacement. The donated plants from Brent Beloe and Mainly Natives, 69 in all, have all been planted along with 56 matai plants from a sort of surplus for this season via ‘Tasman Environmental Trust’ and ‘Trees that Count’. We have planted 709 plants this season and about 8800 total for the 20 odd years up there. Not a great number compared to other groups but we had a lot of clearing before any planting so not bad going. We now have most of the area in Will’s Gully planted with the faster growing, ‘second growth’ trees and have now been planting in between them with forest trees, such as beech, tawa, kahikatea and now, the matai. Maybe one day our great grandchildren will walk underneath and give them a pat as they pass by. The birds are fairly quiet maybe due to the resident falcon who frequently patrols the gully. We have made a start on cleaning out the Barbary and hawthorn that we missed or forgot to stump and they have regrown. About six have been cut and stumped. The stumping stuff, Vigilant, used is now coloured and this makes a huge difference when on the job as one can easily see what has been done and missed. Some of the larger trees by the tracks, we might just ringbark. Kevin hangs on while finishing planting a matai tree. John Wilson Reports: (All the DOC150/200’s plus the Possum Masters in the gully): Nothing caught in June. Was a treat to watch a tui yesterday feeding on the tree lucerne flowers at the start of border line. They are real characters. Keep up the good work you & mates are doing. Alastair Mackintosh Reports: (Various traps – down from gully to Hill Street) Nothing remarkable as far as the trapping went this past month. Four rats is all, though that is better than nothing. Judging by the amount of calling, wekas seem to have increased. However it may just be that they have moved down closer in function of what food is available at this time of the year. It gives me great pleasure to see and hear them. All for now, Regards, Alastair. Shirley Rickerby Reports: ( Rat Traps – Borderline, Waterfall Line and access bush road in) Only four mice this...
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