Another Year & Now Its 2014

Over the Hill to Golden Bay

One afternoon mid December 2013, we headed off for Takaka in the campervan stopping the night in Takaka itself after a wander around the shops. I like Takaka, which only has a population of around 2300, but it feels like a real town. That is the shops, or most, are local, not those franchise things that seem to take the soul of a place away. One shop I like to just browse in is the hardware shop. Remember those shops that had just about everything? Forget about food but it just about has everything else. The next morning we drove out to the Pupu power station. The Hydro Walkway takes about an hour and a half through native bush and goes alongside a historic gold miner’s water-race. This was built in the early 1900’s to sluice gold from the river gravels below.

Water Race and Walkway

Water Race and Walkway

Later, in 1929, a powerhouse was built and this provided electric power to homes in the Golden Bay area. It apparently fell into disuse but in recent years has been taken over by the Pupu Hydro Society Inc. and now produces electric power once again.  We climbed up to the penstock, 107 metres or 354 feet above the car park from where the water flowed down to the powerhouse. We then followed the water race along to where it took the flow from the creek. Most sections of the track alongside the water race were quite wide but other sections, where it was hacked out of rocky banks, it became a boardwalk and sometimes very narrow. Here and there orchids of the Thelymitra species (T. pulchella I think) were in flower. Startling purple would be a good description of the colour of the flowers. We ended up at the Farewell Spit cafe and then wandered back along the coast calling into some of the settlements dotted on the way and finally staying the night at Takaka once more before returning home.

The Start of the Water Race

The Start of the Water Race

Rabbit Is with the Grandkids 

The traps needed their monthly servicing and it didn’t take long to talk Amelia and Reece to helping me. We drove through the pine plantations that are fertilised by the sewerage that is treated from Nelson and Richmond. I’ve often wondered if these trees have any of my DNA in them. Well, you never know, there could be a little bit. And that last word doesn’t rhyme with anything I’m thinking about either.

At first the children watched the re-baiting, along with the pine trees too, and then by the end of the run Reece was re-baiting the rat traps himself. Only one hedgehog was caught and when we walked out onto the beach, we saw terns flying above with each having a small fish in its beak so they must have a nesting spot nearby. Their eggs and young would be an easy meal for any hedgehog but not that one that was caught anyway.

I’ve always respected trees, given the odd one a pat and an encouraging word in passing but those trees on Rabbit Island now; who exactly is out there? How far does DNA go? Maybe there is a Treebeard of Lord of the Rings? Is Treebeard a pine tree or a native one? Are the American’s listening? The next time I service the traps out there I’ll make sure I go with someone.

Rainfall for December was 83mm with the previous December being 53mm. Rainfall for the year 2013 at our place was 1327mm and 2012 being 1039mm. Our yearly average was 1410mm so up and down a little for December and the year.

Another Year and Now it is 2014.

Fourteen years since the turn of the century and although the nineteen hundreds seem distant now it certainly doesn’t seem that long ago. Scary! But then, if the years pass that quickly, maybe there was plenty on?

The Fire Look Out

Lunch Break at the Tinsel Decorated Stop

Perched high up on the ridge that runs behind Richmond, sits the Fire Look Out. Mike usually starts ‘looking’ from Guy Fawkes night and right through the summer months until the fire danger for the many acres of pine plantations is over. He stays up there for about a month continuously then has a few days off while someone else relieves him. While up there, he runs a trapline along the top of the ridge and enjoys watching the wildlife that live in the surrounds. Except for the cats of course! People seem to dump unwanted cats in the Aniseed Valley or perhaps up one of the gullies that run up to the ridge from Richmond.

I went for a walk to the Look Out with Reece and Amelia and called on Mike. He explained to the children how he lined up any fire seem from his high perch and what each radio was for too.  He also told us; “I saw a stoat but was not able to shoot/trap it, unfortunately. The stoat was actually in pursuit of a rabbit that ran up past the Look Out and into the stock paddock in front – the grass was long enough for the stoat to lose sight of the rabbit.  But I watched as the rabbit did a big circle and ran back through the fence where it had come in and then rocketed down hill from whence it came. Meanwhile, the stoat had been side tracked by numerous fresh rabbit scent tracks all through the grass and finally came out at different spot.  At this point I had time for a shot with the .22 but missed.  Having just arrived back at the Look Out for the start of the 2013-14 season I was rapt to see my friendly weka out in the paddock collecting worms etc and rushing back into the gorse with said morsels obviously for a new brood, a good sign despite the predators being still around.”

Mt Arthur Walk

It was to be the annual pilgrimage to the summit but we ended up going downhill. Now that seems to be a bit twisted but that’s how it was. We had joined our walking group along with Richard, Reece and Amelia hoping for the clouds to lift and the freezing ‘breeze’ to die down. Alas, neither happened and after we had a morning tea break at the Mt Arthur Hut and climbed out onto the open tussock we soon realised that the weather was against us so we turned around, headed down to the Flora Hut and from there proceeded to the Gridiron. Still, it turned out pretty good at the end of the day as the children hadn’t been down that way before. Up top though, we heard the wilderness call of the kea and soon came upon a pair feeding on flax. I’m not sure if it was the nectar or the seeds but they gave us an opportunity for some photos anyway. On the way down to the Flora Hut, we spotted a number of riflemen and their young.  I like watching them run along upside down under a branch seeking insects and such.

The Three of Us

The campervan was loaded up and one afternoon we were off over the hill to spend the night at Port Tarakohe in the Golden Bay. Grandkids, Reece and Amelia were with me and rising early the next morning, after breakfast we were walking the track on the way to visit Whariwharangi Hut in the Abel Tasman National Park. It was good to see whau trees (Entelea arborescens) along the side of the track soon after the start. The wood of this tree is lighter than cork and the seed heads are quite prickly, somewhat like chestnut seeds. I gathered some seeds from plants nearby and now have several whau growing in sheltered spots up in Will’s Gully. Up over the saddle to the hut and then along the track to the beach. Just before coming out onto the beach, we disturbed a mother Californian quail and her brood of at least a dozen chicks. They scampered along looking like slightly overgrown bumble bees.

A creek seems to be able to keep children occupied for many hours no matter where. They ran along the edge

Under the Watchful Eye of the Seal

Under the Watchful Eye of the Seal

of the sandy banks trying to keep themselves upright when the sand gave way. Then there was the damming process at various spots. Later forts were built, maintained and lost against the incoming tide. In-between times it was “we didn’t bring our swimming togs” but I suggested so what? So it was off with the top layers and into the tide in underwear. A small seal seemed to be enjoying just relaxing nearby in the sea and soon it climbed out from the low surf and relaxed on the beach at the mouth of the creek.  The seal spent a lot of the time scratching various parts of its body and seemed quite undisturbed while the children


Undisturbed by the Activity

played in the creek close by. Underwear soon dried out in the sun and then we walked back to the hut. A weka came out and the children offered the remains of their lunch. At first crumbs were throw nearby but I suggested they hold these crumbs in their hand. Sure enough, it didn’t take the weka long to approach the proffered tit bits. At first the hands were held out hesitantly but after a few pecks both sides were happy. A German tourist approached with her camera and after taking several photos asked what was it. I had to say “a weka” several times, and at first I think she thought I was pulling her leg. Regardless, she was “enjoying your beautiful country” and she had some photos of a wild weka feeding out of a person’s hand to prove it. It’s just a pity most New Zealanders don’t seem to appreciate what we do have.

Feeding the Weka

Feeding the Weka

Will’s Gully Progress

Not a great deal of activity except for some spraying of weeds, tracking down vines growing on the more mature trees and checking traps. The scrubcutter got a little workout and I spent some time on service track maintenance. I was working at the

Lone Fern Corner

Lone Fern Corner

Lone Fern when a scrap of some sort appeared to be in one of the nearby trees low to the ground. Quite a din and I wondered if it might be a wild cat at first. Approaching the noise, suddenly three tuis flew off higher up the tree while another tui cowered on the ground. One of the three flew down and attacked the grounded one again but as I approached closer it finally flew off.  I wondered what caused the fracas; a stroppy ‘teenager’; poaching on the others titoki tree fruit?

The bright red flesh with a black seed berries, or seed capsules, of the Titoki fruit are falling to the ground now or more likely have been knocked to the ground by pigeons or tui. The bright red colour certainly stands out from the dead leaves and such on the forest floor. The trapping tally for January was one mouse, three rats and one possum. Not a lot and I’m sure we have them under reasonable control going by the untouched berries that lie under the trees.

I put together two conservation newsletters each month, one being for the Richmond Hills Groups and the other a Tasman/Nelson Regional Newsletter. I am thinking of combining them once more as it takes a little time to put them together.  Contributions from our area are welcome and if anyone would like to be added to the distributions lists, just let me know.

Rainfall for January at out place was 91mm which was a lot less than January 2013 at 173mm but our January average is 102mm.

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