Early Spring Walks

Takaka Hill Walk
Mid October we lead our walking group around the tracks on this farm walk at the top of the Takaka  Hill. It is open to the public and has a shorter loop walk of about two hours or one can walk the longer loop taking two and a half to three hours. This is all through a marble karst landscape with some interesting shapes and formations. The large native land snail Powelliphanta live here and we found a number of empty shells about 60mm to 70mm diameter, as we walked along the tracks. 

Overlooking the karst landscape out to Tasman Bay.

A lot of the marble in the area around Takaka Hill and is around 435 million years old which was formulated North of the equator before we left Gondwanaland. Animals called Crinoides are found in the marble also corals, worms, bones and shells. There are many different types of marble/limestone in the area, some formed when attached to Australia, some formed in the Takaka valley and altered by tectonic forces, earthquakes, glaciers and such. Different species of the large extinct Moa bird lived in the area over time too.  All gone now except for their skeletons that are sometimes found in the sinkholes and caves. 
Lodestone  and a climb to 1462 metres above sea level.   Just by the Flora Car Park, Kahurangi National Park, the track starts for the steepish climb up to Lodestone. About an hour later a rocky viewpoint is reached but then it’s a little downhill and a sidle before the main climb starts. There is one part that is very steep and the track sidles around some rocky bits. The track had recently been cleared, a bit too much I think as some native plants that had been cut should not have been. It also meant that there were not many trees to hang onto especially going back down over the steep parts. And it is steeper coming down that going up. I’m sure if you do the climb you will agree with me! 

Wind blown lichen.

We had lunch on the summit or just down a little to get out of the cold wind. Some native buttercup had started flowering and going up the ridge some of the trees were covered with white lichen with long strands of growth that seem to flow from the branches in the wind. 
Some of the group went down via Flora Hut but I prefer to come back down the same way. Not much birdlife except for a few bellbirds calling now and then and I did see a rifleman. I had stopped and approached a fallen log to look over and the bird just about flew into my face! He soon recovered (much sooner than I) and continued looking for insects under leaves and such.
It takes about two and a half hours walk up to the summit and one and three-quarter hours back down. Going down via the Flora Hut takes about two hours ten minutes. 
Wainui HutAbel Tasman National Park
We went there so we could walk back. Now that’s true but we had heard that there were three kaka’s (native bush parrots) in a cage by the hut, ready to be released soon. After parking the cars at the end of the Canaan road, we reached the hut after about a two hour walk. But the kaka in the cage were very quiet and we wondered if they were okay.  They seemed to be hiding and of the three, I only spotted two.

Native Clematis in flower.

Along the track on the way in, some native clematis  was in flower and at our stop for morning tea a hare’s form was found. The hare have from three to four leverets in each litter with each one having its own nest or form but this looked as if the leveret  was no more. The form was empty and there were bunches of fur scattered about from the form,  with patches of blood on several bunches of fur. The form itself was nicely made from a tuft of grass and it looked cosy but in choosing a spot right on an open saddle wasn’t the best place. 

Lunch at the Wainui Hut.

We had lunch by the Wainui Hut, one of the traditional types, with a warning notice inside not to drink the water in the creek due to a recent 1080 drop. We had seen some of these poison pellets by the track on the way down too. I wondered why the warning sign, if, as they say, the poison is safe? There is something funny about this. 
Windy Point 
This walk is along the oldest railway in New Zealand, the Dun Mountain Railway. Or the first anyway. Nothing much left of it now but if one is aware, some old railway sleepers can still be seen and then there are the ‘houses’ along the way. Nothing left of these either except for some scattered bricks. These houses were staging posts for the horse drawn wagons along the railway. 

The predator fence at the Brook Sanctuary.

We left the Brook motor camp soon after 8am and walked up a link track to the old railway line and then onwards to Third House for morning tea. We had friend Grace along to give us an update on progress and such of the new predator fence in the Brook Sanctuary. Part of the fence runs parallel to the old railway and is to keep any pests out of the enclosed area which is a 715 hectare enclosed “mainland island’. Once all the pests are removed they will gradually reintroduce some of our rare and endangered birdlife and other native animals like the tuatara and other species of lizards.  The birds will still be able to fly over the fence but at least life should be secure for them on the inside.  What sort of pest? Just about anything with four legs; the likes of stoats, weasels, cats, hedgehogs, rats, possums and anything else with four legs.

At the Fourth House site a live, large native meat eating snail (Powelliphanta species) found nearby the remains of maybe a fireplace. Some bricks anyway. We passed more remains, this an old lime kiln. Soon after we were out walking over the mineral belt with its stunted vegetation and scattered serpentine and then to Windy Point. It nearly is always windy here too so we walked further along towards Coppermine Saddle to have our lunch and also to keep a lookout for the rare myosotis (forget me-not) plants that grow here. I was hoping to find some in flower but it appeared that their flowering was over. 

Large native snail at Fourth House.

Copper was mined around here also chromite, slate and limestone. The horses pulled the wagons up and the ore and such went downhill via gravity to the Nelson port. All long ago. 
Will’s Gully
The total number of plants planted this winter is at least 691. Not counted were quite a number of grasses, tussocks and such. We have had problems with some person pulling out plants and tossing them aside much to our frustration! I guess we would have lost around 15 to 20 plants this way. The odd sign has been interfered with and one lost to. However, a camera was set up and the culprit caught on camera. He has since been spoken to by the police so hopefully, this silly behaviour will stop. There has been weeding around the plants and some spraying to control the weeds. The number of pests caught in traps has been very low so maybe we have the pests under control? It was disturbing to see a young kitten wandering about though. Cats are bad news for the birdlife, made worse by people dumping their unwanted cats up in the Richmond Hills. Along the tracks, a number of improvements have been made and one can get an idea of this work by visiting the group’s Facebook page – Wills Gully Conservation Group, Richmond. 
October rainfall was 93mm (average for October being 138mm); November 26.5mm 9average 94mm) and nothing to speak so far for December! 

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