October 2013

Will’s Gully Progress: One late afternoon I was up the gully having a quick check on some traps and cutting some freshly growing Banana Passion and Old Man’s Beard vines. As it was getting darker I thought I’d wait a little and then see how the glow worms  were fairing. Wandering through the bush a movement on a branch caught my eye. It was a Morepork (native owl) stretching its wings. I took some photos but nothing came out very well without using the flash so reluctantly I tried it. It didn’t seem to bother the bird at all and its large eyes reflected the  light which shone when the photo was taken. Apparently their eyes are made quite differently to day light foraging birds, and any unabsorbed light is reflected back through the eye assisting their night time vision which with the aid of their very sensitive hearing, greatly enhances their hunting. It flew away without a sound as its flight feathers have downy, trailing edges which cause no resonance; eery all the same. I did find a number of glow worms feebly shinning so they seem to be recovering after the big floods. We are still having problems with people who don’t have their dogs on leads when walking up the gully so the resident Weka’s have disappeared on the right bank where the public tracks are. Any reduction of the weka population will please some but heavens above, if Americans have to put up with bears, mountain lions, snakes and wolfs, just what’s the problem with some cheeky weka?

The Lone Fern Corner planting 2013. Kingfisher nesting box on the tree to the left

Lone Fern Corner Planting

All the planting is over now with the total of 647 being planted this season and with the regular rainfall we have had over the Spring, it seems that most are growing really well. The same could be said for the weeds too so from now on there will be some spraying to keep them under some control. The cabbage trees are producing many flowers and the old saying is that if so we are in for a dry summer. October’s trapping saw only 9 mice and one rat caught for the month. Catches rose from March but started falling from September. A number of plant species are now flowering including the native flax. I watched a bellbird collecting nectar from a clump of flax, with its forehead covered in yellow pollen. It suddenly flew low into a nearby bush and then two tui arrived. Quite bossy they are but only trying to protect “their” nectar. On one of the service tracks the resident Californian quail have nearly wrecked a section of the track that lies towards the sun with their little dust bowls. I just step over them. A little further on a group of fantails are catching insects. It is a family of five with the two adults feeding the younger ones. The youngsters seem to be doing quite well for themselves but readily take any insect that one of the adults offer. I was intrigued to see that two of the younger fantails were of the black variety while the rest of the group were pied fantails. I’ve noticed on other occasions that the pied will chase the black away. Maybe something happened during one dark night?

Motueka Sandpit Visit Shirl and I had a walk along the Mot Spit mid October to see if we could see any of the newly arrived godwits. It seems as if the tide was just too low as we only saw about 6 godwits but we did see banded dotterels and a number of other species. Right near the end there are clumps and patches of lupins which surprisingly seems to be enough cover and food for rabbits and, unfortunately we saw cat footprints also. No doubt these cats would feed on the rabbits but going by the odd clumps of feathers, the sea birds also formed part of their diet. Especially when the birds are nesting. It wouldn’t take much to clean those cats out and the rabbits too but with todays bureaucracy and the PC brigade, I’m afraid the birds will continue to suffer.

Mags - Nelson Lakes

Mags – Nelson Lakes

Mt Robert & Bushline Hut

St Arnaud & Lake Rotoiti

St Arnaud & Lake Rotoiti

We were keen to show Mags, visiting from Ireland, more of our country and what better place to go and show off than Lake Rotoiti and St Arnaud? To climb Mt Robert is the best way to look down on both of these places at once so off we went. Mt Robert is a bit of a hill to us but to Mags, it’s a mountain especially at 1421 metres above sea level which when one says it is 4662 feet above sea level, it seems a lot higher.  We went up the Pinchgut Track, which sounded ominous to Mags, but it wasn’t too long before we emerged above the bushline to great views and a little way along to inspected the Relax Shelter. Up to the summit with a number of photos including her little pet teddy bear thing (??) Oh, well, everyone has to be somewhere.  The early yellow flowering buttercup appeared here and there amongst the tussock. We had lunch at the Bushline Hut and then wandered back along the tops and down, down to the car park.

An Early Flowering Mountain Buttercup

An Early Flowering Mountain Buttercup

Recent Avian Activities: Now and then during these spring months we can hear a neighbour’s children calling a mother duck and her young. The mallard duck started off with quite a number of ducklings and then she had 6. Then another neighbour saw a cat with one in her jaws so that left 5. It will truly be a wonder of nature if any of the duck’s brood survive to adulthood around here. A neighbour not far away went outside for some fresh air before going to bed a couple of weeks ago and he heard a kea calling up high. A pair of Kea have been seen quite regularly from the Fire Lookout on Richmond Hill but they come and go. At another residence in Richmond a couple having breakfast were surprised to see from their window, a falcon eating a feral pigeon. Not too far away, a friend had been annoyed by these pigeons who took up residence in some nearby palm trees. No doubt he will be pleased if the falcon returns regularly for its breakfast. While visiting Kina Beach a couple of friends kept hearing a telephone ringing. Upon further investigation they discovered that it was a Tui calling. The Bellbird is better known as a mimic but it seems that the tui is not far behind and keeping up with modern technology. A song thrush seems enjoy bathing in our birdbath even though it splashes most of the water out while doing so. We have been watching it feed its young with worms and snails and we hope it can keep clear of the local cats. A couple of small girls were feeding the mallard ducks in the pond at the Washboure Gardens recently. A platform rest area has been built for the ducks and an adult duck was resting on this while her young were busily picking up the pieces of bread thrown to them by the girls. One piece of bread hit the platform and then rolled onto the water. The mother duck stretched her neck towards this piece of bread. Suddenly out of the water rose a large eel which opened its mouth, seized the duck and swallowed it whole. Understandably the little girls were shocked  and no doubt the eel looked a lot larger through their eyes too. A good lesson in nature but let’s hope they don’t have too many nightmares over this and are still able to enjoy the gardens and the remaining wildlife.

October rainfall was 93mm with our monthly average being 154mm so a little bit less than average.

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