Spring is Nearly Here

There have been some heavy falls of snow in the mountains this winter, although later rain and sunshine has had a lot of the snow disappearing, it wasn’t long before there was another fall to keep those mountains white. There is still much snow about but the weeping willow’s are greening, freesias are throwing their lovely scent in the air and Shirl’s Chatham Island lily has a number of flower buds forming. The starlings have been hanging around the nesting box for much of winter but soon they will get serious and try for another brood once again.

Goings On Up Will’s Gully – in the Richmond Hills
We are going great guns – but not for the pest weeds although they sometimes seem as if they are just waiting over on the neighbour’s side of the boundary fence to invade again. They have their spies that pop up behind the lines in the form of seedlings, so one has to be on guard all the time.

Before we started - looking up towards Grassy Saddle (Will's Gully).

Before we started – looking up towards Grassy Saddle (Will’s Gully).

Work has been progressing extremely well in the newly cleared area heading up towards Grassy Saddle. All the plants on hand have been planted. The council has supplied the timber for the corners along the new track and these have been completed. The track itself needs more work on the surface such as widening and evening up the slopes here and there though. Grandson Reece helped on a couple of days too, along with friends Kevin and Mike, which was good.

The new area looking towards Grassy Saddle (Will's Gully).

The new area looking towards Grassy Saddle (Will’s Gully).


While clearing the weeds and forming the new track we found some of the old fence posts that formed the sheep yards nearby an old hawthorn tree. I’ve been told that the yards were used for docking and tailing of lambs many years ago and that the hawthorn was a large tree which provided a shady spot to have lunch during the docking. After well over one hundred years, the tree was blown over during a storm in 2013.

Another Guided Walk

We guided another tramping group through the gully during July. One lady was 86 years old and she had helped with some of the planting in 2010 although she didn’t recognise the area as the trees have grown so much. After the walk along the Top Track, we went over into Jimmy Lee Creek and headed up into Upper Jimmy Lee Creek. This track is a track and it is certainly not a foot path, but most of the group managed quite well, including the 86 year old. We pointed out some of the large matai trees that grew nearby and walked the ridge that grew many young matai, which is quite a feature of the walk.


St Barnabas tour 2.

St Barnabas tour 2.

The Californian quail seem to have disappeared and it is thought the reason might be the weka. When walking over Grassy Saddle to Wills gully, a friend heard two adult quail making quite a racket and then as he watched, a weka emerged from some long grass with a quail chick in its beak, reinforcing this thought. Usually, when working up there I would often hear the quail calling nearby. I haven’t noticed any quail or heard them clucking or call for a few months lately. I just hope they have moved elsewhere and will be back soon. Because of our efforts with the trapping of pests, we get some species back but other disappear?

I’ve have spotted the odd kingfisher resting on the power lines going up to the fire lookout. No doubt they are sorting out their nesting spots for the coming Spring. I’d like to tell them that the kingfisher nesting box is vacant down at the Lone Fern Corner.

It was good to hear a native falcon calling on occasions and once while working on the new track, we watched one attack and chase off a harrier hawk. The harrier didn’t seem too perturbed, it just took evasive action and then continued on its gliding patrol once clear of the falcon.

Rabbit Island Activities

Besides working in Wills Gully in the Richmond Hills, we also assist with trapping at Rabbit and Rough Islands. There are about ten islands in the Waimea Inlet and Rabbit and Rough Islands form a barrier to the inlet. There are a number of rivers and streams running into the inlet too with the Waimea River being the largest. At least fifty species of birds live in the area with many migrating from Alaska and Asia. Visitors include the Eastern bar-tailed goodwill and the South Island oystercatcher. It is the oystercatchers that we are mainly trying to protect.

Resting Variable Oystercatchers at Rabbit Island.

Resting Variable Oystercatchers at Rabbit Island.

We have four traplines at various places on the islands which we hope will help protect any nesting seabirds. There are two traplines at each end of Rabbit Island and two on Rough Island making in all about 70 traps of various types laid out. Recently the council forestry managers (Olsen’s) supplied us with 12 new DOC200 traps plus the material to build ten tunnels. I’ve now made them and they have been taken out and set up. The forestry company has encouraged us to extend the Rabbit Island traplines and although not finished, progress has been made. We plan to have this done before the nesting season starts. We will use the two new left over traps as replacements on a couple of our old tunnels. A chap gave me some old dilapidated DOC150 traps and tunnels so I have been knocking the old tunnels apart and cleaning and repainting the old traps. From the old material, I am making up 12 traps and tunnels this month and intend to have them all complete and out in the field before the bird’s start nesting.

We have a team of around six to seven people who help out with the traplines and since we started in 2011, we have caught well over 1000 pests so far. These pests prey on the nesting seabirds and their young and even with this number caught, we still see pest animal footprints in the sand by the seashore.

Since late last year we have had an explosion of wild pigs! From what we have heard, these have been dumped probably by some pig hunters, but if they thought they would be providing some fresh wild pork, they had better think again. Apparently the pigs are feeding on the bio-waste from the sewerage plant that is spread around the pines in the forest after treatment. The pines grow well, maybe to just get away from the strongish smell? It’s not that bad and it’s all controlled of course but the pigs don’t know that and the pig hunters employed to get rid of them say that the meat really stinks. The pigs walk out on the beach and have been photographed during daylight hours and once the nesting season starts, they will certainly do damage to the nesting birds and their eggs. So far the catch is about hundred and ten pigs.

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