March 2020

Will Reports: With the country in partial ‘lockdown’, we have to stay at home so nothing from us up the gully the last week of this March and maybe all of April too? However, I’m sure all the plants/trees are doing something, like growing. The rats, mustelids and possums will be clapping their front paws with glee at the success of the human virus though. Just ignore them. We’ll be back!

Not good was dogs ‘under control’ as per the TDC by-law, that killed some of our neighbour’s sheep. The majority of people’s dogs are running free along the tracks. Great fun for the dogs but not good for the wildlife … or the sheep.

Worked on the donated 10 rat tunnels via TDC/TeT, to upgrade to our standard and then Bruce set them out around Grassy Saddle and were in action straight away.

The damaged sign nearby the Fossil Steps was taken down and when the virus scare has subsided we will replace with another type. Peter Wilks (neighbour) has been wandering around his block and the gully, making the pest weeds wither as he passes by. Ross Cullen has been doing the same in the gully so the pest vines will be looking a bit sick, ‘vigilante style’. Thanks Peter and Ross.

I can’t help gathering local native seeds when passing out wandering around and the ten or so species of seeds collected have been sown in trays. Mostly undergrowth or second growth species, hopefully to join the other potted native forest types coming along nicely under one of my fruit trees at home.

Kevin Piper Reports: Like Will, I am spending lockdown time trying to grow natives to be planted up the gully. Peg and I attended the excellent workshop given by Robert Fryer at the end of February about collection and propagation of native plant seeds. So I now have about 25 packets with collected seeds “false wintering” for six weeks in our ‘fridge before I plant them in my new plant-raising shed.

I am trying to get interesting and colourful native plants to grow in niches on the hill. At the moment I have a tray of Bulbinella (Maori onion), red-leaved Haloragus, varieties of tussock, some Pachystegia (Marlborough Rock Daisy), Epilobium (Willow weed) and a few other assorted species.

I have also managed to strike more Nikau palms than we can use. These are now about 100 mm high, and will need careful, damp, attention to grow them on, but if any others in the local conservation game would like to have some for their estate we could perhaps talk about ‘swaps’ with species we need – Black beech, Totara, small-leafed Coprosma, Lacebark, etc.

I have also collected half a jar of seeds from the native Hibiscus (Hibiscus trionum) which we will plant up the gully. The seeds are about 1 mm diameter and I am going to send them to Will to count by about Day 17 of the Lockdown!

Bruce Harvey Reports: Hi Will, Grassy Saddle line has produced 2 mice and 1 rat. Amazing numbers of walkers and runners at present. Keep safe and well, Cheers Bruce

Check out the photo. This one was really friendly.

Bryan Riley Reports: Hi Will, Not a thing in the traps this month! Thank you for checking out the stoat trap while I was away. Quite a lot of bird activity up the gully with a lot of fantails fluttering about! A sign winter is not far away. Most of the tree plantings are looking a lot better than this time last year. Peter’s Manuka plantings look good particularly in the more sheltered heavier ground.

Alastair Mackintosh Reports: Have noticed increased activity with mice in the cooler weather. Three this month plus one rat and two hedgehogs. Apart from that a youngish weka that I caught twice on two consecutive days. Did not seem at all bothered by it’s short period of confinement returning to normal activities within seconds of release. Quail still about and a few bell birds feeding on my plums. Fantails quite common as are tuis.

Just a little something that does not really concern trapping locally, but may be of some interest never the less. One of our hunting party on a recent trip, set a few traps in some willow trees near the hut. The first night a possum was caught and having an excellent skin, he decided to skin it rather than pluck it for the fur. In the meantime he placed it in an open sack under the hut. The next morning the possum was found to be partially plucked and the skin ruined. This he blamed it on another possum, as apparently rival males will do this at times.

Later the same day it was noticed the sack was moving and a ferret exited a hole it had made in the bottom. A trap was set, and less than an hour later the ferret was caught. Apart from that, we got a couple of deer for meat, so the trip was not an entire disaster. Hope all are well, as we are here. Cheers, Alastair.

Peter Wilks Reports: Last month I cut/poisoned a few vines I found near Pumpkin Patch and just off the main track by the bird sign. I spotted them while walking up the track to our place. Still have to get those barbery’s when we are allowed to be set loose again.

Mike Oliver Reports: The Gully catches: 9 rats and two possums. Mike attended the traps about twice a week (before the lockdown) resulting in the increase with his rat catches.

Catches at the Fire Lookout: 4 mice and 2 rats (These are not included with the gully catches)

March 2020 Gully Catches: 5 mice, 11 rats, 3 hedgehogs, 2 possums.

Wouldn’t it be good to alter this virus thing to infect all those pests? Then we could be pest free by 2025! A lot better than spreading all that poison around. Then wouldn’t have these critters hanging around my computer!

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