Every month the Island Ranger, Jo Skyrme, provides an update on what has been happening on the island, below is the current report.

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Matakohe-Limestone Island Ranger's Report - June 2022

Tēnā koutou. Like the rest of the country, the motu is taking a battering from the NW at the moment. Despite the weather, I picked up a keen group of ladies this morning who are tramping their way around the Island while I sit inside with a hot cuppa and rack my brains as to what I’ve been up to this last month!!??

Visitors, volunteers, and other comings and goings

Group enquiries are beginning to increase again, which is great

We had a group from Blomfield Special school visit on 7 May. Due to the unpredictable weather, I dropped the group off at the floating pontoon on the South Side of the Island, close to the Visitors’ Shelter where they could be out of the weather in case of showers. The two group leaders had visited the Island before and, after a talk from me, we made plans to meet at 1:30 near the all-tide boat berth. Once again, I was reminded how important it is to give clear instructions, even if people are familiar with the Island. A very muddy group of kids and teachers turned up at the boat bay and I established that they had gone up the Hill track, not the recommended all-weather track. The Hill track is not in good shape currently, made even worse by me taking the tractor over last month after rain to deal with the deceased sheep!

Covid managed to make its way to Matakohe, forcing me to postpone our Monthly volunteer day by a week. A small group of eight joined me on 8 June, with most of the day spent filling bait stations on the grassy North face of the Island as part of our recent "mouse bust". After lunch some of the group made their way to the Northern quarry where they cut and pasted Chinese privet. There are plenty of seedlings and saplings in this area due to a few out-of-reach trees growing from the quarry face above. The rest of the group spent the remaining hour digging out the drain which collects water from behind the Ranger's cottage.

Kerry, from Hubands Whangarei, came to the Island last week to measure the cabin up for a heat pump. The solar system installed in 2019 sponsored by Hubands and Northpower is fantastic, with the Ranger’s cottage running a full spec of all things electrical including a dehumidifier, deep freeze, electric blankets, vacuum, microwave, jug, toaster etc…Kerry thinks the system will easily run a small heat pump as well. This will be a fantastic improvement to the Ranger’s Cottage as the old diesel heater is not only expensive and environmentally unfriendly, it is also quite unreliable!

Teacher, Jan Thomas, and her class from Horahora Primary School came over as part of the Adopt-a-Spot programme. Jan has recently changed classes and her new class is made up of 5,6, and 7-year- olds, quite a bit younger than the previous groups. Jan and her classes helped me to remove weeds growing from cracks in the Old Manager's House, along with grubbing the road that leads up to the Ranger's Cottage.

Dwane, Pam, and Chris from Whangarei District Council hitched a ride over with the trampers to assess the suggested location for a new composting toilet and to look at some of the walking tracks. Chris got longer than he bargained for on Matakohe when we discovered the barge was on the hard due to a very low tide. Chris was very understanding and we eventually got him back to the mainland, albeit an hour later than he had originally planned.

A ladies’ tramping group visited Matakohe on Monday this week. I had discussed the potential for bad weather with the group leader, Liz, in the morning and a decision was made to proceed with the trip anyway. The ladies based themselves at the Visitors’ Shelter on the south side of the Island, which is nicely sheltered in a north-north-west wind. Conditions in the channel were relatively calm when I picked the group up from the Onerahi pontoon, although, the same can't be said for dropping them off in the afternoon. Wind against tide made for some decent chop in the channel and I said goodbye to 14 very soggy, but good-spirited, trampers who vowed to return in the summer – good call! A highlight for me, and I am sure for some of the group, was seeing a NZ fur seal pup swimming around the southern pontoon when they were boarding the barge to head home.

Flora and Fauna

It's that time of year where the kiwi go nuts, calling up a storm and quite often waking us up! More than once we have had a kiwi run across the stacks of corrugated iron stored under the house, giving me a hang of a fright in the middle of the night

FOMLI is in the initial stages of discussing the potential release of wētāpunga or giant wētā on to Matakohe. We have spoken with Te Parawhau representative, Fred Tito, and held a skype meeting with DOC, with both parties showing initial support for the idea. We are hoping to bring species specialist, Chris Green to Matakohe in the next few months to assess the habitat and overall viability of the translocation if it were to go ahead.

The vegetation on Matakohe is looking incredibly lush at the moment, with plenty of new growth thanks to a relatively wet summer and continued rain ever since. I've come across four large kohekohe trees this week with quirky sprays of white perfumed flowers coming straight out of the trunk and branches – as they do. Kohekohe is a good indicator species for possums and rats. If you have kohekohe that is managing to retain their flowers then your possum control is most likely working, likewise, if seedlings are appearing beneath your tree, then your rat control is probably working.

Pest Control

In the last month, I have caught 2 rats, both on Knight Island. Extra frustratingly, I discovered that we had had another two double-set DOC200 traps including boxes stolen - one from the Matakohe sandspit, and one from Motutaua. Altogether that's 14 singular traps and 5 boxes we have lost to theft since I became Ranger. The accumulated cost of replacing the traps alone is around $616.00. We are very grateful to Tiakina Whangarei, who, for the second year in a row, has allocated us funding to spend on pest control – of course, most of our allocated funding this year went on replacing stolen traps. Tiakina also helped us out earlier in the year by replacing two double-set DOC 200s with boxes that were stolen from our volunteer buffer trapper at Onemama and Tapu Point. Backyard Kiwi has also been very generous in the past, gifting us several Fenn traps and covers. I wish we didn't have to worry about things such as theft, but we appreciate the support of the wider conservation community when it does happen. Tiakina Whangārei is a great initiative, check them out online if you are interested in knowing more about their mahi or are keen to get involved with their community trapping iniatives: https://tiakinawhangarei.co.nz/

With the help of volunteers Brian Maclean, Jonny Beech and our regular group of volleys, another Island-wide "mouse bust" has recently been completed. I was struck down with Covid mid-way through getting the vegetated lines done so I need to say a huge thanks to both Brian and Jonny who kayaked over in their own time and got on with the job for me – thanks guys!

This year's Northland Pest Control Forum was successfully held online via a zoom hui aka "zui". I was so impressed with the whole thing, particularly the fact that I could attend from the comfort and warmth of my couch while sick at home on a cold wet day. Well done and thanks to all those involved in making it such a great success.

Pod, pods, and more pods. Mothplant pods are still keeping me busy. It is getting to the time of year when the pods begin to break open and release their fluffy white seeds. Quite often I can follow a trail of fluff to the mother plant where I can pick any unburst and half burst pods before they too disperse and germinate.

Other News

Dwane, Pam, and I have been brainstorming ways to revitalise the Matakohe Adopt-a-Spot programme (AAS). In a nutshell, AAS is where willing volunteers are allocated an area on the motu to look after and keep free of weeds. We see transport to Matakohe as one of the main barriers to the success of this programme. To try and overcome this, we have allocated four Sundays over the next year for AAS meets, with transport provided by the Island Ranger/barge. We hope that pre-planning group meets will increase attendance by allowing people to schedule the dates in their calendar well in advance, and increase the social side of things. All going well, quarterly Adopt-a-Spot meets will become a yearly thing. If you have previously been involved in AAS and would like to re-register your interest, or, if it sounds like something you might be interested in, please send me an email and I will add you to our AAS mailing list Limestonerangers@gmail.com. The dates we have planned for upcoming AAS meets are 14 August and 13 November 2022, 12 February and 14 May 2023

Future events

First AAS group meet: Sunday, 14 August 2022 (please register your interest with Jo)

Volunteer Day will be held on 06 July


Jo and Darin