Every month the islandranger, Darren Gash, provides an update on what has been happening on the island, below is the current report.

If you would like to get the Ranger Report automatically emailed to you every month, just let us know.

Matakohe-Limestone Island Rangers' Report - August 2019

Another winter month has quickly gone by, more trees are beginning to flower including the Kowhai which has been attracting a great number of tui to the island, it certainly is a delight to hear them on a ‘sunny’ afternoon. Although it has been a little bit gusty and a little bit colder there certainly has been a lot going on the island to keep me a bit busy.

Visitors and Volunteers

  • Back in the middle of July I had my very first school (holiday) group come over to the island for a tour. 65 kids and adults from Kohatu Development met me at Onerahi on Thursday the 18th - the only calm and sunny day in July. After three boatloads we were ready to start our tour. Although they did not get much of a chance to hear about the cement works ruins due to time limitations, lots of the kids were very interested to hear about the weta and the story of kiwi and asked lots of good questions about everything on the island.
  • On 21 July FOMLI held an event on the island to celebrate being the recipient of the Northland Regional Council Award for ‘Environmental Action in the Community’. The event was attended by Committee members, regular volunteers and also ex-Ranger, Bernie. The celebration started off with a good old fashioned working bee in the morning with people helping out with all sorts of projects on the island which included tough volunteers digging and picking away at rocks to level out the ramp to make it easier to bring the ‘Petrel Tua Toru’ boat in and out of the water for its monthly services. The more perceptive volunteers hiked over to the Southern side of the island and performed a pest plant survey in the forested areas, marking a lot of the weeds they found with marking tape so they would be easier to find for the volunteers who would control them on the next volunteer Wednesday. Meanwhile, the more stylish volunteers went around trimming back some of the flax leaves that were getting entangled with the slasher whenever the grass mowing was being undertaken.
  • Then during the afternoon, the real celebration was underway with FOMLI providing a lunch for everyone at the Visitors' Shelter, but before the eating commenced Pam spoke about the Award and thanked all the volunteers for their continued assistance on the island. It was also announced that FOMLI would be nominating a volunteer of the year who would be given the trophy presented to it at the Awards ceremony to display in their own home for a year and would also have his/her name engraved on the trophy. The volunteer nominated to receive the award this year was Dave Webster. Dave has been attending many of the volunteer days, rain or shine, and has also come over on many occasions to mow the ridgeline and the mouse bust tracks on the northern face of the island. Thank you so much for all your hard work Dave, we are truly lucky to have your help on the island. Committee member Theda then presented the trophy to Dave.
  • As the day was ending Bernie managed to find two Suter’s skinks hiding away under some driftwood near the Visitors' Shelter. Suter’s skink are a very unique species in New Zealand as they are the only native skink to lay eggs, with most other skinks and geckos giving birth to live young. Suters skink were translocated in between 2012-2014 so it is a great sign to see these guys are still kicking.
  • Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had two new practicum students from NorthTec - Suzette and Te Arai - come over to the island weekly helping me with a variety of tasks including beach clean-ups, trapping, assisting with boat services, interpreting tracking cards and monitoring the oi (grey faced petrels): there certainly is no shortage of work for them to assist with on the island.
  • Ex-ranger Emma and FOMLI member Kelsie also came over to the island during early August to remove a portion of the old fencing batons that has been lying around near the six-pack quarry. After they were loaded off the barge Emma piled them into the back of her van and took them back to her house where she will reuse them as timber for her deck.
  • The first Wednesday of August turned out to be a fantastic day for the monthly volunteers. Our team set out to tackle the pest plants that were found by the group mentioned earlier. We hit some large Taiwanese cherry trees and woolly nightshades and also found smaller Chinese and common privet, mothplant, Mexican devil and blackberry. After lunch some of the team continued with the pest plant control while others cleared the vegetation that was blocking some of the walking tracks and cleared leaves and debris out of the drains near the ranger station.
  • Dai Morgan and his Diploma students from Northtec hitched a ride on the same boatload over with the volunteers and went about the island using their TR4s to practice their telemetry skills on our two resident kiwI.

Flora and Fauna

  • Some of our native trees here are beginning to flower, including the bright and beautiful Kowhai which is in turn attracting more tui to the island. This is wonderful for the most part but the tuis are, unfortunately, bringing a pest plant with them, the dreaded Taiwanese Cherry tree, and little seedlings are beginning to pop up all over the island. These pest plants may look nice but they spread very quickly. Take a walk or drive around Whangarei and you will see these plants all over the sides of the roads.
  • In the past couple of weeks there have been four sightings of seals on the island with one of them being a small juvenile. It has certainly been a unique sight to see them basking in the sun they appear to prefer lying on the cement floor just above the pontoon.
  • The single pair of Oi (Grey faced petrels) are still looking after their little egg. Hopefully in the coming months we will be able to report some news of a hatchling.

Kiwi

  • And now for the part we have all been waiting for, I’m sure you must all be thinking “but Darren what about the kiwi, we haven’t heard anything about them in months”..…..’have no fear, they are still doing well. So far Glen and Sir Ed are not sitting on any eggs but, hopefully, will be in the very near future.
  • I also had the chance to do a bit of kiwi work with Todd Hamilton: it was really interesting hearing the history of backyard kiwi and how the island came to be a kiwi crèche. We also went out to a small wetland/pine forest near Parua Bay where we tracked and found the target kiwi in the middle of a bog. After approaching the nest carefully Todd managed the catch with precise skill and we then carried out the change of transmitter band.
  • This was followed by an attempt to locate another kiwi at McLeod Bay, however it proved it was going to be too difficult to catch on that day. So, a big thank you to Todd for showing me the ropes and putting up with me: I look forward to working with you in the future.

Traps

  • With our trapping we have had a reduction in the number of rats being caught on the buffer zone with only one catch this month, but we have caught 10 mice, both on the island and around the buffer zone.
  • During mid to late July I had placed tracking cards in the 48 tracking tunnels on the island: fortunately there had been no sign of rats or stoats, however the tracking rate of mice was at the same percentage as when it was done back in April, at a staggering 91% tracking rate, but hopefully with the re-use of poison baits we should be able to put a dent in that number.
  • We have changed our bait blocks to Diphacinone (Ditrac blocks) and they are now placed around the island perimeter and ridgeline bait-stations. With these new poison baits being placed on the island we should, hopefully, be able to reduce the high number of mice we have currently been tracking.

Upcoming events

A friendly reminder that our next volunteer Wednesday will be on the 4th of September so if you’ve been needing to get outdoors after hibernating during the winter then come along, As usual we meet at the Onerahi jetty at 9am for pickup.

 

Darren