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 - August 2021

Kia ora koutou! I have been tossing up whether to write an August report as I feel I covered most of our news in the July edition with it being so late. Anyway, a rainy day on the Island has encouraged me to sit down with a cuppa and put words to screen.

Darin and I are back on the motu after attempting to have a holiday in Queenstown. As you can probably guess, we were cut short due to the most recent lockdown restrictions but managed to organise an early flight home within the 48-hour period. We are now back in isolated isolation, and I must say that it feels kind of nice.                                 

Visitors, volunteers, and other comings and goings

Our two new practicum students, Samantha (Sam) and Geraldine (Geri),from NorthTec, started with me on  12 August. They will be joining me every Thursday until the end of semester two. Their practicum paper requires them to undertake a project during their time here and my plan is to get them to help me with the Island’s lizard monitoring. We will be looking to reinstall several pitfall traps around Shipwreck Bay that have been washed away in previous storms, as well as replacing the Artificial Cover Objects (ACOs) that have mostly disintegrated in the Forest and Pacific Gecko release sites. I am also considering designs for a trample-proof ground based ACO that we can install in the cement works ruins where the common geckos were released. It’s important we get the new ACO’s in place asap so the animals have time to get used to them and, hopefully, start using them come summer. All going well, Sam and Geri will also be able to give me a hand with some of the actual monitoring before they finish up. Phoebe, our practicum student from last year, has agreed to undertake the lizard monitoring as part of her third-year project, so she will be able to pick up where Sam and Geri left off in terms of monitoring and reporting etc.

Sadly, one of our long-standing volunteers, Vern, passed away this month. Vern gave a lot of his time to the Island and regularly attended the Island’s monthly volunteer days. I would like to acknowledge Verns’ contribution, his hard work during my time on the Island and before. He will be missed. Kia ora to Kaumātua Fred Tito for taking the time to come over to the Island and offer a blessing.

Flora and Fauna

The kowhi, clematis, and karo are out in full force and the tui are off the charts! I counted 10 tui in the karo tree outside our cottage yesterday morning – quite incredible. As we all know, tui like to make their presence known and it is certainly the most birdsong I have heard during my time on the motu. They are keeping us entertained from our deck with their aerial acrobatics and courting antics.

Our diligent petrel parents in burrow 50 appear to be a good job of keeping their precious egg nice and toasty. I also spoke with Cathy Mitchell regarding the bird that continues to visit burrow 65 and looks to be building some sort of haphazard nest. Cathy said that although it is too late in the season for egg laying, the nesting material and return visits do bode well for next year! The last time I checked, burrow 48 also appeared to have quite a lot of new nesting material and a feather…my hopes are officially raised. Maybe 2022 will be the year of the petrel!?

Sir Ed must have gotten wind of my last report as it appears that no more than a few days after I said he wasn’t showing signs of nesting, he went into full incubation mode…either that or he is complying with the Government's Covid19 restrictions. Nevertheless, like many of my friends after the 2020 lockdown, Sir Ed is now expecting a Covid baby/chick (maybe chicks). All going well, he should be due towards the end of September/early October.

While talking to ex Ranger and lizard expert Ben Barr about revamping the Island’s lizard monitoring programme, he informed me that the gecko featured in last month’s report was a forest gecko, not a Pacific gecko as stated – I am sure some of you had probably figured that out. I assumed it was a Pacific gecko because it was found just North of the Pacific gecko release site. This is great news as it means that the forest gecko have not only survived, but they have dispersed a good couple of 10 m

Pest Control

I decided to give Paul a break and make my way around the traps before we went away on holiday as I find this is a good way to keep an eye on things, forcing me to circumnavigate the island and then some. I caught one small Norway rat on Knight Island.

Unfortunately, I have had reports and seen evidence of a dog being brought onto the Island in recent weeks. This seems to be a recurring theme during level 4 lockdowns, with a suspected dog breach in 2020 and the death of our resident kiwi, Glen. Dogs are the biggest threat to kiwi in the wild and pose a huge risk to the viability of the Island creche if set free on the island. Please, if you see anything suspicious, don’t hesitate to give me a call on 022 428 7845.

Our automatic lure dispensers have arrived from ZIP and I am looking forward to getting them set up in conjunction with our new trail cams. I am planning to head out in the field with the Predator Free Whangarei Heads team as they will be deploying a bunch of dispensers and trail cams over the next little while and I am interested in observing their strategy…hopefully Covid will allow for this.

Other News

I’ve realised I forgot to say thank you to Sandy Page in last month's Report. Sandy donated several new Japanese knives that are fantastic for dealing with flax. She also had her friend whip up some custom sheaths which are fab. Cheers Sandy!

Future Events

Volunteer day on 6 October, pickup at Onerahi jetty 0900.

Until next month,

Cheers
Jo