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 - December 2019

Ah December, the pohutukawas are beginning to flower and the Aucklanders are flocking to Whangarei for their annual summer migration. The harbour is becoming busier than ever with boats constantly coming and going from the Onerahi boat ramp. We did have a few odd days with the weather last week with incredibly hot mornings, then heavy showers and constant thunderstorms in the afternoon; however, I can’t really complain as this brought us much needed rain for the island, temporarily reducing the risk of fires. Things on the island have been busy, as always, with visitors and groups coming over, sheep being shorn and much more.

At the time of writing the new power system is being installed! Hubands had another job postponed so they contacted me quickly and asked if I could bring the gear and the contractors over the next day. The contractors set about getting the framing up on the roof and created storage down in the shed for the batteries. After removing the 6 old solar panels 16 new panels were set in place with each panel being 3-4 times more powerful than the previous ones so this will be a huge boost for the power. We are currently on our third day of the new system so, hopefully, by the end of the day it will be fully up and functioning.

Visitors, Volunteers and Others

  • Just a few weeks before installation of the new solar system a group of six voluteers from Northpower, and some of their hardworking family members, arrived on the island to dig a trench from the house to the shed for the new cable connecting the batteries to the house. While some of the team were busy clearing the dirt to make the trench, the others were making room near the outside wall of the shed where the brand spanking new automatic generator will be placed.
  • While they were working on the new trench Angela and her friend devoted some time to come over and control some weeds that were popping up in their adopt-a-spot on the south east side of the island.
  • During the early months of December another hiking group came over to the island for a tiki tour. After landing and getting an overview of the history and current restoration on the island the group went about exploring at their own pace and even found some tools from the shed lying on one of the mousebust tracks that must have fallen off the tractor.
  • Jan Thomas from Hora Hora Primary School brought a couple of classes over to the island and they took part in a thorough beach cleanup. We managed to find lots of tiny bits of plastic, resulting in a few bagloads full of rubbish. I give a big thank you to the classes for enduring that incredibly hot day: thanks to their work effort they continue to help keep Limestone Island pristine.
  • Russell and Joseph from Northpower and Kerry from Hubands came over in November to have a quick survey of the house and current power system before planning where they were going to place the new solar panels. They were contemplating whether to place them on the house or on the roof of the shed but decided in favour of the house as the macrocarpas would need to be removed if they were to be placed on the shed. They also decided it would be better to store the batteries in the shed where they would have much more protection from the weather.
  • Cathy Mitchell came over to the island again to band little Ahi Kaa Toa who wasn’t too keen to be banded at first but did settle down. After weighing the bird and measuring its wings Cathy banded the little fella with the band E225864. After returning Ahi Kaa Toa to its burrow Cathy provided lots of valuable advice about the petrels and what we can do to improve the ‘petrel station’ for any future petrels. Cathy also predicted that Ahi Kaa Toa will be starting to leave its burrow to practice its flying in a couple of weeks when its wings will have developed a bit more.
  • With the advice from Cathy about the petrel site in mind we proceeded to the petrel station on the next volunteer Wednesday (with Ahi Kaa’s burrow being fenced off) and cleared some of the long grass, debris and low hanging branches from the site to help ensure Ahi Kaa did not get entagled/trapped when practicing flying which could cause injury or even prove fatal. After a good couple of hours at the petrel station - and enjoying some delicious cake supplied by Steve - we carried on down the hill track and cleared some of the branches and flax that was starting to overgrow onto the track before ending the day clearing part of the periwinkle infestation growing behind the water tanks.
  • I had my dad Mark over on the island helping out with a few odd jobs around the place including refilling the dirty water tanks and placing the front end loader back on to the tractor which had previously been removed by an island sitter.
  • Miriam and her stoat detecting dog Woody, came over to the island recently to see if Woody could get the scent of any stoats and we were joined by Peter from Te Arai who was looking at getting a dog for conservation purposes. After a few hours following the tracks in the gruelling heat it appeared that Woody could not detect any signs of stoat on the island. However, Miriam stated that there could be a chance the heat could be dissipating the scent of any animals and a follow up may not be a bad idea during a cooler time of the year such as around autumn.

Flora and Fauna

  • During late November while Hayley was undertaking her trapping run around the buffer zone, she managed to catch her very first stoat over on Rat Island. Now is the time stoat kits will be growing up and venturing from their mother's den to find new territories so we need to make sure we are in tip top shape for our trapping game.
  • I was joined by Hayley to take part in checking the bait stations on the south side of the island in November which proved to be an interesting yet frustrating experience. While we had the advantage of GPS’s to find the bait stations' general location, they were generally much harder to find when walking to the waypoint of the stations as, unfortunately, they would be covered in grass or debris and half the time there would be no tag on any nearby trees which would otherwise indicate where they were. I think at some point next year I will have to go through some of the tracks and put up more flagging tape and tags on the mousebust tracks.
  • It was that time of the year again when the sheep needed their annual shearing. With the help of Ken and John (who came over to the island after a fishing trip) we set about herding the sheep into one of the singlemen's quarters, thinking this would be a simple task and shouldn’t take too long. I was quickly proven wrong when our first attempt at rounding up the sheep failed after they managed to sneak past us multiple times before finally, after a couple of hours we succeeded in getting them into the singlemen's quarters where they rested for the night.
  • The next day I brought Ken and his friend over to rid the sheep of their heavy fleeces. While the sheep weren’t too happy to be parted from their wool when being shorn I’m sure they are a lot happier now to be rid of it during the summer heat.
  • I decided to have a quick check to see if there were any signs of stoat on the island by placing tracking cards with chicken used as a lure in some of the tracking tunnels around the island. After leaving them out for a couple of nights none of the cards showed any prints of stoat or other mustelids and only one card showed mice tracks.
  • I’ve started to notice quite a number of juvenile tuis hanging around the house and have even seen fernbirds nesting on some of the tracks on the ridge, but sadly some eggs have been crushed and others have gone cold due to nest desertion. However, on a positive note it is a good sign to see the fernbirds continuing to nest on the island.

Other Info

  • The Petrel (the little runabout dinghy) had sustained a bit of damage on the transom with cracks starting to appear on the boat. With the help of John Ward who met me at the boat ramp on Port Road, we took the boat into Blackdog Cats who, even though very busy, kindly managed to find the time to work on the boat. After a few days she was all fixed up and even had a new aluminium frame installed on the transom to help support the outboard. With help from Hayley we returned the boat to the island.
  • Please note that there will not be a volunteer Wednesday in January so the next volunteer day will be on Wednesday, 5 February.


All the best