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 - November 2021

Hello, kia ora! I can't quite believe that this time last year I was sitting at the computer drafting my first official Ranger’s Report. Yes, that's right, as at 30 October Darin and I have been on the Island for an entire year! The last twelve months have presented a mix of incredible highs, coupled with our fair share of lows, but all in all, the smooth has been worth the rough. We have been experiencing some fabulous weather of late with spring high tides and flat glassy days, wow, more please! Darin and I have been enjoying getting the vegetable garden under control after letting it go wild during the winter period. We have put a few lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc in the ground which will make a nice addition to our summer salads. After a lot of hot air, I finally bit the bullet and joined in the Tuesday night dinghy racing at the Onerahi Yacht Club last week. What fun, and rather nostalgic, taking me back to my days of mucking around with Optimists and Starlings as a kid in the Bay of Islands. I managed to get a good whack across the head from the boom during a moment’s lapse in concentration, which also brought back memories…or lost them…I can’t remember!

Visitors, volunteers, and other comings and goings

Dai from NorthTec and Tiakina Whangarei came to visit with a group of students on 27 October. The students spent the day practicing their telemetry and triangulation skills on a couple of Island kiwi that currently had transmitters attached. I attended this exact field trip a few years ago, little did I know at the time that radio telemetry would become a big part of my day-to-day further down the track. I just remember being incredibly confused by the whole concept, which is why I was impressed with the students and how quickly they appeared to get the hang of it. Future kiwi trackers in the making, watch this space.

Volley day was scheduled for the first Wednesday of the month but was changed at the last minute to Thursday with dubious weather on the horizon. This ended up being a wise decision, however, it meant that quite a few of our regulars were not able to make it. Jobs for the day included re-erecting the barrier posts that prevent people from wandering into the shorebird nesting area at the old barge, removing periwinkle from the patch of bush behind the Visitors’ Shelter, trialling different techniques for removing graffiti from the ruins, cutting and pasting several Chinese privet bushes from the northernmost quarry, and removing wattle seedlings from around the six-pack.

Ian Page has been busy working on this year’s Fire Plan and visited the Island last week to make sure I was okay with the new developments. If you live around the Onerahi area keep an eye out for one of the FOMLI flyers in your letterbox re fire season on the Island. We appreciate the community’s support with this; thank you in advance.

After five, yes five, failed attempts, we finally got the Whangaruru Tramping Club over to the motu on 10 November. This group has had incredibly bad luck, with their first booking at the start of July getting bumped due to the barge being out of the water for longer than expected, and their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th bookings having to be postponed due to this (me), that (weather), and the other thing (Covid!!!). After all that drama, they couldn’t have picked a better day to come and enjoy what the Island has to offer, resulting in a bunch of seemingly very happy trampers.

NorthTec practicum students, Sam and Geri, had their last day on 3 November which coincided with Volley Day. Sam and Geri have been a great help during their time on the Island, soldiering on despite being mucked around by Covid. I look forward to having them both over for a volley day or two during their summer break.

A group of home-school students visited the Island today (15/11), managing to dodge most of the showers that danced around the Island for a good part of the day. With half the group having visited before, they were happy to head off and explore on their own after a short health and safety briefing from me – it can only get better from there!

Flora and Fauna

No more than a few weeks after sharing the news of Sir Ed successfully hatching his first chicks for the year, I found that he had started incubating again. All this rain means there’s still plenty of tucker on the ground and I imagine most birds will be in reasonable condition leading into summer. Sir Ed felt good enough to have another crack at passing on his genes, with a hatch date of early January – I’ll keep you posted.

As mentioned previously, it's been a tough season for kiwi chicks being translocated to the Island, with only three having been released so far. Unfortunately, another chick was lost to a stoat recently before we could get it to the safety of the Island. Washouts and inaccessible nests have also made things tricky. With a couple of ONE dads still sitting on eggs, we are hoping to bolster those numbers somewhat before the end of the season.

After having heard pipiwharauroa (shining cuckoo) on the Island, I saw my first ever one last week. They are such a striking bird, it’s just a shame about their personality.

There's been a lot of “action” among the variable oystercatchers on the Island, with several pairs now sitting on 2-3 speckly eggs. After returning from being away over Labour Weekend, I found one of the pairs had unfortunately lost their eggs. My suspicions lie with the two black back gulls that have been hanging around this area. There seems to be a population imbalance when it comes to black backs recently, undoubtedly fuelled by the presence of the nearby tip. It's gotten to a point where they appear to have taken over the Caspian tern colony on Knight Island. I counted around 30 gulls and not a tern in sight when I was over there last week. Fingers crossed the terns are still on their way…

Pest Control

It’s been another slow month on the trapping front, bar one stoat caught on Knight Island by Paul. It’s always a good feeling laying eyes on a dead stoat, as sadistic as that sounds. I have been out and about servicing/moving traps away from the shorebird breeding colony on Knight Island so as not to accidentally trap any chicks, as happened last year, should the terns decide to “re-tern”.

Other news

Unfortunately, we have had some substantial graffiti show up on the cement works’ ruins recently, with three large, colourful tags inside the old tank, two on the old brick kilns, one on one of the old structural pillars and several smaller scribbly things on the signs in the Visitors’ Shelter, the floating pontoon, and other areas. The ruins are a remnant of early European and industrial history in Whangārei, and Aotearoa. We are currently in conversation with WDC to find out what can be done to get the graffiti removed.

Volunteer day and end-of-year BBQ on 1 December – sausages supplied.


Until next month,