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 Rangers' Report - March 2021

Well, another month has passed in the blink of an eye and once again I am pushing the hand-in date for my monthly Ranger’s Report, prompting flashbacks of my time spent studying! We kicked off March with all the adrenalin that a Northland-wide Tsunami warning could induce. I spent a good chunk of 5 March on the ridge line, checking/servicing the traps, and up at the Pa, with arguably one of the best wave spotting views in the district. I was joined by two local kayak fisher-people who had beached down at Shipwreck Bay and made their way up the school track after hearing the sirens coming from Beach Road. Ironically, the day was one out of the box, with clear blue skies and not a ripple in sight. Thankfully, it stayed that way!


Visitors, volunteers, and other comings and goings

Volley day went ahead on 3 March with my initial concerns re bad weather coming to nothing more than a few spits of rain at the end of the day. Another large group of 18 met me at the Onerahi jetty, including three of my family members who I managed to coax into lending a hand for the day. I have since been informed that I inadvertently left one of our volleys behind, sorry Ross! After being allocated jobs for the day, the group went their separate ways, carrying out additional maintenance on the fences that surround the old cement work ruins, scaling trees in search of never-ending moth plant pods, clearing the main beach of accumulating wood and debris, additional weeding around the oi/petrel burrows, changing the old rat traps out for new victor traps along the ridge line and clearing the drains on the school track. Mum had made her, now famous on Matakohe-Limestone Island, orange and date scones, which went down a treat at lunchtime.

Karen Walker and a group of 24 came over on their annual Matakohe-Limestone Island excursion on 14 February. I gave a brief talk about the history of the Island and got the children in the group to help me locate one of our transmitted kiwi, using the aerial and monitoring equipment. The group knew the Island well from previous excursions and were happy to head off on their own for the remainder of the day.

A group of 48 students, (5-7 year olds), teachers, and parent helpers from Whangarei Heads School came to visit the motu on Friday, 19 February. This was my first time with such a young group and I was a bit apprehensive about their stamina and attention span for a guided tour. Setting the task of looking for kiwi clues including feathers, probe holes, and poo kept everybody entertained and motivated during our walk up to the Pā and then down to the ruins. Not surprisingly, kiwi poo was the favourite clue of the day, closely followed by feathers of all shapes and sizes, although none appearing to have come from a kiwi. When asked about their favourite part of the day on the boat ride home one person said it was her ham wrap! Despite this, additional feedback post visit confirmed that everybody, both adults and children had had a fabulous time. It was an entertaining, question packed day, and a great way to end my week!

Rebecca and friends came to tend to their ‘Girls Group’ ‘adopt-a-spot’, located behind the Visitors’ Shelter and Singlemen’s Quarters over the weekend. It was a fleeting visit due to other commitments, however, their work and continued support of the Island’s adopt-a-spot initiative was appreciated. Cheers Rebecca!

We were all sad to hear that long-time Matakohe Limestone Island volunteer, Sherilyn Hurman, will be leaving us for the big smoke. I would like to thank you, Sherilyn, for all the hours of hard work you have given to the Island over the years. We wish you all the best with your next Island adventure! Ka kite anō, Jo and the rest of the regular wolley crew.

Flora and Fauna

Todd Hamilton from Backyard kiwi was over on an evening kiwi catching mission at the start of the month in preparation for April’s release (this time to Tutukaka). We had much more success with both the number of birds being observed and being caught compared with our attempts earlier in the year. The Island is greening up after some much-needed rain and the invertebrates are on the move, prompting kiwi to side-step from the scrub out into the open. We managed to catch and transmit one of Sir Ed’s chicks, a 4-year-old female, and a 2.5-year-old male. The male was decidedly small, so small that upon catching him we thought he must have been one of the 2020-21 chick cohort. Despite his size, we found him in moderate condition, prompting us to think he must have a strange growth defect. The highlight for me was catching my first ever kiwi, albeit a chick. As a cool coincidence, the chick turned out to be the first kiwi I ever released onto the Island. Todd noted at the time of release that it was the snappiest/feistiest chick he has ever come across. I was glad to see that four months on he was still living up to that reputation. Great genes! Todd, Lesley, and Yagi the kiwi dog are scheduled for another trip at the start of next week. We are hopeful that Yagi will turn up a few more birds for us to add to our release day numbers.

Sir Ed is due a transmitter change before his current one runs out of battery. Of course, right before Todd and I had planned to catch up with the old boy, his nightly activity rate plummeted and his transmitter switched to incubation mode, indicating that he was possibly sitting on a nest and prompting us to leave him well alone for the time being. I have been monitoring him closely via his transmitter signal since and in recent weeks Ed appears to have been pulling big night shifts once again. Todd and I plan to investigate and hopefully get an idea of what is going on when he visits next week.

I was excited to lay eyes on adult and juvenile Pacific gecko when walking past the Edge House ruins a few weeks ago. These are the first gecko I have seen since moving to the Island and it was a real buzz to know that they are there, and evidently breeding!

The pampas have been alerting me to their whereabouts by raising white fluffy flags of surrender in recent weeks, very considerate.

Pest Control

In the last month I have caught/cleared my first stoat from one of the Knight Island buffer traps, along with our first possum, thanks to the SA2 that was kindly donated by NRC and installed by me last month, and two rats. Additionally, a large Norway rat was caught in a stoat trap on the main island sandspit. Good riddance!

My stoat and possum catch high was dampened slightly when I discovered that somebody had helped themselves to two of our new DOC 200’s only installed a few weeks prior…dang!

Since Macca the stoat dog’s visit, I have twice discovered stoat prints on the sandspit. I am crossing all my fingers and toes that these are still just nightly visits and that no stoats have yet set up residence on the Island. Todd Hamilton had kindly lent me some of his Fenn traps which I have placed around the spit to break up the monotony of DOC 200 boxes.

I have finally gotten around to putting out the ink tracking cards, after initially not having the cards, and then the time, and then the motivation, and then the weather. Initial inspection after one night found mostly invertebrate prints, some skink, but no mouse prints. I will leave the cards out for a further four nights and see if that turns up anything mousey…no stoat prints, I hope!

Wasp numbers on the Island seem to have boomed in the last month. I recently treated an underground nest after discovering it accidently when pulling up over it in the Polaris one day, a terrible choice of parking spot!

Future events

  • April volunteer day, 7 April, 9am.
  • Kiwi whakawātea, 10 April, at 11am, Onerahi Yacht Club

Until next month,