Saturday, February 18, 2017

Broken bridge

The broken bridge
One of the down sides to opening up an area to the public is that it also opens it up to vandalism. Overall we get off pretty lightly with things that are easy and cheap to repair. This was not the case with the latest damage to one of our bridges. A number of people jumping on the bridge managed to break it in half. We rebuilt the bridge to a more sturdy but costly design. This replacement cost the Trust $205 for materials, money which would have been used for plants or pest control.
All rebuilt and solid. 
An opportunity to donate

If you feel inclined to contribute towards the cost of the bridge rebuild you would be welcome to make a deposit (any amount would be welcome) as a direct credit into our bank account 031557-0463402-00. We are a registered charity so if you email our Treasurer  confirming your donation details we will supply you with a receipt for your tax rebate.

New Area being cleared

Cabbage Tree Seedlings before clearing
There is quite an extensive area south of the pond and east of the stream on the wet gully floor that a house owner who lived on the gully had cleared of willows and done some sparse planting. They sold their house and moved from the area about two years ago. This area has since been overrun with the swamp grass Glyceria maxima putting considerable pressure on the existing plantings of natives. We decided to put together a rescue package that would control the Glyceria and return the area to native flora suitable for the swamp conditions.
Glyceria thrives in wet sunny conditions. We have found that by thick planting Manuka at one metre spacing we can shade out the Glyceria. It becomes very weak in the shade. We then under plant the Manuka with shade tolerant natives which will eventually grow up through the Manuka restoring the area to a good native wetland mix.

and after clearing
We are at the stage where we have cut down the Glyceria, freeing the existing native plants, some of which were bent in two, and will bring the Glyceria under temporary control by spraying with glyphosate (you may know it as Round Up). This looks as though it kills it but does not have a permanent kill and soon comes away again. The next challenge will be to get enough Manuka plants for the area. In reality we will probably have to do in it blocks over a number of seasons.

Hosting Chartwell Cub Pack

Building bridges
On Tuesday 6 December from 6:30pm to 8:00pm (actually went later) Mangaiti Gully hosted about 30 cubs from the Chartwell Pack. This was broken down to six teams of five to six Cubs who are aged between 7 to 11 years. One of our Gully members drew up an orientating type activity where each team had set tasks. Things like identifying native plants from a photo and collecting a leaf, potting up seedling cabbage trees to take home, feeding eels in the stream all while finding their way round the tracks in the gully from a map supplied.
These activities ceased at 6.45pm and they all met on a stream edge flat for each team to build a bridge from poles supplied followed by building a small fire each in pre-built brick fireplaces.
The evening ended with drinks of Milo and toasted marshmallows over the fire.

Roasting marsh mellows for supper
There was one adult with each group at all times plus heaps of other adults - probably two Cubs to one adult by the time the Gully people and parents were counted. It was a really fun evening with the adults enjoying themselves as much as the Cubs. What was really great was that this group could experience these “wilderness” activities right here in the city. 

Millipedes Diplopoda

  While on our knees weeding out wild strawberries growing on the gully flat it was noticed how abundant this little Millipede was. Looking up this little critter in my books when I got home I found out there are about 600 species in New Zealand ranging in size from 20 to 100mm. The NZ species have separate sexes and the pale yellow-brown eggs are laid in special cavities lined with or made entirely from soil. Now here is the interestingly weird thing; the eggs hatch into young with three segments. A pair of legs on each side (millipedes have two legs on each side of their segment. Centipedes have only one). More body segments and legs are added at each moult. Millipedes are entirely vegetarian feeding mostly on decaying plant matter whereas Centipedes are carnivorous feeding on insect and spiders.
These were all within the flood plain of the gully floor so we’re wondering what happened to them when the creek flooded its banks which happens reasonably frequently.

Praying mantises eating a Monarch caterpillar

It is that season again when many of us have swan plants growing and have the pleasure of witnessing the life cycle of the Monarch Butterflies. This gives ongoing interest to both young and old. It also brings home the reality that an insect’s life is a brutal fight for survival. Most know that the paper wasp attacks the caterpillar stage of the Monarchs particularly when they are small but have any of you witnessed a Praying Mantises devouring a large caterpillar? Not a pretty sight.

Weta from the wood pile

An interesting little snippet. This handsome specimen of a Weta was found in a wood pile at a home.  It was taken down to the gully and released.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Getting serious about predator control in Hamilton

There are two, with potentially three, programmes being developed to control rats and possums (stoats do not appear to be a problem in the city) in Hamilton gullies. In New Zealand there is very little experience in city pest control to the level that we are now aiming for; to clear all resident (breeding) rats from a designated control area, then to effectively manage the reinvasion. Possums are less of a problem to eradicate due to their slower breeding pattern and lower population.
It would be expected that over the next few years an effective programme will be developed that is safe, reliably effective and financially sustainable. This programme could then be rolled out through the extensive city gully system to protect our native fauna and to dovetail into the planting restoration that is going on in many areas.
Hamilton City Council and Waikato Regional Council are already carrying out control programs on some areas of public land. What is really important is to get the support from those households that back onto the gullies where these initiatives are operating. It may be as little as arranging for a person to have access through your property or could be to have a trap or bait station installed in the gully behind your house and you to service and feed that information into a computer. Whatever programme we end up using we are going to rely on community support to make it effective and financially viable across the city.

The two programmes presently under way (in addition to Council programs) are:

Predator Free Hamilton Trust; running a trial in the Onukutara gully from Crosby Road to Wairere Drive/Hukanui Road intersection. They have conducted research to identify the range of the two main species of rat and possums to guide trap setting locations and will be using A24 Good Nature traps for rats and Timms traps for possums. For more information on this programme contact Kemble Pudney, ph 8525290 or email

Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust; are rolling out a bait station system they have been using in their restoration area for the last five years to the gully system inside Gordonton Road, Wairere Drive, Thomas Road and Hukanui Road. For more information on this programme contact Rod Ade 852-5256 or Rex Bushell 854-0973 / 021-237-3857

The third one that has applied for funding through Predator Free NZ and Kiwi Bank is Riverlea Environment Society who operate around the Hammond Park – Riverlea area. The community support can start right here by clicking on this link Riverlea Predator Control Funding and giving them your vote to support their funding application. Voting closes on the 25th November. Remember- your vote does count! Or contact Adrienne Grant