Sunday, September 23, 2018

Bat house in Hamilton being used

Photo supplied by Kerry Borkin 

One of the highlights of the recent Bat Conference was the news that bats had been found using a roost box in Hamilton. There have been a number of roost boxes erected, mainly in the Hammond Park area in the south of Hamilton, but this is the first time one has been used. Overseas websites about bat roost boxes suggest that they can take up to five years before bats may occupy them. New Zealand bats, in this case the long tailed bat, are quite different than those overseas so it was unknown before now as to whether our bats would use them. This one in the You Tube footage was installed seven years ago.

This You Tube clip is a great bit of footage of bats exiting the roost box in Hamilton:

Longfin eels

Signs at each bridge encouraging people not to kill the eels
We have longfin eels in our gully system. The children up the Gordonton Road end of the stream feed them with raw cheap barbeque sausages. These eels get very friendly and are great fun to watch. There are two species in our stream, the shortfin (the smaller more common one) and the longfin which is classified as “at risk – declining”.  
It is of concern that we see signs of fishing and killing of eels in the gully. We cannot stress enough how enjoyable it is to feed them and enjoy seeing them. Killing them is pointless destruction particularly when most people would not be able to tell the difference between the longfin (classified as “at risk – declining”) and the more common shortfin eel.

Feeding the eels can be very rewarding

This link takes you to some interesting information about eels on the Stuff website:

Bird poo children’s project

Select a bird poo with seeds in it

Here is a project that children can do over the school holidays. Send them down to a wilderness area and see if they can find a bird poo that is full of seeds. Collect it up then sow it in a seed container and see what grows.
This demonstrates how useful birds are in distributing seeds.  Many of our native trees and shrubs have evolved to rely on our native birds to distribute their seeds.  The tawa, miro, pigeonwood and nikau, all of which have particularly large seeds, rely on our native pigeon - kereru – for their distribution.
Some introduced birds also help. The fruiting spikes of the kawakawa are prized by blackbirds.

Then sow them in a pottle
Unfortunately not all seed distribution is good. Birds do not distinguish between weed seeds that may be invasive or seeds of plants that may be alright, or even desirable, in your domestic garden but are not wanted in native bush areas. We have seedlings of bay trees, cherry trees and exotic palms just to name a few, germinating throughout the gully.

Prickly stick insect Acanthoxyla prasina

Stick insects are really hard to see in their natural habitat because of their incredible camouflage.  The one in this photo was found walking up the leg of the person who photograph it after walking through heavy foliage in the gully. This is only the second one seen by the restoration team that work in the gully each Wednesday. Eradicating rats and possums must help support the increase of natives such as these.
Some interesting facts from the Wanganui Chronicle submitted by Dr Mike Dickison who is the Curator of Natural History at Whanganui Regional Museum.
Stick insects are easy to keep. They only need a regular supply of green leaves and an occasional spray with a water mister. They're happy to be handled, and are a great "gateway insect" for children who might be nervous about handling a creepy-crawly, as they're completely harmless. They spend most of their time slowly munching on leaves and laying eggs. It's possible to breed stick insects even if you only have one as the prickly stick insect (Acanthoxyla), are parthenogenetic. This means that no males are needed, with mothers laying eggs from which hatch only daughters. In fact, until recently, no males had ever been seen. The one that was found, was in England of all places. The species had been introduced to England in the 1920s and is doing well. Males seem to be very rare mutants, not required for reproduction.
Unfortunately, stick insects have a short life expectancy. They hatch in spring, reach full size in a few months, and usually don't survive the winter.

Tui nest

We have had discussion previously on this blog about what tui nests look like. This has come about because of the increased number of tui present in the gully and sighting of immature birds in late summer. The example in this photo was found on a track in the Lake Rotoiti area after a storm. The small bits of egg shell in the nest would suggest that the chicks had hatched and probably left the nest prior to the nest being blown out of the tree.
Interestingly the number of tui sightings in the gully this winter seems far greater than any other year both in individuals flying about and numbers congregating in trees. Eleven tui were counted at one time in one tree and eighteen in another.

Tree Croppers car boot sale day

The first Saturday of July each year the Tree Croppers Ass. run a car boot sale in one of the car parks in Hamilton Gardens. Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust has sold trees there for a number of years as a fund raiser. This year’s was exceptionally good netting $660. Kawakawa were particularly popular this year.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Expanding the rat eradication programme

Due to popular demand we were approached to install bait stations in the Wairere section of the gully. This has been done over this winter. To make management a bit easier, and to allow for the varying floral types, we have divided Mangaiti Gully into three stages (sections). Mangaiti which runs from Sexton road to Gordonton Road. Wairere, a short gully section from the Hukanui Road entrance up to Wairere Drive (see map) and the Hukanui section which is everything in between these two.
We have acquired the services of two volunteers who are interested in servicing the bait stations one day every fortnight in the Mangaiti section and logging the service data in TrapNZ . This will greatly decrease the times between servicing the stations with the aim of suppressing the usual summer popular explosion of rats.