Saturday, December 9, 2023

Looking at Sexton Pines as a restoration area

This area next to the Rototuna Primary School (see map) is in a transition stage with a number of entities still partly involved with interests. We have an interest in it because of its proximity to our existing boundary, the fact that it has three bat homes that we have installed (no bats yet I don’t believe), and a breeding colony of white faced herons that have been there for a number of years. On going tree felling by the housing subdivision developers and council is a concern. Recently the council arranged for an arborist to fell and chip the gums on the school boundary. Our Trust worked with the council, and with support of some DOC funding, planted 1234 native trees into this mulched gully slope. We have been lobbying the council to ensure that the remaining trees stay there. Because the pines are old and high, they give cover from frost while not having deep shade, so are ideal for supporting understory planting of frost tender native plants. We have planted twenty odd pukatea and some tawa both of which are frost vulnerable in their early stage. Other than clearing out woolly nightshade there has been no major weed clearing as yet.

Red Admiral Breed and release project

This is proceeding. The ongaonga nettle (Urtica ferox) in the tunnel house was not thriving. Observing nettle off site in our storage area which is growing in full shade and thriving we concluded the nettle in the tunnel house had too much sun. A shade sail has been erected and although some sun gets in during the morning and evening the nettle does appear to be a lot healthier. On Thursday 7th Dec ten ongaonga nettle plants were taken down to the King Country and placed in a known red admiral location. They will stay there for a week and hopefully when we pick them up, they will have red admiral eggs on them. They will then go into the tunnel house to complete their cycle.

Bi-annual rat monitoring tells a great success story

We have just completed the 2023 spring rat monitoring. The monitoring is done by using tracking tunnels with an inked card to record footprints and baited with peanut butter as an attractant. These are not traps. We use the DOC standard so that our monitoring is nationally recognised. There was no recorded rat activity. This is a great result, and we are confident that our programme’s objective to eradicate all resident (breeding) rats from the thirty hectare Mangaiti gully system, then control reinvasion to a very low level that prevents rats becoming residents is being achieved. The last two Monitoring results were: Autumn 2023, 18 Hedgehogs and 6 mice. No rats Spring 2023, 12 Hedgehogs and 2 mice. No rats

Illegal fishing in our gully streams

It is illegal to fish streams within the city without a permit under the Hamilton City Park, Domains and Reserves Bylaw 2019 s8.2. The streams that run through Mangaiti are home for a number of indigenous freshwater species. Our restoration efforts of planting the stream banks are to create a supportive environment for these species. Signs, both ours and councils, have been put up throughout the gully yet still some people seem to think it is their right to decimate the indigenous biodiversity that our volunteers work so hard to support. This is both disappointing and frustrating.

Track upgrade almost complete

As mentioned on our last post, originally our tracks were built to give our volunteers access to do restoration work. Since our section of the gully has been opened up, the public have started to use the tracks for their recreation. We have now changed the focus for our track infrastructure. It has been a long process, with 1.4km of track being upgraded by hand with spades and wheel barrows (like the Ministry of Works in the 1930’s!). We now have the end in sight with the last few, but challenging, metres up to Haswell Road entrance to complete. This is all in line with Hamilton City Councils Nature in the City strategy of opening up the city’s natural areas for the public to enjoy.
The shoot installed to bring the shingle down from the top of the gully

Canadian Researcher visiting Mangaiti

There was a brief conversation with a Canadian researcher down in the gully. She (did not get her name) was touring the world studying their indigenous Monkey flower / monkey musk (Minulus guttatus) which is now worldwide. Her study is focusing on the DNA of this species around the world to see if it had changed in different locations to their original species back in Canada. It is always amazing who we run into down in the gully.

The unfortunate downside of opening the gully to the public

There has been a considerable increase in anti-social behaviour in the gully. Unfortunately, this is what we get throughout the city in public areas. We have noticed there is a considerable increase during school holidays. To list some of these activities: • Tagging on our infrastructure. The signature of ΓΈ7 has been identified as a male Rototuna High School student as it was also reported in their school toilets. • Supermarket trollies tipped into the gully • Wilful damage to tracks and plants • Bamboo plant stakes removed • Signs ripped out of the ground and damaged • Drug taking paraphernalia left in the gully • Fires lit • And while it will be a different social demographic, I would also classify throwing plastic bags of dog poo into the bushes as anti-social and letting responsible dog owners down. We now look at all dog owners walking their dogs with suspicion which is unfair to them.