Monday, March 4, 2024

Epiphytes & orchids

We have been growing epiphytes and native orchids in our shade house for a number of years (see photo). They have all grown exceedingly well in this environment. Because of this, we have been reluctant to translocate then into trees within our gully, which will expose them to climatic variances they may not be able to cope with. Often these epiphytes grow high up in trees in bush areas heavy in mist and dew which is different to Mangaiti Gully. However, healthy epiphytes growing in a coastal location in an open farmland type landscape was recently observed at Tutukaka, north of Whangarei (see photo). This has encouraged us to move some out of the shade house. The challenge will be to find a suitable location as we do not have large canopy trees. From observation, they need to be in shade, or semi shade, sheltered from the full blast of the sun and ideally on the south face of any tree.
Healthy epiphytes growing in a coastal location

Black Mudfish translocation

An area in Mangaiti Gully has been identified as an ideal habitat for black mudfish (see map image). They do not live in flowing streams but inhabit slow moving small ponds, swamp and even bogs. In the past they have inhabited farm drains among other natural wetland areas, but due to drainage programmes habitat loss has become quite a problem, putting pressure on these quite remarkable little creatures. Their conservation status is “At Risk – Declining.” The thing of significance is their ability to survive dry periods by burying themselves down into mud (known as to aestivate in mud). They are not large rarely exceeding 90mm. We have done all the significant amount of paperwork which has been submitted to DOC to obtain a permit for this translocation. Once approved the next step will be to locate a source of the mudfish. This could well be challenging.

Landcare’s fantail research

Landcare Research are doing a research programme on fantails in a number of gullies in Hamilton, including Mangaiti, to see if they can ascertain how long they live and to what extent they travel around. Although fantails are one of our most common native species there is not a lot of basic knowledge on their life style or their longevity particularly in an urban setting. There are two parts to this research. The first part is Landcare staff seeking out fledglings and putting coloured leg bands on each, with different colour combinations that individually identifies each bird. The second part is that some of these fledglings will also have a tiny radio tag (about the size of a grain of rice) glued temporarily to their back feathers. These radio tags will be monitored by up to ten aerials in Mangaiti Gully that have been installed around the gully edge (see photo). While the programme got off to a late start this breeding season some birds have already been banded. The programme will go through the full 24/25 breeding season. And this is where the community can participate, particularly those that live on the gully. If you see a fantail with coloured leg bands, record the colour combination on each leg (a photo or video would be great) and send to John Innes text 027-846-7344 or email

Hedgehog number are too high

Sorry hedgehog lovers but their numbers are getting just too high. We are not looking at exterminating them just reducing their numbers. In the last tracking tunnel monitoring, twelve of the thirty nine tracking tunnels showed the presence of hedgehogs. We have purchased three DOC 150 traps which we will move around the gully system. These traps give a good instant kill and are registered as humane. Hedgehogs are particularly damaging in coastal regions where there are a high number of ground nesting birds like dotterels, terns, oyster catchers etc. Because we don’t have the ground nesting birds to the same extent they are not quite as damaging in our gully, but they still forage for our ground fauna like weta and copper skinks.

Fledgling bird season time

To see fledgling birds about in the gully at this time of the year sure makes our work that much more worthwhile. A fledgling tui is a regular at the feeding station at our depot. Tony Grey sent in these two recordings from his place. One is of a fledgling tui at his feeding station and the other a video of a pair of fledgling fantails. If you are in or live on the gully keep a look out for them. Young tui don’t have the white throat feathers.

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.