Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunshine and snow

Up early this morning, drew back the curtains and was surprised with a snowy deck! I hadn't lit the fire last night as it was warm inside after a sunny afternoon and although the temperature had dropped overnight, it certainly didn't seem cold enough for snow. I'm sure my veges would have an easier life if I had a tunnel house!

I was on Ulva Island duties again this weekend - the second poison bait drop happened last Tuesday and the tracks need to be checked for baits which may have dropped from the canopy overnight. This morning I caught the water taxi at Golden Bay at 8.30am, walking very carefully on the icy jetty, and walked the tracks to Boulder Beach and West End Beach. The weather ranged from sleety rain to hot sunshine meaning I was warm in my 3 layers of clothing for the rain and hankering for a t-shirt when the sun shone! Here's some pics of this beautiful jewel which will hopefully be rat-free again from now on.

Ulva Island signpost
West End Beach - Mt Rakeahua (with a snowy top) is
in the background

Post Office Cove
Can you see the bodies/faces in these rocks?

Ulva Island has lots of birdlife and lovely native bush - check these out...

Native spider orchid
Kaka demolishing a branch

Flowering rata
Plenty of surprises still from my new home - tell you more about it soon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fern Gully Track

The second track I walked was to Fern Gully which starts at the end of Main Road and takes about an hour for the return trip (or about 2 hours from the Visitors' Centre and back).

Fern Gully Track - 2 hours return from the Visitors' Centre
- map courtesy of Google Maps
It's a very pretty track zig-zagging Mill Creek which explains the muddier track and lots of boardwalk. It's relatively flat and there are five bridges to cross with the reward of a clearing and wooden seat at the end of the track. It's been classified as a Tramping Track in the DOC brochure (challenging tramping, track may be rough and muddy) and I'd definitely recommend tramping boots for it - or be extra-careful about walking on the boardwalk if wearing walking shoes/trainers.

Fern Gully Track start (end of Main Road)
Bridge across Mill Creek on Fern Gully Track
Mill Creek
Clearing at the end of Fern Gully Track - the wooden seat
is the light patch in the middle of the photo
During WWII residents planned on hiding their children at Fern Gully if the island was invaded. Mill Creek is fast-flowing so would offer plenty of fresh water; deer could well have been on the menu as there appeared to be plenty of deer tracks in the clearing yesterday. The sign warns that this is the end of the track and that Day Visitors should not proceed beyond this point - there's a lot of bush to get lost in if you do!

I've got a couple more tracks to walk to complete all the listed short walks in the brochure - I was tempted to do Kaipipi yesterday as well but it looks too interesting to do in a hurry so will save that for another time. Garden Mound (4-5 hours return trip from the village) and Maori Beach tracks (6-7 hours) are both over the other side of town so nice to save for a long summer's day. I'll also have to do the 3 day/2 night Rakiura Track (one of the Great Walks) - but think I'll leave the 10-12 day North West Circuit for younger, fitter bodies!!

Ryans Creek Track

Tuesday and Wednesday this week were gloriously sunny days so a great time to experience two of the walks listed in DOC's 'Stewart Island/Rakiura Short Walks' brochure. I've been doing my Visitors Centre training every morning this week and knowing the walks in the brochure makes it much easier to recommend walks to visitors.

I finished my morning's work and walked along Golden Bay and Thule (pronounced thoolee) Roads to the start of the Ryans Creek Track. Each turn of the road brings new views across Paterson Inlet/Whaka a Te Wera - here's a few pics from yesterday...

Golden Bay Road

Thule Bay
Thule Bay
Vaila Voe Bay
I did the track in a clockwise direction, starting at Vaila Voe Bay and walking through to Main Road. The track winds around the coastline to Ryans Creek, then heads inland past the airfield. Most of the track is in bush as the sides are too steep and slippery to walk along the water's edge but occasionally it comes down to wee beaches where you can get good views.

Ryans Creek Track, courtesy of Google Maps

Far side of Vaila Voe Bay
The track is gravelled, well marked and relatively easy walking - it's up and down as it follows the coastline and there's a couple of muddy patches and a fallen tree to walk round. I wore tramping boots but it would be fine to do in walking shoes or trainers if it's not wet.

Ryans Creek Track
Ryans Creek
Picnic table near Ryans Creek mudflats
Ryans Creek Track - turn left for Kaipipi and North Arm,
straight through for Main Road back to the village

The round trip from the Visitors' Centre is 3½-4 hours at a comfortable walking speed - a lovely way to spend my afternoon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September Surprises

I had two big surprises on Thursday - in the morning I was asked if I'd like to go to Codfish Island (Whenua Hou) with the Weeds Team in early October. Would I what!!!! It will be magic to go back to the island that started off my dream to live amongst the bush and birdsong.

My second surprise came in the afternoon when I was offered the casual ranger position at the Visitors' Centre which I'd applied for. I start my training tomorrow and am looking forward to being shown the ropes by the friendly team that keep everything running so smoothly.

I am so lucky to be living my dream AND getting paid for it! My work with the Weeds Team and the Visitors' Centre is on a casual (as required) basis which suits me down to the ground; I'm certainly more productive when I know that I've got work coming up otherwise I tend to let the days slip by without achieving much more than a widening grin :).

My museum stint last weekend went fine; I spent most of the time having a good look round to familiarise myself with what was displayed. It's another must-see place for visitors interested in the history of the island. The proposed new museum would result in double the display space so that items currently in storage could also be on show.

Rakura Museum
I wrapped up the week with checking my rat lines and, as the sun was shining brightly, I took my camera along so I could share the experience with you!

Walk up Peterson's Hill Road, then through the bush walk... Deep Bay (at low tide)
Trap 24 on DB1 line
Trap 27 on DB1 line

Trap 35 on DB1 line
View from the top at the end of DB1 line
The second line (DB2) runs from the top of the hill and back over the ridge to Deep Bay. There are 54 traps and a number of them needed to be rebaited as the bait was starting to go mouldy. Two rats were caught this time, both adult females, one a kiore and the other a ship's rat.

I went to Raylene's after checking the traps and just as well I had my camera with me as a tui visited one of her trees in blossom and was so focused on sipping nectar that he allowed me to get quite close. Patience is definitely a virtue though as most of my photos were blurred as he darted from one flower to the next but I was finally rewarded with this shot...

Kia ora manu

Conservation Week

Today is the last day of Conservation Week. We've had a number of activities on the island - the Mill Creek walk on Monday was postponed until Wednesday which then clashed with a weeding session at Lonnekers that I went to. We spent a couple of hours pulling weeds from around the natives planted last year, fuelled on by some yummy chocolate cake!

Lonnekers Beach - looking towards the village
Lonnekers Beach - looking the other way
I had a lovely walk in the sunshine to the Stewart Island Community Native Plant Nursery on Thursday, arriving just before a hail storm! There's lots of work to do there at this time of year - I pricked out a number of Stilbocarpa lyalli (Punui) seedlings - it's a rare megaherb that can grow to 1m or more but prone to rat and browsing mammal damage.

On Friday I was out with the weeds team hunting barberry - I've been taking my weeds kit (gloves, folding saw and Vigilant gel) when I've been walking and zapping barberry along the roadside. It's a shame that Darwin's Barberry is such a nuisance as it's very pretty when it's in flower, and the birds obviously enjoy eating the berries when they form!

Darwin's Barberry in flower
Conservation Week wraps up this evening with a conservation-theme to the famous Stewart Island Pub Quiz. Quizmaster Extraordinaire, Vicki Coats, featured on Close Up this week and her pub quiz at the South Seas Hotel is a must-see if you are on the island on a Sunday evening.

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Inconvenient Truth

I found my old 2006 diary this morning and had a peek to see what I was up to on this day. I was surprised that it's been 5 years since I first saw 'An Inconvenient Truth', the Oscar-winning documentary about climate change. I then got to thinking how the movie had altered my perspective and what changes I had made to my lifestyle since September 2006.

I can't find the online ecological footprint calculator that I used five years ago but after some radical changes to my lifestyle (bike rather than take the car, grow my own veges, eat less meat) I used the equivalent of 3.8 worlds - just under half the NZ average of 8 worlds per person.

Fast forward to September 2011. I completed the footprint calculator tonight at - choose Australia as New Zealand isn't included yet. Moving to a smaller house and not having petrol-driven transport result in dropping my footprint to 2.3 - I can get it down to 1.9 if I eat less meat and only buy packaging that can be recycled. Of course, living on an island means higher transport costs but hopefully I'm using far less than before and the island is committed to recycling as much as possible. Besides, I can't feel smug until I have my footprint down to 1 world or less :)

I have my first roster stint for the museum tomorrow 12-1.30pm - I take the entry fee ($2 adults, 50c children, free for locals) and turn the lights on. It will be a good opportunity to learn the history of my new home. I'll do my rat lines afterwards, then come home for a hot shower - the novelty of having one still hasn't worn off!

The Rugby World Cup has kicked off with an impressive opening ceremony and game - well done All Blacks. Conservation Week is next week too - I hope it gets equal billing with the rugby!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Who's stealing my spare time?

Writing a blog from Stewart Island should be easy - there's heaps of things to write about, I'm not working and I now have a reliable internet connection. The only problem is that there's so much going on that finding spare time is harder than ever! I've got some more barberry work coming up so I'll have to go looking for a few more hours in the day!

September burst forth with an amazing performance of Peter Pan, proudly presented by Halfmoon Bay School. A packed Community Centre watched spellbound as Peter Pan sprinkled fairy dust on Wendy, John and Michael to make them fly; the 'fearsome' ticking Crocodile chased after Captain Hook; mermaids blew bubbles; Tiger Lily escaped from the pirates and the Lost Boys listened to Wendy's stories. Thanks to everyone involved - the sets, orchestra, cast and costumes showed how much effort went into this but it was well worth it! I took some photos and video with my mobile phone but not sure how I transfer them to my computer.

On Friday I discovered a fun new tool on Resene's website - - you can upload a low res photo for free and the Resene Palette Generator turns it into a palette of Resene colours. I spent a few hours sending up photos of the bush around me to get an idea of what colour I could paint the exterior of my new home. It would also be good for choosing colours for flower beds, patchwork and interior decoration - great for someone like me who have problems picking colours.

I also walked down to the Bay to get my mail and had a lovely surprise - Mum had sent me the 'NZ Bird Calls' book complete with CD so I played with colours whilst listening to squawks and whistles.

Saturday morning was museum volunteer training time - I found out how to open up, take money and answer basic questions and I put it all to the test next Saturday when I do it on my own. I then went off to check my rat lines, took Mac for a walk and walked home for a well-deserved rest.

Sunday started late as I slept in until 9.30am! I had to make up for it by sawing firewood and trying out my new slashers on the reeds around the house. The physical exercise was later matched by a brain workout at the famous Stewart Island Pub Quiz, starting at 6.30pm. Our team of Raylene, Sue, Rod, Ivan and me had a lot of fun and got a fourth place.

Monday was finish sawing the wood under the tarpaulin and stacking it in the woodshed. So great to have that job done and the area tidied up. So far I've only used my bowsaw and not my chainsaw - easier on the environment and burns more calories! Then off to the Bay in the afternoon to look at the concept plans for the new museum and information centre building - very impressive and so exciting if it goes ahead. Opus Architects had made a 3D model and were on hand to answer questions.

Today (Tuesday) it was up early and off to check my rat lines - no rats this time - and on the way back I zapped some barberry bushes. They are easy to spot at present as they are starting to flower. I had a cruisy afternoon cooking dinner for Raylene - corned silverside, roast veges and mustard sauce, with spiced plum pudding and custard for dessert. Very yummy and nice to be able to offer meals now that I have a flushing toilet again!

Tomorrow is a work day doing barberry so I guess I'd better get to bed. Thanks everyone for your comments - it's lovely to find out how to add them (go to Post Comment, type in your text then Select profile of Name/URL and then just add your name). Let me know if it works for you.

Have a great week...