Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anniversary time

Yesterday was my 9 month anniversary of moving here and today I celebrate 46 years since I left England to become a Kiwi. Both of them are significant chapters in my life and a chance to take a different path. I would have missed out on so much if I had kept in my comfort zone!

Work is going well; a nice mixture of weeding and VC work. Last week I had a taste of Selaginella kraussiana (African club moss) eradication. When I did my NZ Native Plants course my first assignment was to identify plants/trees in a patch of native bush and it came as a shock to discover that the moss that carpeted the area wasn't a native. Unfortunately, Selaginella has invaded the residential area here and DOC is working hard to try and eradicate it before it spreads into the Rakiura National Park.

Selaginella kraussiana close-up above

and how quickly it spreads below

Eradicating this moss means getting down on hands and knees and treating every wee dot of this invasive weed. It spreads via spores and stem fragments so could easily be transferred from residential sections to the bush. The weeds team have to spray the soles of their boots before leaving the section but I wonder if I've inadvertently spread it before I started on the weeds team. We spray it with an organic weedkiller but apparently vinegar works too. Read here for more information

I've been attacking the weeds on my patch as well; I reckon if I take out all the flowering weeds then at least I will have less seedlings coming up - or that's the plan anyway! I've removed some extra large gorse and broom 'trees' and have another half dozen to go before there's no sign of weed flowers. Well, for a few days anyway!

Whilst I'm on the subject of pests, here's a different ratty that was caught on my Deep Bay ratline at the weekend.
Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) - also called brown, sewer or water rat
The identifying feature is that the length of tail is shorter than its body. This is the rat species that invaded Ulva Island last year - preliminary reports after the two poison drops in August and September are very promising with no rats caught or tracked. Fingers crossed that this will continue so that the island can be declared predator-free again.

I'm still raving on about Spring down here - lovely to see masses of Tātarāmoa blossom, more commonly known as bush lawyer (Rubus cissoides) and Puawhananga, the native clematis (Clematis paniculata). I took my camera at the weekend and grabbed these pics...
Red kākā beak (Clianthus puniceus)
Tātarāmoa just starting to flower


Puawhananga buds
Kereru (Native pigeon)
To finish off, here's a couple of photos of the village; SIRCET (Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Environment Trust) re-opened their environment centre on Saturday afternoon - they have some fabulous information panels to show visitors what is being done here. The centre is next to the noticeboard, a very important way to disseminate information for locals!

Reopening the Rakiura Environment Centre

Oban noticeboard

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Return to Whenua Hou (Codfish Island)

Living on Rakiura comes with so many benefits. Spring is a lovely season anywhere but I'm blown away by the increase in bird activity here. Yesterday I would have seen over 50 tui, a score of kaka and kereru and several korimako (bellbirds) during the walk to my rat line and home again and heard my second pipiwharauroa (shining cuckoo) of the season this morning. What a buzz!

My big news of the week was experiencing my first helicopter trip across to Whenua Hou last Thursday. A frosty start turned into a stunning sunny and calm day, just perfect flying conditions topped off by being offered a seat up front the Rakiura Helicopters Hughes 500. I'll let the photos do the talking!

Paterson Inlet with Mason Bay (white strip) in background

Closer view of Mason Bay

About to fly over West Ruggedy Beach on way to
Whenua Hou (Codfish Island)
Whenua Hou helipad

Sealers Bay Hut
It was a wonderful ride and was much quicker than I thought it would be. We had great views of Paterson Inlet, the Ruggedy Range and Mason Bay - I took quite a lot of video footage but haven't downloaded it from the camera yet.

The reason for going over to Codfish was to search for Hieracium pilocella or Mouse-eared hawkweed (recently renamed to Pilocella officinarum). There's a good description of it on Wikipedia DOC's plan to eradicate the weed on Codfish means annual visits to grid search the sand dunes on Sealers Bay: the weed team lines up on the beach between two red poles and makes its way through the dunes to the bush line, guided by red poles every 20 metres or so. There is a lot of crawling on hands and knees and the phrase 'like looking for a needle in a haystack' came to mind many times!! When Hieracium was found it was marked with a waypoint on our GPS and sprayed. When we reached the end of one line, the eastern red marker leap-frogged the western one and we started all over again.

Hieracium pilosella (left), dandelion on right

No Hieracium here!!
Looking west along Sealers Bay - the red markers show our next line

Looking east along Sealers Bay - what's already been done

The best office view in the world! Having lunch
on Sealers Bay, looking over to the Ruggedies
The last time I was on Whenua Hou it was very busy due to kakapo breeding time and Sirocco was paying nightly visits to the hut. This time was a lot more relaxed; there were only 9 of us at the hut and Sirocco is entertaining Wellingtonians and visitors at Zealandia until the end of October - well worth a visit to see him if you're up that way, more information at

The hut is very comfortable and the lounge/dining/kitchen area was transformed into a home cinema for the weekend quarterfinal RWC matches. The dress-up bag was brought out and everyone dressed up on Saturday night in their favoured team colours; my green dress didn't help the Irish though!! Anna gave a great felting demonstration on Thursday night and we watched the movie 'The Way Back' on Friday night. Fun times and a great bunch of people to be with. The weather was perfect; the only rain we had fell overnight so didn't delay our weed search and the chopper ride back to Oban was another great experience.

Early morning in the Sealers Bay Hut

Peace and solitude on Whenua Hou

Western end of Sealers Bay taken from the sandy area
in the photo above

Freshwater River with Paterson Inlet in background

Back home at Fern Gully Heliport

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mixed bag

We've had great weather here lately; sunny skies and mild temperatures and mostly calm except for last Tuesday when we had some strong gusts of wind. One of them was too strong for my TV aerial which snapped its bracket and toppled on to the deck roof, fortunately without damaging the Clearlite. After several minutes of looking at all angles, I've decided it's a bit hard for me to disconnect the cable and lift it gently up off the Clearlite and will leave it to the experts - it's an opportune time to replace it with a satellite dish and Freeview receiver; my TV has a built in receiver but apparently it's only a terrestrial one, not satellite.

Raylene's dog, Mac, came to stay with me overnight; the first time I've had a dog to look after on my own. I had nothing to worry about though as he found the blanket in front of the fire and I didn't hear another peep from him!
Mac, the sleeping beauty

I've been finding lots of feathers around my rat line tracks and last week saw what appeared to be a wild cat near one of the traps. I checked the traps again on Saturday and found the remains of a freshly-killed kereru and brought them home to bury. The two wings were still joined together and I took the opportunity of having a detailed look and took photos to capture the iridescent colours. Hard to capture with a digital camera but in real life they were amazing. Update 20.10.11 - the wild cat, a large tom, was captured in a live-trap cage a week or so ago. His stomach was stuffed with feathers so great to know that he's been trapped and disposed of.
Kereru wing feathers

I wish I knew more about anatomy and flight dynamics as each feather seemed to be engineered differently from its neighbour.

I'm off to Codfish Island (Whenua Hou) on Thursday and was told today that we're going by helicopter! This is a new experience for me and one which I've been waiting to cross off my bucket list for a long time. We go through a stringent quarantine process to go to the island and I've spent this evening washing all the gear I'm taking in Trigene - an antibacterial/antiviral solution. Last time I went I had to wash my sleeping bag too but fortunately bedding is now supplied - it took several days to get my down sleeping bag totally dry in the NP summer sunshine so very relieved I don't have to do it here. I will be taking my camera so hope to share the experience with you.

Whenua Hou - the hut is by Sealers Bay
I'm back barberry hunting and today James found the biggest barberry tree I've seen yet - a base of maybe 50-60cm diameter with 6 large branches growing from the base and reaching a height of 3-4m. We decided that it was too big to cut down with our Silky saws (folding bow saws) and will get it chainsawed instead. Lots of barberry in the area we were checking and I'm sure it deliberately grows in the most difficult areas to access. If your idea of fun is fighting through supplejack and bush lawyer, slithering through mud and being eaten alive by sandflies then come and join us on the weeds team!

Update 11.10.11 - Here's a photo of the above-mentioned barberry stump - it couldn't be chainsawed at the widest part of the stump but it's still impressive.

Barberry giant - upside down and sitting on a chair.