Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ackers Point kiwi release

Air New Zealand's partnership with DOC on the Rakiura Biodiversity Project saw 5 adult kiwi from Ulva Island released at Ackers Point last Friday - but not before a lively crowd of tourists and locals had a chance to meet and greet them. The Air New Zealand Green Team (Capt Chris, Lauren and Michael) made excellent ambassadors and helpers and the Weather Gods came to the party with fantastic weather, both for the release and the preceding week of locating and catching them. The Ulva Island population was established many years ago so many of the birds there were related - this transfer will be complemented by adult kiwi from other sources being released on Ulva to introduce new genes to the population there.

The ceremony kicked off around 2pm with a mihi and speeches, followed by a 'show and tell' session with the birds before they were put back in their boxes and taken to prepared release burrows. No doubt the treasured manu (birds) were relieved to be out of the spotlight and will go forth and prosper in their new homes.

The walk down to Ackers Point gives great vistas across
Halfmoon Bay

The Air New Zealand Green Team checking out the old stone cottage

Inside the cottage - hard to believe that the family brought up 8 children here

Al (right) and the Green Team arrive with the kiwi

The DOC and Air New Zealand partnership bringing back the kiwi
A large crowd of locals and visitors to the island came to see the kiwi

Meet and greet with this manu māori (native bird), a female

My, Kiwi, what big feet you have!

The walk back around the bays

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The slow builder

This last week I've been preparing the area for my 'dog run'. My plan is to cover the netted pet enclosure with ClimaSafe cloth on the sides and top and use it as a tunnel house for growing vegetables in. I purchased the kitset enclosure last year from Outpost Buildings, and, seeing how the elves were busy on other things, I decided to have a stab at it myself.

After much trial and error, I worked out a way to sort out the levels with pegs and string and spent a couple of afternoons skimming, digging and redistributing the claggy clay. In Taranaki I would have just dug it over and then raked it but it's not that easy here. The dimensions of the enclosure are 3.9m x 2.2m making it a very tight fit between the water tank and the raised bed. The whole project almost became a white elephant when I assembled the base and found that the actual measurements were 3.95m x 2.3m - I'll just have to breathe in when I walk down the raised bed path!

Base down - a tighter fit than I had planned

Base from northern side
The base rails  (4 with corners and 2 straight ones) slot together which means they also pull apart easily. The 6 uprights weren't hard to install but putting the top rail on would have been amusing to watch! The instructions said to make the top rail the same configuration as the base so I worked my way round assembling and bolting as I went and ended up with this...

Frame with door still to be fitted
I carefully checked horizontal and vertical levels and tightened the fittings, only to discover that because the top rail layout was the same as the bottom one, the whole structure easily parted at the joins. Hmmm. I was tempted to take the top rail down again and rebuild it so that the joins were staggered - but that would make it impossible to install the doorway (has to go by an upright and can't be put over a join). In the end I decided to run some PVC-covered wire around the top rail, threading it between the fittings so that it kept the frame from coming apart. I've also run the wire diagonally across the top. A good plan, methinks, but then I ran out of wire to complete the second diagonal and a quick check on The Warehouse website showed that they've discontinued that item. I'll have another think about what to do next!

The completed frame with fitted door and hard to see wire bracing

The netting stage is next BUT if I cover the frame now then I won't be able to put the containers inside as the door is only 500mm wide and the mussel buoy containers around 750mm. Additionally, the ClimaSafe instructions state that the cloth will degrade faster if placed against metal due to the metal heating up. It would be good to have a removable panel but I'm not sure if this will compromise the strength of the structure. It's just as well I'll have plenty of thinking time whilst I'm track trimming at Dancing Star for the rest of today!

It's probably the slowest-ever assembly of a simple enclosure but an achievement nevertheless. I have another small plastic-covered greenhouse (like the one that was fatally damaged in the gale) and plan to put this inside the finished enclosure for starting off seedlings in the cooler weather.

We had a kiwi release on the island last Friday - will get that blog up when I get back :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kiwi alarm clock

Lovely to be woken up this morning by a male kiwi calling just outside my window; he got the time slightly early (5am) but I went back to sleep with a big smile on my face. Here's his footprints in my mud puddles.

Kiwi footprints 18 Feb 13

I've been working on my vege garden patch and getting ready for assembling my 'dog run' which is my variation on a tunnel house; I'm covering the outside with MicroClimate cloth which will let the rain in - I'll keep you posted on whether it does form its own micro-climate for growing.

Levelling the area for the dog run
To keep the possums and weka out, I've stapled wire netting under the garage...

Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) brought his super-yacht, Octopus, down to the island last week. Wikipedia says that the yacht is the 13th largest in the world; it is 126m long and has 2 heli-decks. It's larger than some of the cruise ships that visit.

Super-yacht Octopus moored in a rough Paterson Inlet - the red water
taxi gives some idea of scale
Last but not least is a photo from last month when I walked home from Deep Bay in the moonlight. The camera was handheld and I was amazed how well my great little Sony camera performed.

Moonlight on Halfmoon Bay

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Recipe for nature watching

Digital camera
Internet connection

1. Take your camera and walk outside
2. Look closely at your surroundings - on bushes and flowers, under rocks, rotting wood, tree bark
3. Take photos of anything interesting
4. Join up at naturewatch.org.nz
5. Login and add New Observation. Consult your books OR tick the Identification Required box
6. Search for your area and see what others have discovered near you
7. Repeat steps 1-6 as many times as you like :)

Here are some of my results - perfect baking with zero calories...

Sori on Prickly Shield Fern (Polystichum vestitum) - the light coloured
circle over each sori is a protective cover called indusium

Longlegged Harvestman - either Megalopsalis or Pantopsalis
see http://soilbugs.massey.ac.nz/opiliones.php

Zorion australe - common throughout New Zealand, can you find one?

Stemonitis (possibly fusca) - a slime mould found on some decaying wood
see http://photogenicimage.com/images/stemonitis-fusca-by-nick-cantle/
for an amazing time-lapse video
 If you're in to Facebook then check out NatureWatch's http://www.facebook.com/nzbrn?ref=stream 
or their blog at http://nzbrn.blogspot.co.nz/

Green Ideas

Check out the second issue of this bi-monthly NZ magazine - it costs less than a cup of coffee and jam-packed with easy ways to live more sustainably. Definitely worth subscribing to: NZ$19.90 for 6 print issues OR $9.95 for 3 digital editions. We owe it to future generations to have less waste so grab a copy and join the revolution; their website is www.greenideas.co.nz (plus the first 400 print subscribers will receive 5 free packets of Yates seeds worth $19.95).

The February-March issue has a Buyers Guide to toilet paper and explains the various eco-labels. Purex toilet paper has both FSC and Environmental Choice NZ accreditation and is Green Ideas choice for a paper that is 100% recycled and gives the strongest assurance of forest protection. The backlash from consumers has forced Cottonsoft Ltd to revise its sourcing after rainforest material was found in their products. Great to know that we CAN make a difference with our buying habits - let's get behind those companies with a sustainability ethic.

Our long stretch of warm summer weather continues albeit with the odd cool morning (6°C) and the occasional spot of rain. I turned my large compost heap last week but need to do it more often if I want to kill all the weed seeds. It was a major job, nowhere near as easy as a similar-sized one I had in Taranaki, but good to see a number of worms and fungi in it - nature's wonder workers at breaking down organic matter.

Cruise ships come and go on every few days, the next one to visit is the Oceanic Discoverer on 13 February. The DOC Visitor Centre tends to be superbusy on cruise ship days but it doesn't really affect my job, apart from seeing more people in the Bay when I collect the mail.

24 Jan: Silver Shadow from Deep Bay
24 Jan: Silver Shadow moored in Paterson Inlet. The blue boat passing
in front of the Silver Shadow is the Ulva Island water taxi
Some of the cruises are nature-focused and their passengers are a lot more interested (and knowledgeable) in the flora and fauna of our island. Others are purely tourists and they probably wonder what on earth they've landed on - they mill around wondering what to do and where the shops are! It will be great when the proposed new museum is built as it will be a good focal point for visitors.

The NatureWatch website has me in its clutches and eating up my spare (and sleeping) time. I can indulge in my favourite pastime of identifying the weird and wonderful - I'll pop some examples up on another blog while my coffee cools!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

I've lived here for two years now and am still surprised at the exciting discoveries I found around me. Yesterday I chopped the wood that had been chainsawed a few weeks back; lo and behold these interesting 'things' popped up. I had to take photos - no wonder I take so long to do anything!

Top view of the one above
I'll have to put them up on NatureWatch.org.nz and get an ID on them - I've looked through all my books and come up blank.

These have been identified...

Prickly Shield Fern (Polystichum vestitum) sori on the underneath
of the frond

Longlegged harvestman (either Megalopsalis or Pantopsalis)

Gastrodia or Black Orchid (not that easy to see - it's the tall spiky thing!)

Close up of Gastrodia stem tip, soon to break out into yellow flowers
I have a million other photos, all of the weird and wonderful but they'll have to wait until I have more time. The rain has cleared and I have my rat traps to check :)