Sunday, March 17, 2013

Winning streak

A lot happens in a fortnight and I forgot to tell you in my last post about my winning streak. I reckon I'm the luckiest person on earth to be able to live my dream but two recent things in quick succession have now made me the luckiest person in the Universe!

Winning day #1: I filled in an online questionnaire for Swazi some time back; it was a privilege to give some customer feedback as Swazi gear is the best; my two 6 year old micro-fleece tops get a thrashing yet still wash up to look like new. They are warm, well-fitting and lightweight - and, being Swazi, extremely well made. Just over a week ago I got a call from the ferry to say I had a parcel to collect and imagine my surprise when I opened it to find a fab Swazi Matiere jacket, apparently my name was drawn out of the hat for filling in the questionnaire. Thanks, Swazi - check out their fab range (all proudly made in New Zealand) at - or call in to their shop at Levin if you are passing through. I've found Swazi to be the best value for money, the most durable clothing for the outdoors and I would happily endorse their clothing, even without winning a thing!
My new Matiere jacket
Swazi snugness - roll on Winter!

Winning day #2: a few days later I was surprised with another large package; I had won a prize in the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community & Environment Trust raffle (SIRCET). Two Hunting & Fishing polar fleece tops and a beanie, a comprehensive CRT first aid kit, 2 Easibake silicon muffin pans and a voucher from the 4 Square shop on the island. Wow!

SIRCET do a great job of clearing predators from the Ackers project area, running the Community Nursery at Horseshoe Bay and supporting revegetation projects around the township. I'm proud to support them financially and with weekly checks of rat traps at Deep Bay. Funding is not easy to come by and I really appreciate the time and efforts that the SIRCET board and members go to. Want to make a difference and keep the island intact for future generations? How about sponsoring one hectare of prime coastal forest for $50 a year so that rat/possum control can be financed? Check out SIRCET's website on and

What a lucky person I am :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Welcome rain

Oban has fared a lot better than the drought-stricken areas - we've had some light rain at nights and quite heavy dews but even so, our temperate rainforest had become as dry as cornflakes. Today's steady rain is most welcome and I can almost hear the sigh of relief as plants, trees and birds soak up the moisture. The beautiful filmy ferns, of genus Hymenophyllum, will transform from shrivelled, black, dead-looking leaves to lush green translucent fronds, often only one cell thick. There are at least 21 species of filmy fern on Stewart Island; I have a lot to learn to be able to identify them all!

Hymenophyllum ferrugineum

(above and following) Hymenophyllum spp - will put these pics up
on NatureWatch to get an identification

Recyclable packages of tiny sori - part of my thumbnail for size
 My big clean-up around the section is progressing slowly but surely. I had a bit of a setback last week when my scrub-bar (brushcutter) started making strange noises and losing revs. I don't want to do more damage as it doesn't seem to be a tuning problem and will take it down to work on Monday to see if it can be fixed here on the island.

Neat and tidy driveway - just before the scrub bar packed up
Many Islanders use mussel buoys for gardening in; I've tried a selection of ways but found the larger ones tend to splay out if they are cut lengthwise. Dale, the local policeman, has come up with this way of cutting them - a lot neater and more room for the roots...

Dale's bright idea - the bases are riveted on
With this in mind, I put my name down for some old ones and they've just been delivered. I've now got to chainsaw some of them in half and cut rings out of the others for the bases - oh, and get a rivet gun from somewhere :)

Old mussel buoys waiting for the chainsaw
The new dog run is at a standstill until I work out how I can make a removeable section. The door is too narrow to fit the mussel buoys through so, once the netting is on the walls and roof, it will be impossible to get the buoys inside. I'm putting wire bracing diagonally on the sections for strength and will tie the micro-climate cloth netting on to the bracing - this way I won't need to put the wire netting on, or that's the plan at present! Subject to change as I try and suss it out.

Our last cruise ship for the season, the Bremen, visited on 7 March - it's always nice to see the village full of interested tourists but I'm sure the tourism operators will be glad of a rest as the 'season' dies down. A number of schools are visiting this month and camping/tramping around the Rakiura 'Great Walk' Track; a great opportunity for them to hear, and for some of them, see kiwi.

The Bremen at anchor in Paterson Inlet
The website is very addictive, especially once you start putting up your own pictures and getting them identified. It's great that beginners have access to such learned experts AND that the experts can have a vehicle for passing on their knowledge. Here's internet technology at its best and I hope you'll take advantage of it to learn more about the environment in which you live. It's also offers the best comedy - if you could see me dancing about trying to photograph a hover fly or doing contortions trying to snap the looper caterpillar that wouldn't stay still then you'd laugh long and loud :)
I haven't seen many wasps here until this year; the warm, dry spell has obviously favoured them and a number of wasp nests are causing problems - both in the village and in the bush. A DOC worker had to be medi-vacced off Secretary Island earlier this month when he was stung multiple times and reacted badly. There's a large nest on my rat line at Deep Bay which needs to be detoured around and I see that the pub has cans of fly spray sitting on the outside tables. What a shame social wasp species were accidentally introduced in New Zealand - they have no natural predators here and we now have some of the highest densities of wasp populations in the world. There's some good information on wasps on the DOC website here
Time to do the dishes and maybe put up another few observations on NatureWatch - have a serene Sunday.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kiwi alarm clock - take 2

My tokoeka (Apteryx australis) alarm clock was very civilised this week with a 6.31am call on Wednesday. The male kiwi was right outside the house and, by the time he had got through 29 whistles, was sounding a bit breathless. When he stopped calling I turned the light off and peeked through the dining area window and, in the moonlight, saw him walking up the drive less than 5m away. What a magic way to start the day off!

Our island summer finished on a high note with a sunny and calm 28°C; overnight we got a gentle rain which carried on through the morning - it was lovely walking down to work feeling the rain on my face and you could almost see the bush smiling whilst lapping up the moisture. The mild temperatures and the rain are ideal for fungi so I'll have to look out for them on my track trimming tomorrow.

Looking closely at my environment brings huge rewards. I found a wee red Hygrocybe growing amongst the grass and dandelions on Tuesday - how's this for perfection?

It only lasted like this for a day so I was lucky to see it; the next day it was dry and brown. Yesterday I found a whole colony of chocolate-brown slime mould. Slime moulds aren't fungi - according to Geoff Ridley's 'Mushrooms and other fungi of New Zealand', they 'live in soil, litter and bark as single-celled organisms that eat bacteria. When conditions are suitable they swarm together and travel as a plasmodium (a slimy mass), and move to a suitable position where they change form and become fruit-bodies.' I think this is another Stemonita fusca - but I could be wrong!!


Close-up of some of the fruiting-body
NatureWatch is doing a great job at identifying all my finds and I'm learning the difference between lichens, mosses and liverworts - and this chappie, a Hybolasius crista!

I managed to grab two quick photos and then it flew away
Our beautiful island got its hooks into another one of our visitors - Wyn sent this poem back after she left and it's now pinned up on the noticeboard.

Stewart Island
I'm missing Stewart Island yet I only left today
Every sunrise I have seen that heralded the day
was different all, in colour and moving shape and form,
while birds at work already, looked determined, not forlorn.

Sometimes a bank of heavy cloud would hold a curtain up
as if the Island whispered, 'Oh no, don't wake me up!'
The mauve and pinks, the blues and greys left every flower to shame
For they could never, ever change; their colours stayed the same.

Now God Who made this Island knew that every single soul
would need to see the beauty that could form inside his own.
A quick impatient glance around would never give them peace
you need to breathe the Island air and breathe in God's own Peace.

So if you feel the end is near and you're not long for this earth
Perhaps you should do what I did and find this peace on earth
Come breathe the purest air I know, see skies that speak of heaven
Tell the Islanders that Wyn sent you, it is where I found my heaven.