Sunday, April 28, 2013

Earth Pilgrim

There aren't many television programmes that inspire me but the documentary on Choice TV last night certainly did. Purely by chance I flicked through the channels and the BBC documentary 'Natural World Earth Pilgrim - A spiritual journey into the landscape of Dartmoor with Satish Kumar' was just starting.

I was bewitched and so glad that Google is around so that I could find out more about this special person who had immense respect for the natural world. The following synopsis is taken from the DVD ...
'Produced as part of the award-winning Natural World Series for the BBC. The BBC’s Natural History Unit has brought the marvels of the planet to millions of viewers using breathtaking photography and pioneering film techniques.
Conservationist Satish Kumar spends one year exploring the beauty of England’s Dartmoor National Park. Satish, the world-renowned ecologist, former Jain Monk and pilgrim for peace offers a very Indian perspective on the ancient moorlands through the changing seasons. Backed by exquisite photography, he guides viewers on a lyrical and richly spiritual journey across a beautiful landscape.
Walking the moor and exploring woods and rivers, home to a wealth of wildlife including red deer, starling roosts, kestrels and foxes, Satish introduces the Dartmoor scenes and sights that most inspire him - gnarled oak woods, rushing rivers, stags in rut, wild tracts of heather, cuckoos hungry for food, the metamorphosis of moths - and contemplates what they reveal, and the lessons they hold for humanity.'
...and this review in BBC Wildlife Magazine which says it so much better than me!
Prepare yourself for a soul-searching journey. According to Satish Kumar, who will accompany you, most people don’t feel enlightenment because they never get the chance to sit and think “under a tree, which is the true sustaining force on Earth”. It would be easy to feel patronised by this film, but I came away feeling a better person just for watching it.
Satish Kumar on Dartmoor
 So why don’t most of us know about Satish Kumar, whose face glows with inner goodness and whose ethos is an uncomplicated live and let live? He’s editor of Resurgence, the ecological magazine, but he ought to be dominating mainstream media, instead of the celebrities that represent the antithesis of everything he stands for. Kumar’s opinions about nature should be part of the national curriculum and our leaders should make his insightfulness an integral part of their manifestos. It would be a better world if Bush applied some of Kumar’s principles – and meant them: “To learn the art of frugality and simplicity is to learn the art of living” and “Lead me from falsehood to truth, from fear to trust, from hate to love, from war to peace”. 
Inspired in the early 60s by Mahatma Gandhi, 18-year-old Kumar set off from his native India to make a peaceful protest against nuclear weapons. Some 8,000 miles later, he arrived in Washington DC after travelling through Russia, the Himalayas and Dartmoor in Devon – which captured his soul and is where he returned to live afterwards.
Dartmoor’s wildlife and seasons make a suitably mouthwatering backdrop for Kumar to share his philosophies. Chanting a prayer while sitting in an ancient circle of stones is something most tv presenters would never get away with. But Kumar can. By the closing credits, you feel as though you’ve had a mental massage.'
Review courtesy of Rachel Ashton/BBC Wildlife. For more coverage of upcoming wildlife programmes visit BBC Wildlife Magazine

Despite searching, the DVD doesn't appear to be available now but someone has posted it on YouTube - search for Earth Pilgrim - A Year on Dartmoor. Satish Kumar 2008.

Satish Kumar's philosophy fits well with me and I am looking forward to furthering my education as a Rakiura earth pilgrim and learning from the trees.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Anzac Day 2013

It was great to hear a female kiwi call as I started my walk down to the Dawn Service; last Anzac Day I found a dead kiwi that had been hit by a vehicle as I walked down to the Bay which put a damper on the stunning sunrise as the service took place. This year the heavy cloud blocked any signs of a sunrise but at least the rain stopped for the service which was attended by many locals and visitors to the island. The Salvation Army Band, bagpipes plus a bugler to play the Last Post made it a ceremony to remember.

After the service I headed off to Deep Bay to check my rat lines, plus wire-brush, oil and rebait all 54 traps. Light showers turned to more persistent rain and although the bush makes a reasonable umbrella, I was pretty damp after 6 hours out in the elements - the rainbows made up for it though and catching 6 rats was a bonus.

Rainbow stretching over Paterson Inlet

The recent easterly storms have blown up a wonderful heap of seaweed on the beaches. There's a wee bit of kelp in it, along with a mixture of all the other seaweeds. Mother Nature's gift for the gardens and about the only time that I hanker for a vehicle so that I can collect it. On the way back from my rat lines I filled up 10 bags which a friend picked up and delivered. Tomorrow I'll put some on my raised bed and the rest on my compost heap.

We've had fronts rolling through for the last week with winds, showers and cloudy skies. The temperatures have been quite mild though and, with the extra protection of the micro-climate cloth and plastic greenhouse, my seeds are growing well and just starting to get their second leaves.

Eco-Store organic mesclun mix

Perpetual spinach seedlings

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rattie stats

I've had rat traps set since I arrived here but didn't keep any formal records until mid-August 2012. I now have 30 traps set around the house and the bush boundary and have checked them on a daily basis since mid-October. I've set a number of traps in pairs so that I can trial different types of bait including dark chocolate (still the favourite), peanut butter, white chocolate, bacon, FeraFeed and FeraFeed Smooth.

I only had 16 traps ready when I first placed them around the boundary so when I paired them up, the traps went a bit like this:

1/4: back deck
2/3: front of house by drive
5/17: shade house/garage
6/18: totara (there's also a GoodNature possum trap on the tree)
7/19: rubbish heap
8/20: mud puddle
9/21: boundary peg
10/22: clearing, back boundary
11/23: back boundary
12/24: back boundary
13/25: north boundary peg
14/26: small hillock
15/27: bendy bit
16/28: northern boundary bush end
29/30: water tank

Not the easiest and no doubt I'll change them soon to make it easier to pinpoint rat incursions.

I had a play with Excel's pivot tables this morning and here's the results from traps that have caught at least one rat from 15 August 2012 to 21 April 2013.

The 'unknown' column come either from bodies that are too eaten/decayed to be able to sex them, or when there's definitely been a catch but the body was removed (probably by a weka). Traps 4 (back deck) and 6 (totara) have caught almost half the entire tally - trap 4 used to be the winner with 11 rats caught up till 20 January 2013 but it's only caught 1 rat since whilst trap 6 has caught 14 in the same time period.

Interestingly, trap 18 that is paired with trap 6 has never caught a rat despite me swapping positions from time to time. All traps are now baited with dark chocolate drops (Pams variety) and it still catches rats even when it's gone mouldy. The FeraFeed didn't seem to work as well and the cost was way more expensive - plus it went mouldy much faster. I'm not tempted to nibble the chocolate drops as I go round as I've swished my rat gloves around in the container!!

I need to get some tracking tunnels set up which will confirm whether there are rats present but which don't like going into the traps. Almost half of my traps haven't caught any rats: 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 30 - if the tracking tunnels don't show any rat footprints in that area then maybe I could redeploy the traps where there are higher numbers.

No possums caught yet with my GoodNature self-resetting trap - but I haven't seen any possum poo or heard possum noises so maybe there's none around. I did my second bird listening survey last Friday night; it was much quieter than the first one with one male kiwi call plus a couple of ruru 'cree' calls as it flew around.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Being watched

Since moving to the island I've had plenty of time to watch the birds. I don't feed them as I don't want to interfere in their lives; human food isn't the best for birds plus there's plenty of tucker in the bush for them here. I do toss the dead rats into the bush and no doubt the weka find them; I wear gloves so there shouldn't be any human smells to associate food with humans. It's a real buzz, then, to find that some of the birds are really curious about what I'm doing - the little ngirungiru (tomtits) and piwakawaka (fantails) often come to watch me as I work outside and even the korimako (bellbirds) will come for a closer look as I check my rat traps around the boundary. New Zealand bush birds will show themselves when you are still and quiet, so take time to stand still when you are out in the bush.

It's pretty difficult identifying the same bird in the wild - they don't keep still long enough to notice if they have a unique feature but they do tend to have their own territories. Easier by far for humans are small colour bands that get put on either before the young birds fledge or as adults when they are caught. The released toutouwai (bush robins) at Dancing Star are all banded and it was great to see that the bird I saw on Line 4 on 19 January this year was still alive and kicking. Pink-Pink (PP) found me as I trimmed the Line 1 track and I'm picking he was in Pink-Red-Pink's (PRP) territory as PRP was doing all he/she could to shoo PP off. They both followed me for a short distance but Pink-Pink stayed with me for the next 3 hours, down Line 1 to the beach and then back up the cliffs via another track - amazing that a wee bird has that sort of attention span. Every time I stopped to trim ferns/supplejack out she/he'd hop and flutter in front of me.

Pink-Pink on one of the rat traps

What a cutie!

Do I look prettier with the bands like this??
The Weka Family have been around a few times lately - they are also curious fellows and wander around unconcerned that I am watching them. The young ones keep close to the adult bird (?Mum) and even though they look fully grown, the parent bird is still feeding them occasionally.

Weka checking out my vege garden
The annual bird listening surveys have come around again with the purpose of counting all kiwi, morepork/ruru and weka calls over a 2 hour period in the evening. On calm, dry evenings over the next 6 weeks or so you'll find a number of us wrapped up warm and recording bird noises, compass bearings and estimated distances plus any other information that will help with identifying bird populations around the village. Three of the six sites are within the SIRCET project area (ie rat and possum trapped) and the others are dotted around outside the project area. Last Wednesday was a gorgeous night under the stars and I heard 4 kiwi calls and 5 ruru calls - I think they all came from the same bird and halfway through the listening period the ruru called for 16 minutes - about once every 5-10 seconds and didn't get one reply. My time finished at 9pm so the female/male kiwi duet at 8.58pm just made it in time. A magical end to the evening - roll on the next suitable night.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

White morning

It was a cool start to the morning but I was gob-smacked when I opened the blinds and saw a boomer frost! Winter is certainly on the way.

Looking out from the deck

Frosty compost heap
I cheated on daylight saving time and put my clocks back an hour on Friday night which gave me a great excuse to sleep in this morning. By the time I got up, the sun was shining brightly and everywhere was steaming. It's been a glorious day - just perfect for spending the day with the birds and trees whilst track trimming at Dancing Star.

Whilst on the topic of daylight saving time, I put my clocks forward a day early last September too - it seems much easier to adapt with two days of the weekend to do it, rather than just the one and I wish I tried it years ago :)

Mina and Phil flew out on the 8.30am flight last Tuesday which meant a walk down to the Post Office (aka Flight Centre) in the early dawn. After they left for the airstrip I sat and watched the sun rise over Halfmoon Bay.

A free shuttle to the airstrip - bye guys, thanks for coming


What a picturesque island I live on!
My NatureWatching has taken a back seat for the last couple of weeks but I haven't stopped taking photos. There's a lot of fungi around at present - here's a wee selection...
Jelly fungus

I haven't found this one in my books yet - any ideas?

Puffball found checking Dancing Star traps

A different sort of puffball found on Deep Bay rat lines

This looks like the yellow version of the orange mosscap in my book
I'll have to become more methodical when recording the fungi I find as identification from a single photo isn't always easy; features like gills, spore colour, type of habitat, cap shape and texture will all help. There's still many fungi in New Zealand which haven't been discovered before so keep a look out in your neck of the woods.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter treats

My apologies for not putting up any blogs recently - have I already used the excuse that I was abducted by aliens for the last 3 weeks?? Not as exciting, but closer to the truth, is that fine weather, a mound of outside work and shortening daylight hours are to blame. With daylight saving ending this weekend, I'll have lots of evening time to blog to my heart's content.

A superquick catch-up:
1. a trip to Invercargill on 20 March - beaut weather, visits to the dentist and hairdresser and nice to get my shopping list completed
2. helping the museum committee with preparation for their Easter historic photo exhibition
3. enjoying Mina and Phil's visit at Easter
4. finishing the shade house
5. and getting 16 rats in one afternoon, most of them at Dancing Star

Leaving Invercargill


Horseshoe Bay, Stewart Island

Halfmoon Bay, Stewart Island
Home from the air - the new colour blends in so much better with the bush
My biggest buzz was meeting Phil's fiancĂ©e, Mina, for the first time - what a delight. Phil came to the island for 2 nights in May 2010 but it was Mina's first trip. We did lots of walking and enjoyed the fab Indian summer weather.
Mina and Phil at Sarah Cove

Paddling on Horseshoe Bay

Checking out the seaweed gardens at Golden Bay
Inbetween sightseeing, they helped me with finishing the bracing and then covering the dog run frame with micro-climate cloth. There's no instructions for this - we were making it up as we went along and I'm thrilled with the results. We used cable ties to attach the cloth to the frame, stretching it as we went. The cloth lets some water through but cuts out the wind and hopefully all frosts and hail. We assembled the smaller plastic greenhouse that I bought last October; I've also got a larger one but will see how everything fares during the next big blow before I set it up.

Putting the micro-climate cloth on the 'dog run'

Final touches

The new shade house hides the water tank nicely

Woohoo! Finished!!!

Fitting out the inside - the small greenhouse will be used for starting seeds
off, the fish table makes a great potting bench and just out of picture
to the left are potting bags with seedlings in
A highlight of their stay was going out on the fishing boat, Rawhiti, with Andrew and Sharon Leask - another first for Mina. The weather was misty when they left at 9am but cleared by the time they came back around 12.30pm with a large bag of fresh blue cod and trumpeter.
Setting out on the Rawhiti

Back at the wharf

The smiles say it all - fishing is fun!

Mina's fish and vegetable curry - soooooo yummy
Mina's culinary skills are fantastic - she made fish soup and a lovely fresh fish meal on Sunday night, and fish curry for their last night here. I have a lot of practice to do for when they visit again!
It's late and time for bed so will finish this and add another blog over the weekend.