Thursday, March 27, 2014

An afternoon on Ulva Island

Stewart Islanders are so lucky to have this open sanctuary just a short water-taxi ride away and, in my opinion, it's a must-see if you are visiting. There are few open sanctuaries in New Zealand and Ulva must be the easiest to visit with no permits required or restrictions on visitor numbers. Ulva Island is 266ha and was declared predator-free in 1996 - rats have occasionally been caught in traps since then and in 2010 a single pregnant Norway rat evaded the traps and gave rise to a re-invasion. Fortunately the ensuing poison drops were successful and the island was declared predator-free again in 2012. The Department of Conservation runs an extensive trapping programme, including the offshore islands around Ulva, and DNA testing of Norway rats found in Paterson Inlet can pinpoint where rats could invade from.

Enough writing, here's some photos from my trip in early March...

Astelia in fruit

Boulder Beach on the SW coast looking

Boulder Beach at low tide

Olearia seedhead
Close-up of Olearia seedhead
A colony of red anemone, Actinia tenebrosa

Close-up of red anemone, Actinia tenebrosa
Toutouwai, Stewart Island robin, Petroica australis rakiura

A curious wee robin

Weka, Gallirallus australis scotti, footprints

West End Beach looking NE with Oban in distance

West End Beach, looking west
 More information can be found on the Ulva Island Charitable Trust website and this Department of Conservation's brochure (links open in new window). Ulva Island is one of New Zealand's earliest reserves and has never been logged - it's definitely worth preserving for future generations of all species.

Firewood critters

One of the perks of being hands-on with my firewood is seeing the weird and wonderful critters that grow in or on dead wood. I keep my camera close by as it's neat to share my discoveries with you - apologies for some of the tiny ones, they don't keep still long enough to get a crisp photo!

Not sure if this is a puffball - another one for

This was growing on rotten wood and it had a number of different critters
on it, as well as small red fungi

Can you see the small critter to the left of the yellow blob?


There were thousands of grass grubs in the rotting eucalypt leaves
as well as small grey moths and brown chrysalis cases

A mixture of critters - top left is the same as the critter in the 3rd photo,
a hairy version at bottom right; another grass grub...

A large beetle snug in its burrow

Not sure if this is the same type of beetle as above

A flatworm

Yellow fungus
It must be autumn as the fungi are starting to appear - there are some small bright orange ones on my boundary track and several brown fungi. I'm checking for robins at the weekend and will keep my eyes open for other bush critters at the same time.

Outpost Woodshed modifications

My lovely 12 cubic metre Outpost Woodshed was the first project completed after I shifted to Stewart Island. The well-designed kitset is the best I've seen and I've had outstanding customer service from Jim, the Lifestyle Buildings Specialist. Outpost have an impressive range of relocatable designs with free freight within NZ to your nearest freight depot.

My woodshed has now seen three winters and each year I've tweaked the way I stack wood as I was putting wet wood in front of dry. In hindsight two woodsheds would have been the way to go - one for last year's wood, the other for newly-gathered wood.  In November 2012 I made hammocks out of salmon netting to hold all the small twigs and bark that I use for kindling, see my previous blog (opens in new window) and nailed up some planks to provide a partition. These mods worked better although I kept hitting my head on the hammocks. Earlier this month I removed the hammocks, cut the salmon netting in half and nailed it to make internal partitions going up to the roof.

Woodshed 10 March 2014 with new salmon netting partitions
These have worked well and I can now pile up the kindling, jump on it to squish it down and then pile it up some more. The left hand partition is filled with kindling and in the front I've stacked the logs that need splitting. The right hand partition is full of the bigger firewood and the middle is a mixture of big and small. My cunning plan is to start the fire with a load of kindling, chuck on a couple of bigger logs and then let the fire go out though this may need beefing up when there's no sunshine. My small 45sq m whare warms up quickly and the double-glazing keeps the warmth in - and I can always pop on another jersey to save on wood!
Woodshed 15 March 2014 - filling up
Woodshed 23 March 2014 - not much room left now
All clear around the woodshed (east end)
I haven't used my chainsaw for over a year now as I enjoy using the low-tech bow saw and loppers - I'm not so scared of those tools, they don't make a lot of noise or use fossil fuel. Breaking up dried tree-tops is time-consuming but satisfying work and I feel that I'm playing my part in reducing my overall footprint.
I haven't completely finished - there's still a woodpile to break up and I plan on adding a bit of a lean-to on the west-side of the woodshed using a couple of pallets and the timber from the hen house that Jen and I dismantled in December. Not quite sure how I go about it yet but it will need to be strong enough to stand up to the westerly gusts of wind.
It's great to have the woodshed full and I'll now be able to measure how much I use through this winter. In New Plymouth I'd get a large truckload of kiln-dried pine blocks and spend a day barrowing it to the woodshed. I spend a heap more time achieving the same thing here but at least I appreciate the effort when I'm sitting in a nice cosy house!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Weather matters

We've had a great spell of weather for the last three weeks with calm, sunny weather during the day and enough moisture at night to keep everything green. This pretty island sparkles like a jewel in the sunshine and visitors and residents alike have good reason to smile at their good fortune in being here. It's also the reason my blogs have been few and far between lately as I've been outside catching up on jobs that need to be done before the winter.

It's also been a good month for looking skyward; there's been some interesting cloud formations, a full moon and with the sun now rising just before 8am, I get treated to some colourful sunrises on the way to work.

Dark and light cloud 11 Mar 14 at 7.33pm
Full moon at sunrise 18 March 7.40am

Mackerel cloud 22 March 2014 8.30am
On Thursday 13 March the early morning sky glowed orange and I grabbed the camera but was disappointed that only the purple and pinks were picked up by it. My disappointment turned to glee as I set off for work 10 minutes later and captured a double-rainbow stretching over the front of my section.

Sunrise 13 March 2014 7.22am

10 minutes later

Where do I start digging?
A few days' later the sunset was another stunner - one translation of Rakiura means 'Land of Glowing Skies' and it's easy to see why as these skies were definitely aglow. I was watching 3 whitetail deer graze just off the deck and didn't want to disturb them so this shot was taken out the window with the 'glow' reflecting off the window and house. The camera doesn't pick up all the colours or the intensity - guess you'll just have to come down and experience it for yourself!

17 March 2014 8.08pm

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A walk to Ackers Point

The weather was cloudy and dry a couple of weeks ago when I walked to Ackers Point after work. The road winds around the coast, past Lonnekers Beach and Leask Bay and ends at the carpark. A walking track then leads down past the stone cottage (marked with a red x) at Harrold Bay and around the top of the cliffs, ending up at the lighthouse beacon.

Google Maps screenshot of Ackers Point peninsula
There's a lot of history in this 3km walk. The 5m-high wooden lighthouse beacon was moved to Ackers Point in 1927 from The Neck, and replaced in 2007, still using the original light. The first time I walked to see it was in 2009 and I kept looking upwards to catch a glimpse of the 'lighthouse'; it was a surprise to see this squat wee building, barely showing over the bush canopy!

Ackers Point lighthouse beacon
The lookout at the end of the track (at the left of the picture) is about 20m above sea level so a bit far for me to spot the little blue penguins bobbing about at dusk. There are several titi (muttonbird) burrows in this area and hopefully the kiwi that were released here last summer have stayed in the general area.

Ackers Cottage is back along the track at Harrold Bay and was built by Lewis Acker around 1835. It originally had two rooms and the stone, from an Invercargill quarry, was set in clay and pointed with crushed sea shells. The original slate roof has since been replaced with corrugated iron. Lewis and Mary Acker had 9 children - I can picture them playing around the house and beach whilst their father tended to his boats and their mother was fully occupied with household duties and babies.


In the early 1860s the cottage was owned by Captain James Harrold (originally from the Orkney Islands), and his Canadian wife, Agnes. When they first arrived in Stewart Island in 1861 they set up home in Port William where they cured fish but moved to the stone cottage after a short time and set up a shop and shipbuilding business, then a guest house called Travellers' Rest, a Category 1 historic building currently being restored.

Agnes was a resourceful woman and a competent nurse. She managed the guest house, cared for her own and foster children, was the island's midwife and also tended to the sick and injured often walking long distances to the sawmills. She died in 1903, five years after James, and they are both buried in the Halfmoon Bay Cemetery.

I can't find many facts about Jensen Bay although I'm picking it was named after Hans and Mary (nee Leask) Jensen who bought Travellers' Rest in 1910. Their daughter, Olga, was a teacher and keen birdwatcher and also a foundation member of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand. She received the Queen's Service Medal in 1979, 10 years before her death. (Doreen Gilchrist. 'Sansom, Rosa Olga', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, updated 29-Jan-2014 URL:

Leask Bay was named after another Orkney Islander, Tom Leask, who settled there with his wife, Dinah. Tom set up a shipbuilding and repair business and was also involved in commercial fishing. They had nine children, one of which (Alex) built a crib in the bay in the 1920s - next time I'm down that way I'll take a photo of it if it is still standing.

I'm haven't heard of Little Bay that's shown on the Google map above so I'll move slightly to the left and Lonnekers Beach - this was named after 'Fred' Lonneker, a German, and his wife, Hannah (Dinah Leask's sister) who opened the island's first licensed hotel in 1875.

It's fun learning the history of the names and in my next blog I'll fill you in with the Norwegian link, in preparation for our Norsk Feiring weekend in early April - see here (opens in new window) for a wee taster.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A walk in the sunshine

My visitor from New Plymouth arrived yesterday and may doubt that the sun shines at all on Stewart Island. We've had grey skies with rain/showers since he arrived and the outside temperature was cool enough to light the fire. It's now cosy and warm inside and whilst my visitor watches 'Blacklist' on tv, I'll put up a blog to prove that the sun does shine.

Bragg Bay at bottom left, with track winding around the coast to
Dead Man Beach at top right
We started our walk from Bragg Bay and wandered up the hill, past the trig and down to Sarah Cove. This beautiful wee bay sparkles on a sunny day with crystal clear water reflecting the blues and greens of the sky and vegetation.

Sarah Cove looking beautiful in the sunshine

Looking back to Bragg Bay
The track winds through coastal bush before a steep downhill section that comes out on Dead Man Beach. It's a great place to throw sticks for the dog, have a picnic or just to explore. The track continues round to a second trig on Horseshoe Point but we were short of time and walked back the way we came, checking out the orchids on the way. We saw several clumps of Earina autumnalis with flower buds, but one tree trunk stretching over the track had jumped the gun and was smothered with these orchids in full flower.

Earina autumnalis close to flowering

Flowering Easter orchid Earina autumnalis
Another large clump just about to come into flower was by the side of the track - if you're lucky enough to be on Rakiura in the next couple of weeks then it's well worth the walk, just follow your nose as this orchid is sweetly scented.

Two other visitors appeared at home - the first a whitetail bambi...

...and the other a stick insect on the ranchslider - perhaps an Acanthoxyla spp. He/she was a very patient model and kept still so that I could get some close-up photos. The wispy bits around its face are bits of cobweb that I hadn't been able to remove. Isn't it a cutie!!

Finally, a wee skite over my rhubarb - how's this for an impressive harvest? The longest stem was 620mm (over a metre if I included the leaf! I stewed it with just a teaspoon of cinnamon (no sugar) and then made caramel crusted rhubarb crumble last night, very yummy.