Bream Head Reserve from Manaia

Rangers Report March 2018

High rodent numbers but it’s not all doom and gloom.

Gidday folks, sure loving this fine, calm autumn weather we are having! Nice that the real heat of summer has dropped a bit, makes walking around the hills more pleasurable. Well it has been a hectic month on the hill with the rodent spike continuing through March, contributing to an average of 80-90% toxin bait take in most areas. This has meant the ranger and volunteer toxin/trapper team have had to take extra loads of bait in on their line checks and clean out the powdered toxin left behind by the high mice predation in the bait stations. The unseasonably wet end of summer has increased food availability and therefore caused a rodent ‘mast’ in our region (higher than normal birth rate). The wet weather forced this high rodent population to seek shelter from the previously dry grass areas, therefore translating into higher than usual numbers in the reserve. Hopefully with our dedicated control programme, the reduction in humidity and the cooling of the weather, we will see an improvement in the quality of the bait and a reduction in the rodent population (mainly mice). It will be interesting to see what results come from the May rodent tracking tunnel monitoring.

The month of March was not all doom and gloom however, quite the opposite. The reserve was alive with the sound and enthusiasm of school children visiting Bream Head for conservation/restoration outdoor environmental education. Excitingly it was the first time BHCT has hosted a secondary school group as part of a planned programme to engage students from all the age ranges of primary, secondary, tertiary, and even link them into the work sector. More about this later within the report. Another very cool observation I have been witnessing of late is the abundance of revegetation in the 20ha riparian block above the cattle yards at Urquharts Bay as well as the proliferation of native birds throughout the reserve, in particular the bellbird and tui, with an almost all-day chorus in some valleys. As well as all this we had a dedicated team from DOC get stuck into a few days of Mothplant control clearing all visible mature mothpant weeds from the valley east of Peach Cove track and a DOC rope team also tackled a couple of infestations of this weed out on the eastern cliffs below the radar station. The BHCT rangers have now controlled all known mature Climbing Asparagus weed plants in the two sites on Bream Head and will be following up over the next few years controlling any seedling rejuvenation of this nasty invasive vine species. We have also been hard at it tackling more Mothplant vine in the central northern and north-western end of the reserve with very good effect. Again, this is new work/outcomes not previously achieved and is the direct result of the ranger hours our awesome volunteers have freed up by doing more of the trapping and toxin checks! I was also very lucky to be involved in the wonderful kiwi release at Parua Bay on the 11th of March, handling one of the three kiwi being released at this strategically important location that will hopefully become the connection between Whanagrei Heads and sites further north as part of the Kiwi Coast corridor. And if that wasn’t enough, the volunteer team got together for a workshop in the McLeod Bay hall on Sunday the 18th March to socialise, receive an update on the outcomes of our project, revisit the important trapping and toxin standards and learn about what the bird monitoring team (led by Mike and Jenny Butcher) have been up to.

Phew! Read the March 2018 Rangers Report in full for more info about some of these awesome projects.