Bream Head Reserve from Manaia

Rangers Report February 2021

It’s a relief to have some rain on the hill but the worsening weather meant we had to cancel our lizard survey.

Hello folks,

I do hope you are all well and having fun out there, sure has been great to get some more rain over the past few weeks – you can hear the reserve exhale a big sigh of relief!! I am still however quite concerned about the huge percentage of manuka trees, on the north side of the reserve in particular, that look completely dead from the two drought seasons we have had. Time will tell if this rate of loss can be recovered, or if it is a sign of times to come – I do hope it is the former.

February was another good month for the operation with so much activity on and off the hill. Plenty of visitors have been enjoying the vistas and good weather, taking their children over to the hut for a night or two, or just walking the tracks for the day or some good exercise. Our stupendous bunch of hardy volunteers have continued to put in the yards to keep tracks in fantastic condition, control weeds to even lower levels, keep traps and bait stations in very good condition and monitor species outcomes.

The ranger team have been busy again also, stomping down hard on pest plants and making a very real difference, installing and monitoring new rodent/possum toxin, monitoring new concept traps and toxin as well as installing the new trap nodes and automatic lure dispensers on our stoat traps. I really enjoy the team atmosphere we have, challenging ourselves, pushing the knowledge and our systems to be the best we can manage for the outcomes of the Trust. It is very pleasing to report that we have not had a stoat caught since early January, only one possum and only a handful of rats. There does seem to be a slight increase in trap catches of rodents though and this maybe sign of the expected autumn shift by predators to the food supplied in our traps and stations now that summer food stocks are reducing. Unfortunately, due to some of that rain in early February, and cooler weather than normal at the end of February/early March, we were not able to find conditions consistent with previous years for the biennial lizard survey. This inconsistency would have a negative influence on the validity of any data collected so therefore, in consultation with local herpetologist Ben Barr, we have decided to postpone the survey until next summer. Lizards are a long term restoration game, changes in their abundance are very slow over time so long term data sets are required to see any form of valid pattern or shift. What is good is that we do know from the intensive rodent control and monitoring programme at the sites for the Bream Head/Te Whara skink and the Placostylus hongii (flax snail/pupu harakeke) that the numbers are almost undetectable for mice and no rats at all were detected in these important threatened species. The control right down to even mouse level has got to be very good for lizard survival and breeding outcomes.

Our trial of the new rodent/possum toxin known as double tap has gone very well, the toxin has held up well to the variable weather recently and uptake has been good too. We had trail cameras observing the animal behaviour with the toxin in the bait stations and this showed they eat it fast and do not come back many times, if at all, after their first visit before they obviously head off and pass away. Therefore, we have decided to switch our toxin for rodents out to this new option which has the added benefit of removing possums with toxin too (we have only targeted possums with traps thus far), another tool in the BHCT predator control toolbox.

Read the full report for more on this and other stories from the Reserve, including a pre-European bone found by Ranger Simon Braithwaite.