Bream Head Reserve from Manaia

Rangers Report January 2020

The Trust’s residual rodent tracking index (RTI) result for December 2019 which was again 0%. This helped lower the annual mean residual tracking index of rodents to a new annual record low of just 0.47% (+/-1%), the previous lowest RTI was 1.3%. This is truly an outstanding result for a mainland restoration project without a predator proof fence.

Kiaora koutou katoa,

Well it ain’t half hot mum, it is seriously dry and hot in the Whangarei Heads region and extremely dry in Bream Head Scenic Reserve (BHSR) with many of the usual plant suspects already wilted, and some large mature trees also losing canopy leaf cover too. Kiwi are being seen in the early daylight hours and out in boundary properties desperately looking for food and moisture. We desperately need some good rain and very soon! Despite the hot weather the ranger and volunteer team have continued their great mahi throughout the reserve, checking traps fastidiously and changing out the rodent toxin stations. Unfortunately, we have lost the last two remaining grey faced petrel (GFP) chicks in the study area to stoat predation again, this time it was all caught on video which I had posted to our Facebook page at the time in early January. This comes after two breeding summers in which we saw 100% successful fledgling of all known GFP chicks, which was a result of our 1080 operation in the spring of 2017. As an adaptive management measure the trapping team switched from salted rabbit baits to egg and mayonnaise in the DOC200 traps around mid-January, the new lure having been used successfully in research projects elsewhere in Aotearoa. This switch up in the bait is a tool used to change the lure attraction within the traps in order to attract stoats in the reserve who may have become shy or complacent with salted rabbit within the reserve traps or from elsewhere. It also seems that birds other than kiwi are struggling too, with our summer five minute bird counts returning far lower figures than the last two years. Birds seem to have shifted into lower valley regions with many observed around the last water holes in some stream areas, or they may have even gone elsewhere (hopefully only until the wet weather returns).

On a positive news front is the Trust’s residual rodent tracking index (RTI) result for December 2019 which was again 0% This helped lower the annual mean residual tracking index of rodents in BHSR to a new annual record low of just 0.47% (+/-1%), the previous lowest RTI was 1.3%. This is truly an outstanding result for a mainland restoration project without a predator proof fence!! The Trust has done a remarkable job over the last nine years, suppressing the rodents to very low abundance and continuing to hold them down.

 

Parua Bay students play the Endemic Animal Game

Parua Bay students play the Endemic Animal Game

It was excellent to have two more schools visit the reserve and join the ranger and education team for more important environmental learning experiences at BHSR in December 2019. This time the local Parua Bay School junior section came along with 48 young students who were fizzing to learn and play Adam’s restoration game. This was the maximum number of students that the game caters for so it was fun and intense. The restoration game is an endemic species survival game split into three stages, the first is pre-human Aotearoa and the children role play living as endemic species with rules around who they can eat, who can eat them, how they move and when are they awake. At the end of the five minute interactive part the children are asked how do they feel life was like back then, with only a few invertebrates in the ‘death zone’ and most agree it was a good life. Stage two is when we introduce mammalian predators and the children learn all about how differently the new mammals hunt to our pre-human endemic hunters, that New Zealand had only one species of mammal (two bats) and that their previously evolved defenses are no match for the nose and climbing ability of the new predators. Within about 20-30 seconds all the endemic species are destroyed and sent to the death zone. The children are asked again how they feel now, and its always an emphatic “this sucks, this is unfair”. The third and final stage is set in more recent times, all the endemic species are alive again and we introduce a ranger and volunteer team who can tag the mammals, effectively trapping or poisoning the introduced predators. Once the pests are removed expeditiously, all the remaining endemic species can tag a ranger and get a free ticket to ‘nirvana’ – a predator free island or mainland island, where life is back to how it was before the humans brought new threats.

Read the January 2020 Rangers Report in full for more on these and other stories from the Reserve.