Bream Head Reserve from Manaia

Rangers Report July 2021

Nga mihi mahana koutou (warm greetings to you all),

I hope this report finds you all happy, healthy and in good spirits. Recent excursions into the Bream Head Scenic Reserve have been very pleasurable with the stunning regrowth of the ngahere (bush) due to the more normal rainfall we have experienced this winter thus far. Drought sensitive trees such as mahoe/whiteywood, whauwhaupaku/five finger, taraire and some manuka have recovered well since the droughts experienced in Northland over the last two years, and the reserve feels and looks in better shape than it did this time last year. Walks over the main ridge and southern side of the reserve are greeted with strong birdsong from Korimako/bellbird, kereru/wood pigeon, kaka, flocks of tui, miromiro/North Island tomtit, riroriro/grey warbler and some North Island robin are still making prospecting calls too. There is also kiwi poo almost every few metres along big sections of the main public tracks in the forest and trap lines, and on my most recent walk I came across some lovely large kiwi footprints in the mud on the tracks – super cool. The grey faced petrels are back in good force with our infra-red cameras picking up dozens of great images of the returning adults crash landing into the burrow sites, shaking off the rough landing, performing a bit of a song and dance before making their way into their respective burrows to (hopefully) sit on egg(s) again.

On the predator side of things July 2021 had a few more rodent catches in our intensive control network than last year, with most of the mice caught on the reserve boundary line, but 75% of rats caught were in traps inside the reserve. This may be related to the late autumn spike in rodent activity seen in the increased uptake of rodent toxin which is a normal behaviour change seen over the years BHCT has been controlling predators at Bream Head/Te Whara Scenic Reserve. It will be very interesting to monitor the trap catch data and the residual tracking index for rodents in August to see if this small spike tappers off or not. Because we also monitor our operation intensively, we have caught some video image of three stoats at separate locations showing interest in the control equipment but too wary to interact with the devices which have been fine-tuned, calibrated and baited with nearly every proven bait known to catch stoats in traps. Therefore, the Trusts’ operations team are busily implementing another toxin operation specifically targeting stoats with PAPP, a toxin infused into a minced fresh rabbit meatball that will be hand delivered into new bait stations along our mustelid trap lines. By utilising fresh meat rather than salted meat and using tracking tunnel bait stations with a dirt floor, we hope to better attract these wily/discerning customers and remove this huge threat to the native wildlife in Bream Head/Te Whara for this coming breeding season. The change out to a new rodent and possum toxin known as Double Tap has been in operation for approximately six months now and is withstanding the moist conditions of winter rather well. The lowering of the nearly 1300 bait stations has also gone smoothly, with the stations now sitting at approximately 100mm off the ground for access by all three rodent species, particularly Norway rats (Norway rats are not very good climbers). This new toxin is the combination of two former low grade toxins which, when combined, delivers a far higher lethal dose capability even though less quantity is required to be consumed for that lethal dose. This is all good news for those who have to lug it in, it also means less toxin is consumed by rodents and possums therefore providing cost savings for the Trust and more opportunity for removal of more rodents/possums per bait station.

Our wonderful volunteers and hardworking rangers have continued our important mahi so very well again during these cooler, damper and darker months on the reserve. Calibration of traps, checking of infra-red cameras, trap line maintenance, install of tracking tunnels as bait stations, weed control, plant nursery maintenance, rodent toxin bait station checks are just some of the tasks completed this month by the dedicated team. New volunteers have been inducted on lines and into the plant nursery team during July the Trust welcomes those passionate people to our whanau and we truly hope you enjoy it as much as we all do.

Head ranger and project manager Adam Willetts took the opportunity to have the two week school holiday period off with his whanau in July and thoroughly enjoyed his family time and a chance to recharge the batteries so to speak. The Trusts’ day to day operations were left in the capable hands of local ranger Keith Townsend who did a mighty fine job of holding down the fort and keeping the team rolling! We also farewelled our wonderful rangers Simon and Claire Braithwaite in July, who have returned to Australia to welcome the arrival of their first child and to be near Claire’s family during this exciting chapter of their lives. These two beautiful people will be missed greatly but it’s not all doom and gloom as they plan to be back in approximately 12 months’ time to settle back in NZ – we look forward to that!!

This month saw other important tasks and activities achieved such as:

  • the signing up of more new volunteers
  • The final 2021 ‘bush craft’ environmental education day at Whangarei Heads School
  • Hut and Track maintenance by our super volunteers
  • Bait bagging – Thanks Roger Clarke!
  • Trap clip cleaning – Thanks Kim Tito!

Read this month’s Rangers Report in full for this and other local stories.