Bream Head Reserve from Manaia

Rangers Report September 2021

Our local seabird champion Cathy Mitchell spent a full day clambering around the steep terrain at the eastern tip of the reserve checking each of the burrows in the gfp monitoring site. Using an endoscope camera Cathy was able to confirm 10 gfp adults were indeed sitting on eggs, and another four gfp adults in burrows were most likely on eggs too.

Nga mihi mahana koutou (warm greetings to you all)

Well, here we are again, another lockdown has us all nestled into our safe bubbles (except for those awesome essential workers), is it not amazing to think that these forms of jargon (lockdowns, bubbles, MIQ, Delta variant etc) are all now common place in our lives as we navigate our way through. My family and I do have to admit we enjoy a bit of lockdown, probably because we are at that stage in life where ‘normal’ life is ridiculously busy, so we really enjoy slowing down and having the time to pause and really enjoy each other and the beautiful natural resources we are so lucky to have at our property and at the Whangarei Heads in general!

Building Our Resilience

I suppose another benefit of these changing times is that we are more capable than before at building our resilience and new skills to get us through. In a similar way, the BHCT restoration project at Bream Head/Te Whara is also strong and resilient to the challenges of change; be it environmental changes, technological changes or social changes. Of specific relevance, is the project’s ability to manage the potential negative effects of Covid lockdown restrictions due to the continuous application of an intensive predator control programme. The continuous availability of a mix of toxins and traps ensures predator numbers are kept exceptionally low in this suppression system at all times, and when change occurs this fresh, up to date network is ready and capable to ride out times when access is restricted or limited. The most important result of this is that our precious native species from birds big and small, to lizards, to invertebrates and freshwater species are all better protected consistently without dramatic fluctuations from threats and change.

Grey Faced Petrels

It was fortunate that just prior to lockdown our wonderful, committed team of volunteers and contract rangers had visited their intensive network of traps and toxin stations, as well as monitoring sites for the GFP – so the network was in very good shape. The rodent and toxin can last in good condition at this time of year in the bush for 6-8 weeks, so this keeps the fast breeding potential of any residual rodents, plus any possible rodent invasion into the forest under tight control. Unfortunately, not being able to keep our trap network on its normal fortnight rotation is a bit of a problem, however due to the slower breeding cycles of predators such as possums and stoats for example, not checking the traps for four or even six weeks at this time of year is not highly risky and for possums we actually have the benefit now that we are using double tap toxin, which is very effective at killing both rodents and possums (more tools in the toolbox). Although we have good systems in place there’s nothing like getting out in the forest regularly to really understand the how the ecology is responding and performing to the management systems we are using to try and protect it, and there’s nothing like getting out for a good walk to rejuvenate one’s mauri/soul too!

Limited Mahi

Therefore, actual on the ground mahi achieved in and around the reserve during August was limited to the first two weeks leading up to lockdown at midnight on Tuesday the 17th. As already outlined our volunteers and rangers were super busy during those two weeks again covering the 65+ kms of trap/toxin lines and 2000+ devices ensuring all the predator control equipment and systems were in absolute tip top shape. Our ranger team did some very long days packing in even more gear to finish the GFP protection intensification, as well as conduct a simple check of the burrows to attain a baseline of how many adults were already within burrows. This check was later followed up by our very own seabird lady Cathy Mitchell, who confirmed active burrows with adults on eggs. The Busby Head trappers crew who meets every second Sunday of each month finished the lowering of the bait stations on their lines and continue to do a splendid job of keeping their lines and devices in excellent condition. Of considerable note was the exciting initiation of the first Predator Free Whangarei (PFW) bait station installation contract which the Trust secured and is now delivering on a large Taurikura ridge private property. This contract is a true testament to the capability of BHCT to efficiently and effectively deliver such services and is all based on the proven quality and transparency of the Trusts’ full ecological restoration experience (more about this project and possible other PFW contracts later in the report) efficiently and effectively.

Low Rates Across Targeted Species

In terms of predator trap catch rates the results are very similar to August 2020 with extremely low rates across all targeted species, particularly rats who returned zero catches out of the hundreds of available trap nights. The only real animal to score in the catch department were mice, but only 10 were caught and only two of these were inside the reserve. The year on year total trap catch rate comparisons are going to be skewed again due to this year’s recent lockdown, because our team have not been able to make as many trap checks as other more ‘normal’ years. And, as if that all wasn’t enough excitement for you all, the mustelid trapping team were very stoked to catch a large male stoat out at the GFP site just before lockdown, it was highly likely the one we had seen once on our infra-red camera at the study site a few days earlier – those are the big catches that get us pumped!!

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