Volunteers are at the heart of the community effort to protect native birds on the Devonport peninsula. National Volunteer Advisor Chris Charles tells us about the great work volunteers in the community are undertaking to keep native birds safe from predators.
The charming seaside community of Devonport is known for its picturesque houses, enticing tātahi (beaches) and two imposing maunga (mountains). What is perhaps less known, is that the peninsula has a thriving community of land, shore and migratory birds – many which are found only in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. But these birds are under threat from introduced mammalian species such as rats and mice. Volunteers are at the heart of the community effort to protect nature on the peninsula.
The peninsula is part of the North-West Wildlink, a vital corridor for native birds to fly back and forth from the Waitakere Ranges, in the west, to the sanctuary of the pest-free islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Ridding the peninsula of pests has received support from Auckland Council, Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, the Environmental Network, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Restoring Takarunga Hauraki/Pest Free Devonport, the Devonport Peninsula Trust, the Tūpuna Maunga Authority as well as our own staff.
Maungauika/North Head is at the northern headland of the Waitemata Harbour. The imposing volcanic cone is an important Māori Pa site as well as a European military fort. Community volunteers have started an ambitious programme to control invasive predators in a densely urbanised part of Auckland through a comprehensive trapping network as well as ridding the area of introduced weeds.
The regular group of 15 volunteers is calling itself the Maungauika Trappers, supported by our rangers, they are ridding Maungauika/North Head of predators. They check trap lines twice weekly and have successfully removed more than 80 rats and many, many mice. Any fresh rats are given to our Conservation Dogs team on site at Maungauika to help with training. They are also working to monitor their own success using tracking tunnels.
A combination of Victor rat traps in tunnels as well as ‘DOC 200s’ circling the base of the maunga and running up to the tihi/summit (trap lines), have proven very successful since the project launched in late 2017.
The volunteer group is a mixture of ages and backgrounds, some of whom reside in Devonport with others coming from different parts of the city. Members are motivated by the impact a pest-free peninsular can have on the rest of the city and helping grow the Pest Free Auckland movement. The volunteers have faced challenges with the vandalism of traps as the maunga is such a highly visited public site, but their perseverance is amazing.
Beyond benefits for the community of increased bird life, another positive outcome has been the three volunteers who have found work with us – two locally in Auckland, at Okura Bush Reserve and Rangitoto, and a third who has joined our Trainee Ranger course in Nelson. There is a long away to go to make Devonport peninsular predator and weed free – but this conscientious group of volunteers working on Maungauika/North Head is making a huge difference.
It is fantastic to see projects like that, I am so proud of being part of this community, it gives us energy to keep working towards a better place.
While there can be no overnight success, this is a very good start.