Archives For Auckland

A diverse group of Aucklanders were bought together last Friday to walk the Rangitoto Summit Track, one of the tracks in our new set of Short Walks and Day Hikes.

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Come behind the scenes and into the jobs and personalities of the people who work at DOC. Today we profile Rebecca Rush, Community Ranger in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.

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Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Jak the conservation dog. Jak is retiring after giving 84 dog years of active service, conserving pest free islands and sanctuaries throughout New Zealand.

Jak with one of his Treasure Islands in the background. Photo: Andrew Fladeboe.

Jak and one of his Treasure Islands

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

Me and my handler, Fin Buchanan were one of the earliest teams targeting rodents in the Predator Dog Programme (now known as the Conservation Dogs Programme) for DOC.

Together we have worked on more than 30 pest free Islands and mainland sanctuaries to monitor for pesky mice and rats that threaten to invade. I spent my later years checking gear to help protect the pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Making sure no hitch-hikers get a free ride to pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf. I meet many travellers, contractors and school children while checking their gear and this helps raise awareness of the Treasure Islands biosecurity campaign.

The best bit about my job is:

Like I said to Fin in my exit interview; hunting. Oh, and I’m really going to miss the camaraderie of work colleagues, fans, family and tummy rubs!

Jak on a boat with his human team on the way to Campbell Island.

Jak and human team on their way to Campbell Island

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… I’ve had quite a few awesome moments with DOC. One of my early journeys was to Campbell Island in the subantarctic region, joining a small human team to test whether the rodent eradication two years before had been successful.

I was also part of a trial by Landcare Research, with my colleague Occi and her human Miriam Ritchie, to determine how effective rodent dogs were at detecting a number of ‘hidden’ rodents at Maungatautari. The results found that us rodent dogs had more than an 80% chance of finding a rodent, if a rodent was present. It was great to show what a powerful tool we are for the protection of fauna and flora, and how we can save the tax payer lots of dollars!

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

My handler Fin. We’ve been a fully certified dog handler team since I was fourteen months old, and with him by my side, we’ve had many adventures and discoveries of the rodent persuasion over these past 13 years.

Jak sitting at a desk in the DOC office.

Jak in his exit interview

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I have become a bit of a celebrity over my working life and even appeared on TVNZ’s ‘Meet the Locals’.

My family ties include:

Jack the border terrier and Tui the fox terrier—and part of a long line of pups produced to serve in the name of conservation. My brother Tama worked on rabbits and rats on Macquarie Island and in Tasmania.

I still have an eye for the ladies and fathered a litter only a year ago, of which four of the pups are destined to follow in my paw-prints. I am leaving the good conservation work to the very able noses of my offspring Pai and Piri.

Jak's puppies Pai and Piri.

Pai and Piri follow in their fathers paw-prints

The song that always cheers me up is:

Elvis Presley, “Hound dog”.

My stomping ground is:

The Coromandel and Hauraki Gulf, but now that I’m retired, I’m moving to Beach Vets in Waihi Beach.

This ideal location will allow me to scout the beach for attractive bitches, have health-care on tap and hang out at the Waihi Beach Hotel—which incidentally has excellent cuisine and music for both (hu)man and dog. Visitors welcome!

Jak lying on a couch at home.

Enjoying his retirement in his new home

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”
Abraham Lincoln

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:

“Don’t scavenge, it makes you sick.”

In work and life I am motivated by:

Rats, mice, tucker, and balls ‘n’ sticks.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Check/clean your bags, gear and transport for notorious stowaways; seeds, soil, plague skinks, argentine ants and rodents so we don’t ‘truck’ them around the country with us.

Question of the week…

How are you finding retired life?

I’m loving it! I’ve slotted right in with my new family—Pip Jones at the Beach Vets—and spend my days between the vet clinic and the house.

I’ve been hanging out with Pip’s mum who is recovering from surgery and we have become firm friends. I also enjoy going to watch Cam, Pip’s son, play soccer—although I have to say my ball handling skills are far superior to the team!

I’ve had a few suspicious moments with Crusty the cat, but we’re getting on great now. I also met a very attractive female border terrier at the pub restaurant last Sunday. There could be a romance in the wind!

Today’s photo of the week is of a male hihi/stitchbird on Tiritiri Matangi Island near Auckland.

Hihi/stitchbird on Tiritiri Matangi. Photo: J. Graham | flickr | Creative Commons license.

Last week the Hihi/Stitchbird Recovery Group won a prestigious Australasian conservation award in recognition of their efforts to protect this rare native bird.

The Practitioner Award was awarded to the group by the Australasian Wildlife Management Society (AWMS) at their annual conference.

“New Zealanders should be very proud of the hihi conservation success story,” said the elated Dr John Ewen, co-leader of the Hihi Recovery Group.

This photo was taken by J. Graham | CC BY-NC 2.0

By DOC’s Sandra Jack, Auckland District Office

DOC Rangers in Auckland have been kept busy recently with sightings of the notorious red-vented bulbul in Auckland.

Red-vented bulbul.

Red-vented bulbul

These birds are a major pest to agriculture and horticulture, and have the potential to negatively impact on New Zealand’s native species. They are an aggressive bird, chasing off other birds and competing with them for food and space – some have nicknamed them the true ‘angry birds’.

Red-vented bulbul.

Hanging out

Rangers in Auckland have been following up sightings and talking to locals about the threat. However these birds are prolific breeders and the fear is that these birds are spreading. This fear seems to have been confirmed with a bird recently being sighted in rural Waikato.

Red-vented bulbul.

A model of a red-vented bulbul

The Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith recently announced that a reward of $300 is being offered for information leading to the red-vented bulbuls’ successful capture and removal from the wild.

What to look out for:

• Red-vented bulbuls are the size of a starling, generally dark brown/black in colour with a light coloured belly.

• They have a black head with small peaked crest (a bit like a mohawk!).

• Their distinguishing feature is their ‘red vent’ or small patch of bright red feathers beneath their tail.

• They like urban settings – one was recently found in Devonport but there have been sightings in rural areas too.

• Their distinctive call stands out from the usual mix of exotic and native birds.

Red-vented bulbul.

Up in the trees

If you see this bird, contact the Ministry of Primary Industries immediately on the Pest and Diseases Hotline (0800 80 99 66) and report its location. If possible take a photo.

Over Queen’s Birthday weekend, Lucy Lawless, of Xena fame, helped launch the North Island’s first Kiwi Ranger site at Tiritiri Matangi.

Lucy Lawless at Tiritiri Matangi.

Lucy Lawless becomes a Kiwi Ranger convert

Auckland children and their families jumped at the chance to participate and travel via ferry from the mainland to the island, with more than 150 newly accredited Kiwi Rangers receiving official badges and certificates upon completion over the weekend.

Students bird spotting with a volunteer guide at Tiritiri Matangi.

Students from Cornwall Park School bird spotting with volunteer guide Sue Minchin

The success of the weekend was a team effort, with 360 Discovery offering a free child fare for every adult ticket purchased over the holiday weekend, and the volunteers from Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi looking after the deluge of new arrivals with such care and attention.

Tiritiri Matangi Island is an fabulous example of successful conservation work. More than 120 years of farming meant by the 1980s it had been stripped of almost all of its native bush. Intensive work by dedicated volunteers means 60 per cent of the sanctuary is covered with forest and it is home to some of the world’s rarest species.

Children celebrate completing the programme with a volunteer guide.

Yes, we got the badges! Children celebrate with Maria Galbraith, one of the volunteer guides

Visitors were treated to a close-up walk around the island to see its conservation jewels, including the kōkakotakahē, and hihi.

The children share their completed activities with the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi.

The children share their completed activities with the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi guiding manager Mary-Ann Rowland

Until now, Kiwi Ranger has only been available at 10 conservation sites in the South Island. Plans are afoot for it to be included at more North Island locations soon.

Lucy Lawless on the ferry with some of the 'Kiwi Ranger' families.

Lucy Lawless and some of the ‘Kiwi Ranger’ families on launch day


Become a Kiwi Ranger

Kiwi Ranger is a fun interactive programme offered free to kids of all ages, 3-103! It’s available in a range of places around New Zealand, and is a fun way for families to get to know these special places together. Find out more on the DOC website.

The famous kōkako Duncan captured hearts across the country this month with his great escape; here’s his story…

Duncan the kokako on the run in a tree.

On the run

DOC ranger Hazel Speed has mastered catching kōkako in the depths of mature native forest in Pureora. She’s also adept at moving through the dense scrub on Tirtiri Matangi Island to monitor these birds that, although renowned for their inability to fly long distances, can still move pretty quickly—especially when you’re on their tail. But what does she do when faced with kōkako catching in suburban Auckland? One adventurous kōkako, going by the name Duncan, gave her the chance to show us.

This adventurous kōkako was released a couple of years back in the northern Waitakere Ranges into the intensive predator-controlled area of Ark in the Park. His appearance a few weeks ago in the eastern suburb of Glendowie (think 30 odd kilometres away, on the opposite side of Auckland) and you’ve got a complex challenge for our biodiversity ranger!

Duncan sitting in his favourite Jacaranda tree.

Duncan in the Jacaranda

A cupcake decorated with a kokako.

Kōkako cupcake

Luckily the residents of Glendowie were up for the challenge. Locals were so charmed by this blue-wattled crow that they’d stop in the street (on foot and in cars), fascinated, amazed and concerned. Then they’d bring their children and friends back to see him.

Hazel saw the nonplussed become engaged overnight by Duncan’s presence. One neighbour did a letter drop to ask if people would keep their cats inside at night. The same neighbour ensured tea and coffee and a toilet was available for the catching team (you can’t just pee in the bushes in suburbia like you can in the field!).

She also made soup for the team and even put Hazel up overnight (including dinner), so she could be up early to mist net the errant bird. And yes those are her kōkako cupcakes, to thank Hazel for her hard work.

And hard work it was—a number of days were spent over two weeks trying to figure out the best way to catch Duncan—not to mention negotiating access onto neighbours property, impenetrable hedges, tall fences, the likelihood of guard dogs, an extremely busy road and avoiding power lines with mist net poles!

Duncan is spotted in a tree in Glendowie before being caught.

Duncan, blissfully unaware he’s about to be caught

On the morning of Wednesday 15 May, one neighbour with three young boys asked Hazel, “Do you think you could catch Duncan today? It’s my son’s 4th birthday.” And like any great DOC worker, she delivered… and the three boys got to witness Duncan close-up (although behind a ranch slider!). Can you picture the boys peering into the small room in their house (that had been specially cleared of the boys’ shoes and stuff the night before), as Hazel safely checked Duncan over before popping him into a transfer box?

The media was keen on a Duncan close-up too, and Hazel negotiated a deal to ensure the bird could be caught without the distraction of cameras (and the associated crowd) in exchange for witnessing the bird’s release back into the Waitakere Ranges.

On the day of release, despite warnings, certain journos had brought their ‘city boots’, and gumboots had to be picked up on the way back across Auckland for them. Duncan was then released back into his home in the Waitakere Ranges and exited the transfer box like a shot. It was an exhilarating day for Hazel and all those involved.