Archives For pests

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 Nic Gorman, Research Technician based in Hamilton.

At work

Some things I do in my job include… acting as a link between our field team scattered around the country, and the project leader sitting at the desk beside mine. So that mainly entails getting traps and other equipment to where they’re needed, collating and auditing the data coming in, and doing what I can to keep the people at both ends of the equation happy.

Unfortunately we went and hired a very capable group for our field team, so it’s not that often that I get dragged out of the office to help them out in person.

Nic holding a falcon at Wingspan in Rotorua.

In my ‘happy place’, meeting Atareta at the Wingspan Trust, Rotorua

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… keeping the Department up to pace with the latest developments in pest control technology, figuring out if these things are of use to us and if so in what scenarios, and further extending the range of tools we have available to us in the battle against the pests.

The best bit about my job is… being involved when what could potentially be the next big step-up in ground-based predator control hits the ground. It is pretty exciting (and a thought that helps me get through the most stressful days). Also, getting to know the great bunch of people who have been out there doing the groundwork for us, both the current team and their various predecessors.

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… any time spent sitting under a pair of kōkako singing at full blast is right up there.

One time that particularly sticks in my memory is a morning I had a volunteer in tow. A few minutes into the song peak he pulled out his phone, rang his disabled sister, and just quietly said, “listen to this”.

I’m glad to have been part of someone experiencing something that she probably would never be able to otherwise. Actually I’m choking up a bit just remembering that….

(This, by the way, is not an open invitation for anyone to ever ring me at that time of the morning, whatever it is that you’re listening to at the time!)

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… this is the hard one, when just about everyone I’ve met through work has been inspirational in some way. But someone who personifies all the great things about the people who work for the Department is Pete Livingstone, over at Opotiki. He’s someone who has all the knowledge and field nous you’d expect of someone who’s spent a big chunk of their life in the forest, is always keen to upskill with the latest science-driven field techniques, just quietly gets things done whatever life and the environment throws in the way… and so damn humble that he’ll be hating me for singling him out like this!

Nic impersonating a pirate at the Benneydale Research Station.

Working at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station duties included nest-finding, 4WD testing, rat control and even pirate impersonation

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is Buffalo by the Phoenix Foundation, the bounciness of the song more than makes up for the slight biological inaccuracy of the lyrics. Actually pretty much anything by those guys will do the trick.

My best ever holiday was probably my most recent one, an all-too-short trip to New Caledonia late last year, avoiding resorts and trying to get a bit more face-to-face with the place. I got to indulge in all my favourite things, good food, wildlife spotting, orienteering, and while I arrived with little or no expectations, by the time I left I was starting to plot my next visit.

My greatest sporting moment? There’s a handful of age-class national orienteering titles I could point to, but I’m actually prouder of the few years I somehow got myself fit enough to race against the big boys at the elite level (note that I don’t say ‘compete’ at the elite level) and gained a whole new appreciation of just how quick these guys are in the terrain.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be a kākā. Anything that flies would be good, but I’ve always had the impression watching our parrots, that more so than any other birds they’re fully aware just how cool it is being airborne. They have fun with it! And I’m more of a forest guy than a mountain guy, so kākā it is.

Nic face to face with a kagu bird.

Face to face with the kagu, Parc Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia

Before working at DOC in this role, there were many years on the conservation biology contracting circuit working for DOC, regional councils, universities and the like, in mostly, but not always, field-based roles. Everything from operating traplines in the Mackenzie Country, hauling sugar water up Kapiti Island for the benefit of hihi, editing Regional Park resource documents, and most recently running the field operations of a Massey University research programme looking into the ecology of forest remnants in an otherwise modified landscape. It’s fascinating every Friday reading of the different pathways people have taken to DOC, and I feel a bit dull by comparison, but I guess I’m lucky to have almost always been doing what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is “You cannot reason somebody out of a position they did not reason themselves into” – Mark Twain, I believe. It’s almost as if he anticipated the internet as a forum for ‘debate’.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is that sometimes it’s a good idea to pay attention when people are handing out advice. Unfortunately I can’t attribute this to anyone in particular, I just have this vague sense that somebody has probably told me this at some point.

Nic robin tracking at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station.

Robin tracking at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station

In work and life I am motivated by the idea of making a difference.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is to get out there in amongst nature, discover what we’ve got, and the chances are you’ll enjoy it enough that you’ll then want to look into how you can contribute to keeping it.

Ahuriri Valley.

Whenever I start feeling desk-bound and thinking about the things I miss about fieldwork, those delightful spring afternoons in the Ahuriri Valley are usually up near the top of the list

Question of the week…

If you had to be a comic character, which one would you be and why?

As long as there was always a supply of magic potion handy, then sign me up as one of the Gauls from Asterix. Just a shame that if we could make that happen, the powers-that-be would probably decide that the best fit for me would be Cacofonix, the bard.

By Wendy Sullivan, Partnerships Ranger, Picton

Picton Pestival logo. Last March I was watching the news on the television when a story came on about a ‘Pestival‘ (a pest festival would you believe!) in the small town of Picton.

The Pestival was run by a community group at the Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary, and had Gareth Morgan as guest speaker – coincidently it was not long after Gareth had the hit headlines regarding his Cats to Go campaign. Over 500 people came to this local event.

Little did I know that 12 months later I would be living in Picton, and would end up meeting the charismatic organisers of the second annual Pestival—Jenny Keene, Jo O’Connell and Chrissy Powlesland.

This time around I was determined to be a part of the event and to help make it even bigger and better than the previous year.

The Pestival is a uniquely kiwi, ‘heartland party’ to raise funds for Kaipupu Point, a predator fenced reserve located right next to the ferry terminals in Picton.

The Pestival also aims to raise awareness of pests and predators, and the focus is on what you can do in your backyard—whether it’s planting bird friendly trees, building weta houses, or learning how to trap.

The Raticators - Peter Hobson and Helen Crook.

The Raticators – Peter Hobson and Helen Crook

I have heard from locals who attended the Pestival last year that they were able to go away knowing the difference between a Norway rat and a ship rat, and which trap is the best one to use for a certain type of pest.

The day’s entertainment includes live music, food, local delicacies, environmental speakers, mini-workshops, conservation and trapping stalls, a market place, a pest contest, fancy dress prizes and a children’s programme.

Rat in a tree.

Rat nibbling a sign

Visit Kaipupu Point

With natural ecosystems flourishing in an almost completely pest free environment, Kaipupu Point is well worth a visit. It’s open year-round and free for everyone to enjoy.

Pestival 2014 — Saturday 22 March

The second annual Pestival will be held on Saturday 22 March 2014 11 am—6 pm, at the Waitohi Domain, Picton.

More information is available on the DOC website.

The bush wren, laughing owl, and native thrush are all extinct.

Stoats are thought to have caused their demise—as well as the decline of many of New Zealand’s other indigenous bird species. They also feed heavily on our native reptiles and invertebrates.

The images below show the devastation that a stoat can wreck on our native species—in this case New Zealand’s smallest bird, the rifleman/titipounamu.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DOC ranger, Anja McDonald, sent through these heartbreaking images.

They were taken at Tennyson Inlet in the Marlborough Sounds. She explains:

The male bird was in the nest when the stoat came and we don’t see any pictures of him coming out again. The rifleman mother then returns to her nest. The things in her beak are likely to be the remains of either her husband or her chicks.

When we climbed the tree later, to bring the camera in, there was only a female around, which suggests the stoat possibly ate both the adult male and the chicks.

A very sad end for these small birds, but a important reminder of the pest control work that needs to be done to protect our native species.

Today’s photo of the week highlights the lush, green native forest of the Tararua Forest Park.

tararua

Project Kaka is a restoration project that is working to restore the diverse native forest bird, insect and plant communities in Tararua Forest Park through an intensive 10 year pest control and monitoring programme.

DOC and other organisations/volunteers are working together to target the species that are the biggest threat to native bird life and forest systems.

This photo was taken by Brenda Anderson  | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Amy Brasch, Partnerships Ranger, Wellington

An island biosecurity hui was recently held on Matiu/Somes Island to review the best island biosecurity management practices, current biosecurity procedures, and to discuss methods for increasing awareness and participation.

Local iwi, DOC rangers, relevant community groups, island associates and media gathered on Matiu/Somes Island to review the importance of island biosecurity and discuss opportunities for strengthening procedures.

Emma Dunning (DOC) welcoming the visitors to Matiu-Somes.

Welcoming the visitors to Matiu-Somes

The hui was not only a great opportunity to hear biosecurity ideas and improve our practices, but also to share those ideas with our partners that help us care for these incredible islands. The reality is there will always be biosecurity risks to our islands.

Attendees of the biosecurity hui on Matiu/Somes Island.

Biosecurity hui

DOC Island Services Rangers and other DOC staff work hard to keep these islands pest-free by putting considerable effort into removing and controlling pests and carrying out appropriate quarantine measures on islands.

Pest plants and animals can have detrimental effects on native biodiversity, so it was great to partner up with local iwi and businesses to figure out ways to keep pest animals and plants off the islands together.

Matiu/Somes Island.

Matiu/Somes Island

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 Marc Slade, Nature Central Project Leader based in Wellington.

At work

Marc setting up a DOC200 trap in the backyard.

Marc proudly setting up his new DOC200 trap

Some things I do in my job include… working with staff across DOC and the three regional councils – Greater Wellington, Horizons and Hawke’s Bay – to develop projects that help meet Nature Central’s vision of a healthier more prosperous region where people live in harmony with nature.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision because… Nature Central is an agreement between DOC and the three regional councils to work in partnership to achieve better outcomes and greater efficiencies. It is a “declaration of intent” to seek ways of working collaboratively to achieve better results for our natural heritage. It is not a single “project”, but a kaupapa – an approach and philosophy to work together collectively to achieve shared goals.

Nature Central is a great example of DOC’s new operating model in action – working collaboratively with councils we are helping to achieve DOC’s vision. The goal of Nature Central is growing the impact of what we do by working with others, and working across whole landscapes at the scale of ecosystems irrespective of administrative boundaries. This is the way nature works, so we need to work at this scale too!

The best bit about my job is…  meeting and working with the great people in DOC and regional councils who are working to make New Zealand a better place to live – for both people and nature. I have the highest respect for the guys (of both genders), whether they work for DOC or council, who are out in the field “doing” conservation – whatever that may be – talking to landowners or community groups, running predator control operations or managing the amazing network of tracks and huts that New Zealand is blessed with.

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… the welcome I experienced when I joined the old Wellington Hawke’s Bay Conservancy team. Generally in DOC there is a sense of purpose and whanaungatanga that I have never experienced in any other public service organisation. I find this inspiring and humbling, and it makes DOC an awesome place to work .

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…  probably the awesome Mr Darren Peters, Programme Manager (Future of Predator Control). Darren is totally outcomes focused, pragmatic, great at partnerships, gets the job done, is generally a cool guy – and is good company on a five hour drive in a DOC Hilux to East Taranaki!

Marc in the Ruahines walking to Sunrise Hut.

Marc on a trip in the Ruahines to Sunrise Hut

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I… have started to do an improvisation class at Wellington High School (Centre for Continuing Education). And the moral of the story is…..(improv in-joke)

The song that always cheers me up is…“Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello or “Teenage Kicks” by the Undertones.

My stomping ground is… Wellington City – especially Brooklyn and the Polhill Reserve area where I have started my own restoration and community trapping project – to do my bit for the halo that is being created around Zealandia. In terms of my turangawaewae it would have be South and West Yorkshire in the UK, where I spent most of my adult life. Yorkshire folk are remarkably similar to Kiwis in temperament (but a bit tighter!)

The best piece of news I’ve heard lately is… a bit old now…but when Meridian Energy announced they would not proceed with the Mokihinui Dam proposal. Result!

In my spare time I… run a community trapping and restoration project in my local reserve (Polhill/George Denton Park) to bring back the dawn chorus to Brooklyn. When I’m not doing that, reading, watching movies, watching cool TV drama shows (The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Killing…)

Before working at DOC I… worked as Terrestrial Conservation Programme Manager for WWF-New Zealand. Before that I worked for Wellington City Council’s Parks & Gardens team as Community Biodiversity Coordinator. Prior to that I ran my own consultancy business, Koromiko Consulting and worked in social housing and homelessness services – both in New Zealand (for HNZC) and in the UK.

Marc holding a recently caught muMarc holding a recently caught mustelid.stelid.

Trapping success!

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” M.Gandhi

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… “Think before you speak….”

In work and life I am motivated by… my values – trying to be as true to them as I can manage.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… get involved in looking after the taonga that you treasure the most, whether this is in your own back yard or in a remote corner of Aotearoa (or even off-shore).

marc-jack-pest-fest

Marc with Aro Valley resident Jack at Wellington Pest Fest 2013

Question of the week…

What book are you reading and the moment, are you enjoying it?

I have just finished “Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding” by Guardian writer and environmental commentator George Monbiot – a great read, very thought provoking and beautifully written. This book should be the start of an important debate for conservationists in Britain and Europe.

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.