Archives For predators

The life of a scientist in the Department of Conservation is worlds apart from the traditional stereotype of a lab-coat wearing academic hidden inside and away from the ‘real world’. DOC’s Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki talks to alpine ecologist, Dr Kerry Weston. Kerry’s work takes her to the top of New Zealand’s peaks to try to unravel the mystery of the world’s most ancient species of wren, a vital indicator for the health of our high rise ecosystems.

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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.

Today’s photo of the week is of a red-crowned parakeet/kākāriki taking a bath in a stream in Rotorua. Kākāriki, means ‘small green parrot’ in Māori.

Kakariki taking a bath.

There are five main species of kākāriki. The red-crowned species is distinguished by a bright crimson forehead, crown and a streak extending back beyond the eyes.

Attacks by introduced predators such as stoats and rats are the main threat to kākāriki.

This photo was taken by Jackson WoodCC BY-NC 2.0.

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.

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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.

By Amy Brasch, Partnerships Ranger, Wellington.

Hundreds flocked to Wellington’s Waitangi Park last month for the first annual Pest-Fest. It was a great display of various conservation partnerships in the Wellington area coming together for a common cause—educating the public on pests in New Zealand.

A young girl meets a Wellington gecko up close.

Meeting a Wellington gecko at Pest-Fest

The event included a range of activities for the public, such as weed swapping, animal pest trapping demonstrations, kids’ crafts, information on current conservation research, tracking tunnel tutorials, kiwi conservation tips, advice on how to design bird-friendly gardens and much more.

A ranger with a working predator trap at Pest-Fest.

Ranger Lisa Calpcott setting a trap

Despite being the first Pest-Fest ever held in Wellington, a wide range of organisations attended, including the Department of Conservation, Wellington City Council, Victoria University of Wellington, Zealandia, Forest and Bird, WWF and many others. It was a fantastic example of organisations coming together for conservation.

Pest-Fest was a fun way to learn about New Zealand pests. There were a lot of hands-on activities and demonstrations that really highlighted the teamwork between the various local agencies. The event ran alongside the Wellington Phoenix Community Day and the Farmer’s Market, which attracted a diverse audience.

A young girl and Rimu the kiwi point to a trap and dead rats.

Rimu the kiwi and his friend inspect a trap

It was great to see all the different organisations in one place complementing each other and it was great to be engaging with the community on such an important conservation issue and teaching people how to monitor pests in their own backyard.

Celia Wade-Brown looking at a Wellington gecko.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown learns more about the Wellington gecko

By Suvi van Smit, Partnerships Ranger based in Westport

The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust have been busy building nesting boxes for the local population of little blue penguins/kororā.

Volunteers making nesting boxes. Photo: Natasha Perry.

Buller conservation volunteers group helping to build nesting boxes

Volunteer standing with a completed nesting box. Photo: Natasha Perry.

A nesting box ready for action!

Timber and materials were kindly donated by the local Mitre 10 in Westport during Conservation Week and the Buller conservation volunteers group spent a day helping to build the new nesting boxes.

These volunteers are a group set up by DOC. They meet at DOC’s Northern West Coast District Office every fortnight and go out with a DOC ranger to do a variety of work for the day—planting, helping community groups, track maintenance, historic maintenance and an array of other jobs.

The volunteers helped to build ten nesting boxes. The hope is that baby penguins hatch in the boxes and are given a measure of protection against predators.

The boxes were placed out in a penguin colony at Charleston on the West Coast to create penguin homes for when the little blue penguins are nesting. The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust monitors the boxes throughout the year.

It was a great day had by all, bringing together a wonderful partnership between the community, business, volunteers and DOC staff.

Little blue penguin. Photo: Brian Gratwicke.

Little blue penguin.

Sorrel Hoskin, from DOC’s Taranaki Area Office, writes about St Joseph’s Primary School’s recent visit to Egmont National Park to learn about the work being done to protect the endangered whio/blue duck:

Combine 90 excited primary school kids, two passionate DOC rangers, and an enthusiastic regional council educator. Top up with fun facts about whio and mix well. Result? A slightly chaotic but fun filled day of learning about one of our special species, the whio.

Students line up outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre.

The group outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre – the mountain is hidden behind the clouds

Taranaki school students recently spent a day out in Egmont National Park. As it was Whio Awareness Month DOC staff took the opportunity to share some of the work they do on the mountain to help protect the endangered duck.

Biodiversity ranger Emily King usually works with whio and kiwi – so a gaggle of chattering five year olds was a whole new experience, but she soon had them captivated with cool facts about our only white water swimming duck.

Ranger shows students how the stoat trap works.

Ranger Mike demonstrates the stoat trap – SNAP!

There are around 60 whio living in Egmont National Park and ongoing monitoring and pest control is key to their survival and population growth. DOC carries out this work with support from the Central North Island Conservation Charitable Blue Duck Trust and East Taranaki Environment Trust. The good news is the population is growing.

Whio Awareness Month was celebrated throughout New Zealand to recognise the “Whio Forever” project, a Genesis Energy/DOC partnership helping implement a national recovery plan to protect whio breeding areas and habitat. The idea is to double the number of fully secure breeding sites throughout the country and boost pest control to enhance productivity and survival.

A student, 5 year old Asten, holds a stuffed stoat.

Five year old Asten gets close to a stoat

Community relations ranger Mike Tapp set up a game of predator hide and seek along a bush walk. Kids had fun finding the stoat, rat, cat, weasel and ferret hidden amongst the undergrowth, and learnt about some of the key predators of the whio and other native birds.

Taranaki Regional Council’s Kevin Archer took groups of children for a walk through some of the forest – pointing out where whio and other native birds might like to live.

While feedback from the students was mixed and often amusing (who knew that polar bears were a major predator of whio?) some of the key messages were getting through.

A whio swimming in the stream.

A whio swimming in the stream.

Five year old Jordon’s favorite part of the day was seeing Ranger Mike set off the predator trap to squash the animals that attack whio, “The trap went SNAP!”

St Joseph’s teacher Jenna Sullivan said the day had been a great success and showed how a school, DOC and the regional council can come together to create a real hands on learning experience for the kids.