Archives For species

Conservation dog handler Cody Thyne shares a little of what the Conservation Dogs Programme is all about.

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Laura Boren dances, runs, kayaks, makes jewellery, cooks Swahili, helps kids in East Africa and, at DOC, helps marine mammals by providing robust science advice. Come behind the scenes and into Laura’s world today on the blog.

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Today’s photo of the week is a boulder copper butterfly — one of the many endemic species of butterfly found in New Zealand.

Boulder copper butterfly. Photo: Jon Sullivan (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Boulder copper butterflies can be found throughout the South Island and in central areas of the North Island, but are more commonly encountered in the upland areas like the Southern Alps and the central plateau.

This beauty was photographed in Canterbury’s Craigieburn Forest Park by Jon Sullivan | CC BY-NC 2.0

Happy New Year! Welcome to our very first photo of the week for the year.

Did you welcome in 2014 with fireworks? We missed the pyrotechnic displays but have taken some inspiration from the flowering tī kōuka/cabbage tree which we think are the botanical equivalents of an exploding fireball lighting up the sky.

Ti kouka / cabbage tree in flower. Photo: Jon Sullivan.

Tī kōuka are one of the most distinctive trees in the New Zealand landscape, especially on farms. They grow all over the country, but prefer wet, open areas like swamps.

This photo was taken by Jon Sullivan | CC BY-NC 2.0

By Elizabeth Besley, Volunteer

The rich red and green colours of New Zealand’s pohutakawa and rata trees are an iconic part of the kiwi summer and holiday season, but our native “Christmas trees” are facing various threats, including the insatiable appetite of introduced possums.

Rata tree in flower. Photo: Lance Andrews (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Rata tree in flower. Photo: Lance Andrews

In April, a group of Pohangina Valley residents, DOC staff, and rata experts, began a seed collecting expedition to help preserve the local populations of Northern rata.

Pohangina Base rata tree.

Pohangina Base rata tree

A rata tree opposite the Pohangina Base, belonging to a local farmer, had been seen flowering in the previous year and was the perfect candidate to start the expedition. We simply had to phone the farmer with a request to collect seed and then stand on the cliff edge and pick bunches of mature seed capsules.

The second source of seed came from massive rata trees along the Kahikatea Walk. The logistics necessitated collection using a different method – in this case spreading matting over the soil surface at the base of the trees and collecting seed as they fell over the coming months.

Rata experts Chris Thomasen and Viv McGlynn demonstrated how to prepare the collected seed for germination. Containers were half filled with potting seed mix, followed by a layer of ‘duff’ – a name given to the nutrient rich soil that builds up at the base of rata trees. The rata seed were then thickly sprinkled over the top. Watering needed to be gentle but regular, using a fine mist, as the seed can be prone to pathogens.

Pohangina Valley volunteers preparing rata seed.

Pohangina Valley volunteers preparing rata seed

The team came together again in November to carefully transfer the thirty odd small seedlings to individual planter bags where they will grow on for another season.

The ultimate aim is to grow plentiful rata plants from locally sourced seed, thereby ensuring it is genetically suitable for using at various sites in the Pohangina Valley. The vision is of a corridor of red flowering rata trees in summer, leading up the valley and into the Ruahines.


crimson-logoInterested in protecting the native pohutukawa and rata trees in your area? Find out about the work that is being done by the Project Crimson Trust on the DOC website.

By Jeff Hall, Biodiversity Ranger, Mana Island.

The takahē population on Mana Island have had a few new pairings formed over recent months, as a result of the sort of behaviour that could only be likened to an episode of “Days of our Lives” or “The Young and the Restless”.

Fence around takahē home on Mana Island.

Takahē home on Mana Island

While it is not always a good idea to anthropomorphise a wild animals behaviour, the antics of one of our recent immigrants does seem to warrant it.

McCaw (named when she hatched soon after the All Blacks won the 2011 Rugby World Cup) came to Mana Island from Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds for an “arranged marriage” with one of our young lads.

McCaw spent three weeks in a large enclosure with her new suitor, Nohorua. They appeared to be getting along, but as it turned out she had other plans. The male from another pair that lived beside the enclosure had caught her eye. Within a couple of days of release McCaw left Nohorua, and used her youthful energy and good looks to split up the long established pairing of Kat and Santi.

Two takahē on Mana Island.

McCaw and Santi the takahē are nesting

But like all good day time television dramas these heart breaking acts had a happy outcome for some; McCaw and Santi have just started nesting. Kat – after licking her wounds and shaking her tail feathers has landed herself a younger man in Hori. But what of the jilted Nohorua you ask? His quest to find the perfect match continues.

Our takahē are well into another breeding season, with nine pairs nesting. The first nests of the season have started to hatch so hopefully we get a reasonable run of weather to help the chicks establish.

Three children coming face to face with a takahē on Mana Island.

Meeting a takahē

We had planned to do another egg transfer to Southland this year, but the birds had other plans. Our birds were a bit tardy in getting going while the southern “foster” pairs started earlier. The requirement for them to start around the same time was lost on the takahē, but at least they’re nesting!


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Aucklanders, Magda Smolira and her daughter Jane, have been busy fulfilling their Conservation Week pledge and turning their backyard into a haven for New Zealand native species. They tell us what they’ve been doing… 

We are so pleased to take part in Conservation Week—mainly because we have been doing many things to invite native species into our backyard and it gives us a chance to share our story.

Building bug hotels

When we were getting rid of an overgrown hedge and broken fence we encountered a family of weta.

We presumed that they were not very happy to be evicted and we tried to make it up to them by building two ‘bug hotels’.

Jane and Magda find a whānau of weta.

A weta household

We used logs of privet that we had cut down and replaced with pohutukawa, a broken clay pot (that the pohutukawa used to grow in), and some left over paving stones.

We hope the hotels are occupied by insects and reptiles, not mice, but to make sure of it we put some Ka Mate traps in the vicinity of the bug hotels and around our compost bin.

Jane and Magda's bug hotel.

A bug hotel

Tracking and trapping rats

Last year, during winter school holidays Jane took part in ‘Eco Warrior Workshop’ (organised by Kaipatiki Project). She made a tracking tunnel and was given the paw print chart.

Jane holding a tracking tunnel.

Tracking tunnel

We were finding rat prints until the day Mr. Rat decided to try a pistachio nut from one of our ka-mate traps!

We were wondering whether Mr. Rat had a family, but we found only snail trails in the tracking tunnel for the rest of the school holidays.

Traps are still in place in case another adventurous rodent visits our backyard.

Attracting the birds

Our neighbours have beautiful kowhai tree and we have some kind of ornamental plum that attracts tui and silvereye when in bloom.

A silvereye hanging in an ornamental plum tree.

A silvereye in our backyard

On our last visit to Tiritiri Matangi we bought a nectar feeder that will hopefully give those birds extra support and stop them raiding my fig tree.

A young puriri tree is our Fathers Day gift to our dad. We hope to see wood pigeons feeding on it in the not too distant future.

Welcoming wildlife

We haven’t seen any reptiles in our backyard yet. We are hoping to though. We grow organic vegies, made bug hotels and are currently planting plants that will attract insects so we are hoping that geckos and skinks will move in. The concrete tubes from Habitat for Humanity shop (anybody knows what they are for?) should make good hiding places.

A lizard home in the garden.

Lizard home

Proud to pledge

We are proud and privileged to celebrate Conservation Week. We still have to do the online bird ID course to fulfill our pledge.

Jane and Magda's backyard.

The backyard