The wet winter and a number of challenges on the home front has meant that we have had only one community working bee this year; although Cam has continued working in the valley and surrounding areas carrying out pest control and weeding. A decision was made to fit in one more working bee and to carry out some much needed work on Julie Turner’s property. This took place on Sunday, 3 December. It was a glorious summer day and it soon became very apparent why it is necessary to hold these events in the cooler months. However, we had a good turn-out and, despite the heat, managed to clear the majority of established weeds. The plants are thriving and we just need to keep control of the kikuyu to ensure the smaller plants survive. After working for a couple of hours, some of the volunteers went to view the new steps/walkway Arthur has created at the top of the valley. We all agreed this would have been a more pleasant area to be working in.
Afterwards the hard working members were treated to freshly cooked pizzas, home baking and had an opportunity to taste several Black Stilt wines from the Harvey’s vineyard in Central Otago. It was great to catch up with friends and members of the society in a social gathering to reflect on what has been achieved over the years.
Whitebait Connection water quality testing
During the Easter holidays, the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust held their annual wånanga at Omaha (Te Kiri) marae. As part of the national coordinator training, which is held for the two days prior to the public event, coordinators from the Whitebait Connection arm of the trust visited the Leigh stream to practice macroinvertebrate identification and taking water freshwater quality measurements.
Whitebait Connection water quality testing
Jo Evans and Susan Gibbings kindly showed the team of approx. 15 coordinators down to the stream. Everyone was fascinated to hear what work the community is undertaking in the area to help combat pest species and restore the Leigh Valley.
Whitebait Connection water quality testing
Once down at the stream, coordinators practiced using the Whitebait Connection water quality testing kit. Results indicated that the stream had good water quality on the day of survey. Everyone then had a go with the sweep nets, collecting macroinvertebrates from the stream for identification. The stream has an impressive selection of macroinvertebrate species, most which indicate good water quality and in-stream habitat. The results from this survey can be seen in the table below.
Whitebait Connection water quality testing survey results April 2017
The remainder of the wånanga was a huge success, with 60 people from all over the country coming together to discuss and listen to talks on Citizen Science in marine and freshwater action and conservation. Thank you so much Jo and Sue for showing us the stream and keep up the good work Leigh Harbour Valley Society! You live in a truly magical location and it was a pleasure to explore and discover the area with our team and visitors.
There haven’t been as many posts lately, partly due to the extra security measures needed to update the website after we were hacked last year and also because we have held fewer working bees. However, we are continuing the chip away at the project. Cam has been visiting the area at regular intervals and controlling weeds and pests in the valley and surrounding area and individuals are working on various parts of the project.
After cancelling several working bees due to wet and stormy conditions, the weather was finally on our side on Sunday, 7 May when we held a community working bee; the first such event in over 18 months. 13 volunteers, mostly members of the Leigh Harbour Valley Society as well as Leigh residents and co-ordinators of the Leigh Coastal Care group, Neil and Cheryl Sutherland and George Knightly, assisted with clearing elephant ear along with other weeds on the harbour foreshore. Jo Evans loaded up his ute and took the cuttings to the dump. Chris chopped down several small wilding pines along the coastal walkway. John and Nola Harvey joined me upstream where we weeded around the sedges and manuka planted last year. We were disappointed to find the severed head of what was a large eel by the side of the stream. It had clearly been decapitated with a knife rather than gnawed off suggesting someone rather than something had attacked it.
Due to tightened website security, I haven’t been posting as many updates as it is not quite as straight forward as it used to be and I have to call upon my very patient brother, Bruce, to enter the information.
A lot of restoration activity has been taking place. The cooler Christmas holiday break meant that Chris and I had enough energy to work in the bush clearing privet, bracken, moth plant and other weeds, making tracks, and weeding around the sedges planted last winter; as well as the more established plants. We checked and rebaited the stoat line adding two rats, one stoat and a hedgehog to our total.
Thanks to Cam Rathe, the valley is looking fabulous and he has managed to keep on top of the tradescantia. There has been a noticeable increase in birdlife due to last year’s pest control efforts. Cam spent another day in the valley on 31 January when he carried out further spraying, filled all the bait stations and rebaited the traps. Another stoat and two rats were added to the total. Cam has started adding this information to the ‘Walk the Line’ website (something we had intended to do last year).
This year the focus will be on increasing our pest control efforts and, with the help of Niklas Erikson, we have created two new tracks in bush along Mt Pleasant Drive where we will extend the stoat/pest line. Established areas of ginger and pampus were discovered in this area along with fully grown Hawthorn and eleagnus trees. We have been gradually working away at clearing these weeds. The large pine trees in this area pose a bit of a problem however there are some established native trees and new native seedlings popping up.
We were thrilled to see a brown tui during our holiday break who followed a daily routine of feeding from the pohutukawa tree in front of our property then swooping past the house and sitting on the telegraph pole. It was quite a cheeky bird. We haven’t seen it again since the pohutukawa stopped flowering. Attached is a photograph of it mid flight taken by Anita Erikson.;
Brown tui mid flight
Photo of fantail nest found on one of the tracks at the upper end of the valley.
Fantail Nest, Leigh Harbour Valley, 17/12/2016, Photographer Richard Taylor
On Monday 5 December, Chris met with Kim Jones, the National Coordinator of the Whitebait Connection programme who is being contracted by Auckland Council to assist Wai Care groups in North Auckland. The stream was tested in two locations. All water quality tests were within safe/healthy levels and a good range of macroinvertebrates were located including some sensitive ones like Free Living Caddisflies, Spotty Stoneflies, and Stony-cased Caddisflies! Amphipods, Isopods, Oligochaete Worms, Rounded Snails, Sandfly Larvae, and Shrimps were also found. More information about those bugs can be found on the Wai Care guide. Shoals of Inanga (native threatened freshwater fish) were found swimming upstream into some nice habitat.
The Whitebait Connection’s umbrella trust; Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust, is holding a Mountains to Sea National Wananga/Conference at the Omaha Marae in April 2017 and are hoping to bring some participants down to the Leigh Harbour Valley stream as part of the training.
View the Wananga Omaha Conference 2017 PDF for further details including registration instructions.
Thanks to Leigh residents all the sedges funded by Auckland Council’s EIF fund have been planted. On 12 November, Richard and his son Troy planted 49 sedges and on 17 November Susan, Neil and Sheryl planted the remaining lot of ~70. All the previous plantings are looking very good. We’ve been so lucky to have had regular rain to keep the ground wet and dunking them in the stream before planting seems to have been good for them.
Jo Evans and Sue Gibbings have been been continuing to check the stoat line and Cam has also been working in the area. At his last visit Cam reported the following tally; 2 ship rats, 2 rabbits, 1 hedgehog and 2 stoats.
It has not been the most successful season for planting and weeding, due to the very heavy rainfall, however, thanks to the input from Leigh residents, Jo and Sue Evans and Richard Taylor; along with our contractor, Cam Rathe, we are gradually making headway.
On 19 October Jo and Sue spent two and a half hours in the valley transporting and planting 48 more sedges in the Harvey patch. The sedges and manuka planted at the last working bee were all looking very good however some of the plants yet to be planted were getting a bit root bound in their PB2s.
Cam was employed for another 8 hours, spraying tradescantia and is doing such a great job keeping up with regrowth. It is so good to have his input and to know he is really dedicated to our mission. Hopefully we can continue to employ him. He also re-baited the stations. The recent tally in the traps was a rat, a large stoat, a hedgehog and a young rabbit.
Niklas Erikson planted another 20 sedges on the Watkinson’s property on Saturday, 22 October and on Sunday, 30 October, Jo, Susan and Richard carried approximately 150 sedges up to the planting site and planted 109 of them. There are still a few plants to go in and we should get these planted within the next 4 weeks.
Our main planting project for Winter 2016 had been to plant 300 sedges and 150 manuka plants that were purchased from Te Hana Nurseries on grant money from the Auckland Council (Rodney Local Grants). Originally scheduled for Sunday 24 July, it had to be postponed a couple of times because of atrocious weather forecasts that would have made transporting the plants the nearly 500m up the slippery streamside track to the planting site (in a clearing in the bush on Harvey’s land) very difficult, if not dangerous.
By late September it was getting urgent to get the plants in the ground and we rescheduled the planting for Sunday 2 Oct. However with another lousy forecast for that day a small group of 5 members decided to get as many of the plants as possible across the stream and on to the track on Saturday morning. Two full ute-loads of plants were driven down to the bottom of the concrete driveway beside the Lee’s brown cottage from where Peter Watkinson ferried them on his 4-wheel-drive mule through his campsite to the stream crossing. We carried all the plants across the stream, stock-piling them beside the track and beginning the transfer to the planting site 250m further upstream.
The next day a workforce of 8 members [Jo & Susan, Arthur & Trish, Neil and Sheryl, John H, Richard T] turned up at 9am in overcast but not unpleasant conditions to transfer more plants and begin planting. Our priority was to first get the manuka planted in the higher, drier parts of the clearing – that had been sprayed earlier to kill rampant Tradescantia. After nearly an hour we started on the sedges, lower down where the ground was wetter.
And that was when the forecast deluge began. We carried on planting with thunder and lightning crashing above and water pouring through the site in rushing rivulets. At least we could see where the ground was wettest and some effort went into channelling the water into more defined streams so that our planting holes did not immediately fill up with water.
By 10.45 we had used up all the plants carried up from the stockpile. The stream had risen to become a fast torrent and we could not cross it to bring up any more so we decided to call it a day. We couldn’t go back the way we had come and had to get out of the valley up through Harvey’s property negotiating the overgrown, slip-damaged track and the waist-high kikuyu paddock.
All participants went home to get dry and warm feeling some satisfaction that they had achieved a lot in a short time. There remain probably about 170 sedges left to bring up and plant and this could be achieved by several small sessions over the next few weeks.
The following is a photograph of a stoat caught in the valley recently. According to our pest control expert, Cam Rathe, it is one of the largest he has ever seen (and he has caught hundreds).
Large Stoat, Leigh Harbour Valley
Volunteer members Jo Evans and Sue Gibbings have been regularly checking the stoat line as well as controlling pests on their own property and have caught a number of rats, stoats, weasels and mice. Thanks to their efforts and the efforts of other dedicated members, we are making huge progress in the valley and there is a noticeable increase in bird life.
My son Nik and I attended a workshop at the DoC Warkworth office on Monday, 11 July, to learn about DoC’s new mobile application for recording trapping information called ‘Walk the Line’.
DoC and Auckland Council staff who look after some of the Auckland regional parks were present, along with the local Tfs representative Frankie Hofland, Liz Maire (the Forest Bridge Trust educator) and Kevin & Gill Adshead trustees and founders of the Forest Bridge Trust. Kevin and Gill are an inspiring couple who are farmers of a 3,200 acre seven-generation family farm at Mataia on the Kaipara Harbour. You might have seen them on Country Calendar a few years ago.
The vision of the Forest Bridge trust is to create corridors of native bush and thriving native wildlife from the Kaipara Harbour to the east coast including Pakiri and Leigh by connecting bush remnants, fencing and running a concentrated pest control programme. The Forest Bridge Trust are working closely with schools to eradicate pests via the CatchIT Schools programme. Each student gets a range of pest traps to take home and the results of this pest control programme are recorded.
This project will have positive spin-offs for all those involved in bush restoration in the surrounding areas. It is important to be protecting forest remnants with fencing but our efforts will only be successful when we see an increase in native birdlife and other native fauna. It is exciting that the CatchIT project is being supported by Leigh School and we hope to see the benefits of the children’s pest control activities and to be able to work more closely with the school in the future.