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Update March 2018

On 19 March Jo Evans and Susan Gibbings inspected all the DOC200 traps including those on the old logging track behind the Brown Cottage (6 traps) and all those close to the stream up the valley (11 traps).

6 contained the remains of a rat and 1 the remains of a stoat/weasel. They cleaned up the inside of the boxes and removed the DOC200 mechanism from some of the traps to facilitate cleaning. Some that had not been tripped were jammed because the trigger hinge was stiff from dirt and/or corrosion.

The last trap up the valley, close to the big waterfall, was missing until it was found in the stream without its lid. The mechanism was skewed so Jo has taken it home for repair.

4 of the DOC200 mechanisms are all stainless steel in construction and in very good condition. The rest (which have only the pressure plate made of stainless and the rest galvanised steel) are showing some deterioration, mostly rust on the base, the clamp and some on the tip of the trigger where it contacts the pressure plate. However Jo thinks they still have some useful life left in them and should be operational for another year at least.

Arthur has made all the boxes for the new rat traps and has given Jo about half of them to staple on the netting which Jo will do over the next few days.

Jo has bought four 60ml disposable syringes. He proposes to fill one with peanut butter and try using it to charge the new rat traps. If it works Jo has 3 more for use by others in the Society. Each syringe should hold enough to charge about 30 of the new traps.

Leigh Valley restoration efforts under threat in 2018

Asparagus Scandens threat to restoration efforts

Our strategy for 2018 has changed with the discovery of a large area of climbing asparagus (Asparagus scandens) on the ridge at the top of the Mt Pleasant Drive side of the valley. This plant has become more apparent in the area over the last few years and, if not controlled, will prove to be a huge threat to our restoration efforts.

We went to work attacking this climbing weed which involved going on our hands and knees and digging out clumps of tuberous roots and hundreds of smaller plants. The next day we carried out spot spraying. Further spraying will be required. We also discovered a number of established banana passionfruit vines covered with ripening fruit, large tobacco plants and plenty of moth plants.

After an unproductive year in 2017 due partly to the weather and also because of various family issues, we hope to make further progress with our plan to intensify our pest control efforts. A track was formed in November last year so we can extend our trap/bait line and we visited this for the first time over the summer holiday period. We spent 5 hours clearing this new track and attacking the many weeds we encountered en route. Unfortunately the track is very steep in parts and not ideal for the average volunteer to access safely. We may need to use it for contractors to carry out pest plant control instead and look at repositioning the bait line.

The stoats have made their presence felt with two being spotted in 2 days (or perhaps it was the same stoat). One popped up from under our deck chasing a small rabbit. It stopped for a second and retreated after I screamed loudly!

Working Bee December 2017

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.

Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust training, Thursday 18th April 2017

Whitebait Connection water quality testing survey participants April 2017

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 April 2017

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 April 2017

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.

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.

Update: May 2017

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.

First Efforts for 2017

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

Stream Water Quality Testing

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.

Support from local society members

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.

Further Headway

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.