The Pest Free Leigh Launch held on Saturday, 17 October was a huge success and it was great to hear about their vision for the area. The hall was full of local Leigh and Mathesons Bay residents and holiday homeowners, all eager to do their part. Cam Rathe provided an excellent presentation on pest control and it was exciting to hear plans are underway to release Kiwi onto Mt Tamahanga withinin the next 12-18 months.
Leigh residents will be trapping rats with free traps provided by Pest Free Leigh and, in time, the plan is to progress to the outlying rural areas. The efforts of the various volunteer community groups should help to make the Pest Free Leigh dream a reality.
A big thank you to Jo Evans who put together a wonderful display of the achievements of the LHVS over the past 12 years.
On Saturday, 17 October, Nik and Matt Deeling spent 4 hours positioning A24 Good Nature traps in the kauri block. The next plan is to intensify trapping on our well-established tracks and to add more traps to the kauri block. To date (from what we can gather from rotting carcasses) we have caught 24 possums and 42 rats with the self-setting traps.
Many thanks to Richard Taylor and Jo Evans who spent approximately 10 hours on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September, positioning 7 leaning posts, re-stapling loose battens and adding 8 permanent strainers to the fenced catchment area on Julie Turner’s property. Richard spent another few hours back-filling the holes. The Leigh Harbour Valley Society funded the cost of materials.
We plan to organise a weeding day in this area before the end of the year.
Once again, we would like to acknowledge and thank Trees for Survival and Ponsonby Primary School who provided the trees for this project.
Our first official working bee for the year was held on Sunday, 2 August after having to postpone previous planned events due to Covid-19. It is over 9 years since weeds were cleared and replanting was carried out on council land in front of and behind the brown cottage and along the paper road. 13 volunteers spent 3 hours clearing jasmine, blue morning glory, ivy, tradescantia, moth plant and other weeds.
A big thank you to Ashleigh Lee for providing a delicious lunch and to Nik and Matt for assisting with clearing weeds and spraying. Everyone agreed it was great getting back into restoration mode.
Brush tail possums, Norwegian rats, ship rats and kiore beware!, the new AT220 traps have been installed in the valley. On Saturday 11 July, Nik and his colleague, Matt spent about 8 hours positioning the traps and attaching ramps to encourage the rodents to walk directly into them. One of the traps was checked the next day and in the space of one night had successfully caught a possum.
Funding for these traps was provided by DoC’s Community Fund.
With our efforts and pest control also being carried out by the organisers of the Little Blue Penguin/Korora project, Jenny and Tony Enderby and others who have been trapping consistently along the Leigh Coastal walkway, we are starting notice an influx of fantails (piwakawaka); a very encouraging sign.
With support from a successful DoC funding application, we plan to establish a trap line around the boundary of the Leigh Harbour Valley over the coming months. Matthew Deeley an experienced pest plant and animal control field operator, and Nik volunteered their time on Saturday 4 February and Sunday 5 February; establishing a track on the eastern boundary of the valley. It was extremely hot work but they managed to get through over 1/4 of the halo. The formation of this track is a continuation of work carried out several years ago on the other side of the valley but not completed.
Nik has caught 5 possums over a two week period. Chris is in the process of erecting a Kauri Die back cleaning station at the main entrance of the valley and has constructed 15 more rat boxes to add to our arsenal of traps.
My rat truffles are being eaten by something (or someone!) but I’ve only managed to catch one very large rat in the past two weeks. The truffles have disappeared completely from some of the traps without the traps going off so I can only assume they were eaten by mice or insects. In future, I’ll prepare the recommended mixture of rolled oats, peanut butter and cinnamon and ensure that it is extra sticky so the truffles cannot be rolled away!
We are looking forward to working closely with the Predator Free Leigh Community group in the months ahead.
Matt Deeley helping to establish the new track
Nik Erikson – hot work!
Marking the track
Before (2012) and after (2020) photographs of the catchment area at the top of Mt Pleasant Drive are a big source of encouragement.
It is easy to feel disillusioned when faced with the spring growth of an overwhelming number of weeds, and Tradescantia has proved to be a huge challenge for our project volunteers. Panakenake (pratia angulata) was recommended to replace this nasty weed and it was very upsetting when the 100 or so plants propagated by John Harvey, and planted in 2016, were washed downstream after a heavy rainful. However, at a weeding day held on 23 November 2019, we were given a real glimmer of hope to see that a number of these plants have survived. The panakenake photographed was a delight to behold, and it looked very much at home. We are hopeful that, over time, this plant will become more established in the valley and help to suppress the tradescantia.
Neil and Cheryl Sutherland and Richard Taylor worked hard at clearing tradescantia from the stream edges and from amongst the parataniwha (Elatostema rugosum). This was a laborious task which they took in their stride and we had an enjoyable few hours in the valley.
Another weed that is quite established is montbretia. Due to its underground corms and long creeping rhizomes, it will be an ongoing challenge to control but one we are determined to win!
The next day was spent cutting and pasting privet and deadly nightshade along Mt Pleasant Drive then, encouraged by a recent meeting with Jenny Enderby, I went on my first solo trap clearing mission. Armed with a mask, gloves and tongs, I checked and rebaited the traps. It didn’t take too long to learn that it is important to apply the bait to the snap traps before setting them so thank goodness I was wearing gloves! I have to admit it was a relief to discover that all the traps were empty but I’m sure this job will get easier over time and I’ll be able to deal with a dead rat or stoat without screaming at top note. Another impromptu weeding day was held on Sunday, 1 December when I met with Richard Taylor and we spent just over an hour and a half clearing tradescantia from the stream bed. There is still much work to do and we look forward to making further progress in the valley in 2020.
We held our first official working bee for the year on Sunday 3 November when we cleared a large area of tradescantia and other weeds on the Harvey’s property. It was a gorgeous day and we made great headway over about 3 ½ hours with the help of Niklas, my neighbour Michaela Schwind and her Chinese exchange student Yifu, Margaret Young, Jo Evans, Richard Taylor, John and Nola Harvey. Niklas continued working for another 3 hours clearing weeds and spraying a track.
Much to our delight, while heading back for a late lunch, we were treated to a pod of dolphins in Omaha Cove. They put on quite a display and it was a special thrill for Yifu who had never seen a dolphin before.
Nik and his cousin, Alexander Paine, returned to Leigh a week later and carried out further weeding and pest control. Nik has had quite a bit of success trapping possums, and has caught 10 on his last two visits to Leigh.
Chris Wadsworth, a secondary school mathematics teacher with an interest in biodiversity management, spent a couple of days with us at Leigh over the Christmas break and we took him on a 2 hour tour of the valley. Chris was very encouraging about our progress since his last visit in August and provided some helpful advice regarding environmentally friendly methods of weed control (i.e. using white vinegar to spray the climbing asparagus and African clubmoss). He also assisted us with clearing a large area of moth plant on Mt Pleasant Drive.
The A24’s added to our arsenal of traps have proved to be only moderately successful since being installed in November. Two of the units caught 2 rats, one caught 1 rat and the other did not catch anything when checked a few weeks ago. There appear to be mixed views about the effectiveness of these units. Some of the opinion they are only effective in areas where there are large populations of rats. However, the positioning of the units is also important and we only have 4 units.
Trapping carried out using Doc 200’s and snap traps has been successful thanks to our main pest control volunteers Jo Evans and Sue Gibbings. Jo and Sue who have kept a record of pests caught to date, including this large stoat. Our approach has been more haphazard with the traps only being checked intermittently by Chris and Nik Erikson during visits to Leigh and more regularly during the holiday period. We need to improve our monitoring methods and keep a tally of pests caught. There appear to be mixed views on the best bait to use. We recently caught a large stoat 1 day after placing a sardine on top of an old egg that had been in the trap for at least 6 weeks. Jo uses rabbit meat.
Chris Wadsworth has offered to return to Leigh during the year and help us chip away at the project. Our next planned working bee will be to revisit the moth plant on Mt Pleasant Drive which over the years has proved to be a real challenge to eradicate. We will also continue working on the climbing asparagus and start intensifying our efforts at managing the African club moss.
We had our best turn-out ever at the planting day held on Sunday, 5 August, thanks to the power of social media. Friends and family, including our regular LHVS members, responded to our request for help to plant the trees donated by Paremoremo nursery and we ended up with 30 volunteers; including 2 key people with experience in bush restoration. Our volunteers included two PhD students from the Maldives and Sri Lanka and another Masters student in Marine Biology.
In 2 hours we had planted over 500 plants. 100 saltmarsh ribbon wood shrubs were planted around the fenceline. Cabbage trees and manuka were planted in the lower wetland area and further upstream along with pittosporum. While we need to perfect our catering skills for large crowds, everyone seemed to enjoy the lunch of wood fired pizza and home baking.
Many thanks to Paremoremo nursery for contributing these plants.