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.
We’ve had two more successful working bees; one on Saturday 5 May organised by Jo Evans and Sue Gibbings when we concentrated on weeding along the concrete driveway and another on Saturday, 2 June which involved weeding and planting at the top of the catchment area on Arthur and Trish Gundy’s property.
The Kness traps have been baited and positioned around the valley by various landowners and these traps are proving to be effective way of trapping rats and mice using a combination of peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies.
Spraying in preparation for planting took place on June 24th 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.
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!
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.
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.