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Bird boom on the Heaphy

A takahē at Gouland Downs campsite on the Heaphy Track. Photo: Matthew Cattin

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Bird boom on Heaphy Track

A five-year study has recorded promising results of birdlife on the Heaphy Track. 

The DOC study has monitored birds in the lower Heaphy Valley since 2015 to assess the effectiveness of predator control.

The results show increasing numbers of nine native species; bellbird, fantail, grey warbler, kākāriki, silvereye, robin, tomtit, tūī and weka.

DOC operations manager Suvi Van Smit says the results are encouraging.
“It’s early days in this long-term biodiversity enhancement project but we are already seeing some native birds becoming more plentiful, confirming anecdotal reports from visitors to the Heaphy Track,” she said.

“We’ve increased the frequency of predator control in an area centred on the Heaphy valley since 2013 and have undertaken annual aerial 1080 predator control to suppress rats since 2016.

“Further monitoring is needed to be confident that increased predator control is causing the upswing in birdlife, but so far this appears to be the case.”

The good news follows reports of three takahē killed after 1080 predator control in Kahurangi National Park. 

Takahē Recovery Programme operations manager Deidre Vercoe says the deaths show how challenging conservation work can be.

“The three takahē deaths are upsetting. We know that the aerial 1080 predator control will have helped protect other threatened species in the area from predation,” she said.

The total takahē population has almost doubled in the past seven years to around 450 birds, and is expected to grow at 10% per year.

Fire threatens Mackenzie District

Given the wildfire burning near Tekapo this week, a feature in the latest issue of New Zealand Geographic that looks into the increasing likelihood of extreme fires and how Kiwis can better protect themselves seems prescient.

In the story, author Naomi Arnold explains that with climate change causing more intense weather, we can expect more extreme wildfires in the future, causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage and endangering homes and lives.

In this week’s Tekapo fire, Aoraki/Mt Cook was evacuated after a scrub fire spread across the Mackenzie District. It is believed to have been started when a Hunter knocked over his cooking stove.

Police helped more than 50 people evacuate as the fire cut through at least 2000ha on both sides of State Highway 80, NZHerald reports.

The fire was brought under control on Tuesday, with firefighters continuing to look for hotspots.

Alpine stoats prefer rats over birds, study shows

The diets of alpine stoats have been put under the microscope in a new study.

Findings showed that alpine stoats ate surprisingly few birds, preferring to eat small mammals, insects and lizards, Stuff reports.

The study, conducted by DOC scientists, found that alpine stoats have a preference for ship rats.

One hundred per cent of stoats in Fiordland National Park and 90 per cent of stoats in Mt Aspiring National Park had mammal remains in their stomachs.

“The proportion of birds in stoat diets was lower than expected at most sites and in most periods, and generally lower than reported by [other researchers]. Passerines​ contributed less than 2 per cent to stoat diet in most samples, among the lowest proportions recorded anywhere in New Zealand,” researchers reported.

Stoats found in Nelson Lakes National Park, where there are no rats, ate a larger number of weta and skinks,

The study concluded that declines in rat numbers could see stoats predate more heavily on other native animals. 

Fiordland locals asked to host a holiday

A tourism campaign is encouraging Fiordland locals to ‘Host A Holiday’ for out of towners.

The initiative, which has received support from 17 local businesses, would see locals receive something free of charge, provided they bring out of town visitors to their businesses, Stuff reports.

Christine Wallace from Te Anau’s Fiordland Outdoors Company says it would be a real win for businesses.

“Word of mouth can be very powerful and we’ve got a lot to see and do in Fiordland, still at a really affordable price,” she said.

“We want this community to get back on its feet and help itself. If we all work together it’s amazing what we can do, especially given what we’ve been through.

Destination Fiordland general manager Madeleine Peacock hopes the initiative will give Fiordland a boost.

“There’s never been a better time for locals to get out and about in their own backyards and we’re asking them to encourage friends from all around New Zealand to get down here while they can have the place to themselves,” she said.

Locals taking part need to provide proof of residence within the Te Anau Basin, Manapouri or Milford Sound regions.

The businesses involved include Sandfly Café, Fiordland Outdoors Co, Real Journeys, Cruise Milford, Fiordland Jet, Southern Lakes Helicopters, Habit Foods – Bao Now, Southern Discoveries, Fiordland Cinema, Trips and Tramps, Fiordland Helicopters, Redcliff Café, Faith in Fiordland, Go Orange, The Cinema Suites, Cruise Te Anau and Wings and Water – Fiordland Seaplane.

Community conservation projects receive boost

DOC’s Community Fund/Pūtea Tautiaki Hapori has granted $5.44 million to be shared amongst 116 community conservation projects. 

The fund is designed to support practical projects that encourage people to get involved in conservation, and includes a share of $900,000 for six community conservation hubs; Predator Free Hauraki, Coromandel Community Trust, Bay Conservation Alliance, Hawke’s Bay Biodiversity Trust, Wild for Taranaki, Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust and Whakatipu Wildlife Trust.

“Providing funding support for community conservation groups all over Aotearoa will see more conservation work being done, more New Zealanders active in the outdoors, and more people aware of our country’s unique conservation challenges,” Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage said.

Other groups receiving funding include the Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand, Takaka Hill Biodiversity Group, and Auckland-based Te Whangai Trust.

Nurse tips for trips during Covid

A public health nurse has shared her tips for road tripping during Covid-19. 

The tips, written for Outside magazine, include opting outside for picnics, bringing food from home, limiting stops, and calling ahead to ensure planned destinations are open.

“We packed all our meals for the road and a separate cooler with five days’ worth of groceries, and made sure our first aid kit had plenty of masks, hand sanitiser, and reusable Lysol wipes,” Jackie Munn wrote.

“The distance, destination, and planning made it possible to get away without putting ourselves or members of the ­community we ­visited at risk.”