Monday, March 26, 2007

NZ fauna field trip

The Massey field trip I went on for New Zealand fauna was just wonderful!

We extramurals, about 17 of us, met at Massey at 2pm Friday, and met Murray the paper coordinator who made us all feel welcome, before we had to sit our bird recognition test at 3pm. (The wisdom of learning these birds became really apparent on Sunday when it was a great feeling to see a few native birds for the first time, and be able to confidently identify them.)

Friday evening, in two buses (for 80 students plus eight tutors and two lecturers), we drove up to Riverbend Christian Camp, in the rural Hastings area, which was our base for the weekend. Breakfast was to be at 7am, so it wasn't a late night! I bedded down with a few of the other extramurals in the 'villa' out the back, marae style on a mattress on the floor, which appealed to me much more than the top tier of three tiered bunks!

Saturday morning we headed out towards Cape Kidnappers. We crossed a farm station to reach this predator fence. A US billionaire controversially was able to buy a huge tract of land at Cape Kidnappers, and has established a top flight golf course there for the wealthy. He is also engaged on a (less well known) major ecological project, and we had come to see the predator-exclusion fence that is in the process of being erected.

This fence truly is amazing. It is designed to keep out most introduced predators (except mice), plus there is intensive trapping and poisoning as well. The fence is not all 'closed' as people retain the right to walk along the beach, hence the trapping etc. They are already having success with native species returning to the dune area. There have been blue penguins nesting on nearby offshore islands: they have put out nesting boxes on these dunes and some are already being used by blue penguin.
Here is a small portion of our group giving some idea of the size of the fence.

And here you can see how the fence winds its way over the hills. There are some forest remnants nestled in the hills that they hope will be restored somewhat as well. It reminded me a little of the "Great Wall."

It was an idyllic sunny day, so the occupier of this farm cottage seemed to have his own little piece of heaven, despite the isolation!

We headed back inland again and stopped at a stream to try bird counts and electrofishing. The waterfall on the stream was beautiful.

The stream itself was beautiful too, but there wasn't a lot of fishing success, apart from this elver. Apparently the calcium carbonate ions in the stream made the electro-fishing not a suitable technique here. It was exciting to see the elver though, having just read in the Study Guide all about their migrations back from the spawning grounds at sea.

OK lots more to tell you but it will have to wait for another day. I am somewhat tired after my weekend of adventuring, plus "Desperate Housewive starts in five minutes time!

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