Friday, March 30, 2007

Boundary Stream "Mainland Island"

Sunday morning was an early start. 6.30am breakfast! All packed up and ready to go by 7.30am. We were to travel north of Napier, then inland to the Boundary Stream "Mainland Island", a remnant of native bush surrounded by farmland. One of the unusual features about the reserve is that it has a large altitude variation, and we headed to the top end, which has sometimes been covered with snow on previous field trips. There have been active measures taken to get rid of predators, though the island is not 'fenced'. The reduction in predators has had an amazing effect on the bird life. I saw species I have never seen before, and some of them were quite abundant.

On arrival we were greeted with the song of numerous tuis and bellbirds. For many of us, there was a 'long drop' stop before we started work. Some of the young ones were clearly not trampers and thought the 'long drop' was 'disgusting', but I thought it was a really pristine one! Waiting in the queue to use it was a wonderful bird experience. We had been told the night before that they had released North Island robins in this reserve, and that their numbers had really risen. A little robin was flitting around in the trees near the queue, and seeing it was a 'first' for me. (Thanks to the 'bird recognition' we had had to do prior to the field trip, we were actually able to recognise it as a robin.)

Our first field trip task was not as bad as it sounds...... we had to look in a 10m x 20m area for 'poo' left by various predators. The hope was that we wouldn't find any. We didn't find much, but a rabbit had clearly been active in our area. The pellets were quite dry and not like you would imagine. I need to get used to the fact that my eyes are older now, and take my glasses with me: it was really hard for me to distinguish the dry faecal pellets against the background dry leaf litter. However, I did the recording for this task, so I didn't then need to worry about missing things.

Next task involved looking for invertebrates, firstly on the surface of a 10m x 1m rectangle, and then in three deeper samples. What surprised me was that in this beech forest, we didn't find many. (And it wasn't just my eyesight: the others in the group also found hardly any.) It has certainly been dry lately, but I began to wonder what the birds ate.

Doing a five minute bird count here brought another 'first': I saw a rifleman on a tree trunk. (This was another bird we had learned to recognise.) There was also a harrier flying overhead. Apparently there are kokako in this forest as well, with chicks having recently fledged, but today was not to be our day for seeing one.

We repeated most of our tasks in a piece of kamahi forest, and again we found few invertebrates. But our sampling the whole morning was accompanied by the sound of numerous tuis and bellbirds.

By 1pm we needed to start heading homewards. (They usually do this further away task on Saturday, but this year it was the 10th anniversary of the place, with 100 visitors and no room for the buses. So it had to be Sunday.) We called in to see a predator fence that the local community is in the midst of building to make a safe nursery area for kiwi. Then we did some more electro fishing. With hardly any time for this, Ian found quite a variety of animals.

Back in Palmie around 6pm, my brain was full of all the varied things I had seen on the weekend. It was a wonderful field trip, that opened my eyes to a lot I had never seen or thought about.

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