Fires at Point England

On the night of the 5th of April 2020 I noticed emergency services lights at Point England. Today I counted three areas of previously un-mowed grass on the south-eastern end that had been burnt and two partially forested areas on the northern end. The fires look like intentional arson to me, with drought conditions over hopefully we wont see any more burning. I’m very disappointed to loose some of the trees I planted. Damage to fences (including an area removed by emergency services) needs to be fixed before the dotterel breeding season begins (Auckland Council reference: 8110308091). I’m grateful to emergency services for managing the fire risk and to the mowers who have kept the tinder dry grass very short.

RSI / OOS arm pain

This is completely off topic but I have to blog it somewhere just incase it helps others.

For the last twenty years I have suffered from Repetitive strain injury (RSI) or Occupational overuse syndrome (OOS). It has always affected how much time I can spend working on the computer. It started in my forearm then eventually moved to my bicep which was quite debilitating.

These are the things I have tried that helped a little:

  • Stretches
  • Ice pack / Heat pack
  • Plunge arm in ice water for 10 mins
  • Home massage (machine)
  • Yoga and posture exercises
  • Work everyday until 5 but do 50% breaks
  • Less coffee
  • Solid pillow
  • Sleeping on my back
  • Standing desk
  • Pain killers/ anti-inflammatories
  • Reverse exercises
  • Left arm for computer
  • Micro pauses

Here are the things I tried that did not work:

  • Physio massage
  • Chiropractor
  • Thai stretching massage
  • Splint
  • Acupuncture
  • Pillow between legs
  • Iron/ vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM

I now have it 100% under control and it has very little impact on my life as long as I:

  • Do the stupidest stretch in the world, I just pull my shoulders down (as illustrated above) multiple times a day
  • Go for short (10 minute) runs a couple of times a week
  • Drink more water than my body wants
  • Sleep on my side with the arm I am lying on stretched out under my pillow

These things all help with increasing blood flow to the areas where the pain was coming from. I think lack of blood flow was causing my pain.

Bycatch

In October 2019 I was discussing bycatch (animals killed by fishers that they can’t sell) and was referred to this website http://psc.dragonfly.co.nz/ which maps threatened seabirds, marine mammals, and turtles that are caught during commercial fishing operations. Some of the data mentions photos so I requested recent ones in the Hauraki Gulf (where I spend most of my time) from the Ministry of Fisheries. They could not just send me all the photos so I did a more detailed request, 77 days later I got the photos, they are very low resolution and have been heavily edited but it gives you a sense for how commercial fishing impacts species that are threatened with extinction.

Here is the full (and detailed) response from Fisheries New Zealand. I have uploaded the photos including fishing method to Inaturalist.nz

Indigenous biodiversity

I have 1,612 verified observations on iNaturalist between Auckland and Whangarei documenting 552 species (mostly invertebrates) covering forest, freshwater, intertidal and marine habitats. I don’t take many photographs of plants. Of these observation 96 or 17% of species were introduced. Here is a break down showing areas where I have found more or less introduced species:

Hauturu Aotea Tawharanui East Auckland Waitakeres Hunua Ranges Rangitoto / Motutapu / Motuihe Motukorea Mungatapere
Observations 206 149 141 197 77 94 71 33 159
Species 86 84 86 120 57 64 52 25 83
Introduced 6 12 8 35 1 4 11 4 9
Percent introduced 7 14 9 29 2 6 21 16 11

I expected the restored and protected islands in the Hauraki Gulf to have a smaller percent of introduced species. I think the high number of introduced species (compared to the Waitakeres and the Hunua Ranges) reflects the islands farmed history with islands like Motukorea and Motutapu still dominated by kikuyu. The larger and older the forest the more indigenous biodiversity.

Tracking footprints

I teamed up with computer and environmental scientist Jordi Tablada to build a website for identifying New Zealand animal sign. I met Jordi through the New Zealand Dotterel Forum as he looks after dotterel at Piha. We had overlapping skills and were looking for a project to collaborate on. He came to me with the idea inspired by some materials produced by another dotterel minder Emily Roberts.

Now when I spot tracks in the sand and wonder what made them I load up the website and check them against the examples. It’s working really well and I hope to expand it to include other animal sign and more species. Others are using it too, mostly due to some great press. It was inspiring to see another citizen science identification guide go live this morning which will also help on beaches. This one is for shells.

These guides join others produced by organisations like nzbirdsonline.org.nz and help users of tools like eBird and iNaturalist.nz map the diversity and abundance of New Zealand flora and fauna.

Probe holes

With a lot more mowing at Point England this Winter the flocks of South Island pied oystercatcher are leaving a visible sign in the paddock. The probe holes are very dense right to the edges of the paddocks which means that I am also seeing holes from other species like White-faced heron and Pukeko. Casual counts put the number of little holes at around 100 per square meter.

Roost heights at Tahuna Torea

Today I took photos of the shorebird roosts at Tahuna Torea when the tide had just covered the main spit roost. The tide height was predicted to be very high today (3 August 2019) at 3.4M Westhaven 8:53am. Conditions were relatively calm and the tide had not (yet) hit the high tide line on the Little spit.

Names and locations of roosts
The tide was about 20cm (in height) from the high tide line.
Pathway
And the pathway which is sometimes flooded was about 20cm above the water.
The spit had just been compromised with just a few Black-back gulls and one Caspian tern remaining
Little spit was about 50cm above the tide
Little Godwit Island was about 60cm above the tide
South Godwit Island was about 75cm above the tide
North Godwit Island had about 40cm above the tide
The Southern end of Lockley Island had about 40cm above the tide
The Northern end of Lockley Island had about 40cm above the tide

I have seen tidal debris in the mangroves around Lockley Island that were above the height of the island (indicating that it sometimes gets swamped) but I think it would have made an ok roost today.

Hauturu kiwi monitoring trip

Cave weta, Pachyrhamma

I was recently lucky enough to monitor kiwi on Hauturu with the Little Barrier Island Supporters Trust. I have done this many times before at Tāwharanui with TOSSI. The exercise involves a good hike to the destination at night then sitting quietly in the dark listening to the sounds of the forest for a couple of hours. I have met some great people doing this and this trip was no exception. They patiently waited for me as I inched along the tracks on the way back to the hut, inspecting every tree for hidden treasures and some even came out with me again on their free nights. I have posted all my invertebrate observations here on iNaturalist where the community is helping me identify them all. I have also posted some fungi which were a hot topic among the volunteers.

It’s an incredible island where one can get a sense for pre-human New Zealand. Here is a list of some observations I made over the 12 days I was there.

  • I saw less invertebrates, birds and geckos at elevation.
  • Piwakawaka following Tieke on two occasions.
  • By weight there was much more industrial plastic pollution (mussel floats) than domestic plastic pollution on the beaches.
  • Similar gecko numbers in winter compared to summer. One seen every 20 minutes on night walks.
  • Cave Weta were the dominant weta by a factor of 10 or more. Tree Weta, Ground weta and Wētāpunga active.
  • Winter invertebrate abundance similar to mainland sites with predator control (and less birds). At night, in two out of three tress invertebrates were easily found.
  • Invertebrates not much bigger than raindrops stay hidden during the rain.
  • NZ Giant Centipede found 3m above ground inside a Kanuka tree that fell in the middle of the day. The species is very arboreal.
  • Korimoko chasing Ruru during the day.
  • Flock of 18 Kereru feeding on Muehlenbeckia.
  • A high of 12 Shore Skinks seen from one observation point. No other skinks observed.
  • Invertebrate diversity high with many species I had not seen before. Some had not been previously photographed in the wild.
  • Strange absence of Katydid calls.
  • Very empty streams with only Shortfinned Eel and Banded Kokopu observed. Huge flushing events the likely cause of low freshwater diversity and abundance.

Training iNaturalist

The artificial intelligence that reads photos on iNaturalist and identifies species is incredible. It often makes me double check an ID and has helped on many occasions. However I was pleased to see it bested by this stick insect I photographed who completely out-witted it 😀

Pest monitoring Selwyn Bush 2019

We identified 19 tracking locations (S1-S19) in 2014. The first 10 (S1-S10) were used in this survey. The survey was repeated in March 2019. The first 10 locations were searched and three out of 10 tracking tunnels were found. Seven new tracking tunnels were installed on the 10th of March. On the 16th of March another 9 tunnels were installed and all the tunnels were filled with an inked tracking card with peanut butter in the middle. Some locations were adjusted to make access easier. I noticed when trying to find the tunnels again with the Garmin InReach and App that the positions were often off by up to 16M. Thats a lot in the bush!

Locations of the 2014 tracking locations compared to the actual locations of the tunnels placed in 2019.

RESULTS

I find these mashed up prints very hard to identify, but here is my best guess:

S1 Hedgehog
S2 WW, Rat, Hedgehog
S3 Rat, Hedgehog
S4 Hedgehog, WW
S5 –
S6 –
S7 Hedgehog
S8 –
S9 –
S10 –
S11 –
S12 –
S13 –
S14 –
S15 –
S16 –
S17 –
S18 –
S19 –

WW = Winged weta, I was particularly looking for this species. See my blog post on tracking winged weta here.

Suspected winged weta tarsal pad print

I think we should probably ignore the tracking tunnels put out recently (S11-S19) as they may have been avoided due to (at at least some of) the target species being neophobic.

This would give us a result for 2019 of 20% Rat, 0% Mice, 50% Hedgehog. This indicates we have less rats & mice and more hedgehogs than 2019.

I have left the tunnels out there, it might be a good idea to retry in a few weeks. It’s interesting that we see more pests near the top of the bush, this has been observed before.

KMZ file with locations