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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I find these mashed up prints very hard to identify, but here is my best guess:
S2 WW, Rat, Hedgehog
S3 Rat, Hedgehog
S4 Hedgehog, WW
WW = Winged weta, I was particularly looking for this species. See my blog post on tracking winged weta here.
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.
Updated from 2017. I have upgraded to some second hand 600EX RT’s, a radio transmitter, 3rd flash and some custom designed and 3D printed soft boxes. Files uploaded here. The soft boxes are printed using transparent PLA which has a natural frosty finish and produces lovely diffuse shadows (0.2mm @ 5 layers). I painted them black & yellow and lined the mouth with black tape so as to not scratch the flashes. The 600EX-RT’s are quite heavy and I had to use epoxy glue to re-enforce the cold shoes. I fibreglassed a giant nail to the base of a Manfrotto monopod to create the portable outdoor light stand.
I was recently asked to quickly create some red-billed gull decoys. I joked they might be better of using a decoy picnicker but the reality is this is another native species that is in real trouble (conservation status declining). I posed the decoys with their tails up but with legs so they could be used standing or sitting if they need extra anchorage.
Unfortunately these decoys were snapped off at the leg, we are not sure how, as it would involve a lot of force. So…
A great article on the Wynyard gull colony project has been published here. Ohhhh and another article in the Guardian!