A short stay at the Hurunui ‘Mainland Island’
In 2005 several club members enjoyed day tramps in Boundary Stream ‘Mainland Island’ in the Hawkes Bay. The function of ‘Mainland Islands’ is to protect and restore habitats in a similar way to predator-free off-shore islands. Currently six areas in the North and South Islands have this designation. They are areas that can be ‘isolated’ from predators by fencing, intensive pest and predator management and sometimes by their geography.
Some years ago I tramped with the club in the north branch of the Hurunui in Lake Sumner Forest Park, and I was keen to visit the south branch which has had a ‘Mainland Island’ programme running since 1995. DoC suggested that I contact Wayne King for further information.
As Hugh Barr and I were planning to do some tramping in mid-January 2006 I emailed Wayne for further details. He said he was just about to go into the valley and that we could go with him, spend two nights in the valley and return with the research team on the third day. Amazingly this opportunity fitted in with our plans. We met up on the Lewis Pass highway. The journey into the DoC operational and accommodation base was quite an eye-opener. Even in a 4WD vehicle it took 3 hours as we drove through two large and remote farm stations, with some spectacular views of the Hurunui River. The sad thing is that even with this remoteness there have been burglaries at the field station. A locked gate near one of the farm houses should help to prevent these events.
The Hurunui has one of the most intact beech forest systems left in Canterbury and over 32 native bird species including great spotted kiwi, mohua (yellowheads) and the only known population of orange-fronted parakeets (on the brink of extinction*).
Over the summer season a team of DoC staff are involved in bird monitoring and in controlling and monitoring pests especially stoats, rats and possums. Three different kinds of bait and bait stations have been designed to maximise pest kill. It has been found possible to control possums over the very large area of the valley with just one line of bait stations running up and down the valley floor. This is because the possums come to the bait and will migrate up and down the valley sides to take a feed of bait.
The nests of two species of parakeets (yellow crowned and orange fronted) are monitored for nest hole locations, number of offspring and survival rates. This is not an easy task as the nests are several meters above ground. Apart from the research aspects it made us realise how difficult it is to maintain a field station in a semi-remote area with the problems of power, sewerage and burglaries. We were very impressed with the microhydro unit that supplies power for the base and the continued work to make the sewage system ‘smell free’.
The teams of eight people work 10 days on and four days off and sleep in two small bunkrooms each with four bunks. We admired the way the people who work at the station cope with living in such close proximity and lack of privacy – it wasn’t something we had thought about before.
Since our visit four mohua nests fledged successfully with a total of 12 fledglings, one nest had five fledglings which seems to be very rare and at least one pair laid a second clutch.
Thanks to Wayne it was a privilege to be able to see first hand the work that DoC is doing in this valley and talk to the people involved. New Zealand has native bird species that are unique in the world and the survival of some of these species is fragile. Programmes like the one we saw in the Hurunui can make a major difference to the survival of species. However pest and predator control has to be on-going and much more funding is needed to maintain progress.
- For more information on orange-fronted parakeets see Forest and Bird
magazine February 2004.
- Party members were
- Jenny Lewis (scribe), and Hugh Barr.