Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Early winter

The long dry spell is definitely over although it is still warm when the sun is out. The forest now looks very lush and surprisingly the climbing rata is still flowering. Recently, we have woken to beautiful sunrises looking down onto low cloud in the valley and out to the coast. Last week we had two of the best days of the year – absolutely still, warm and cloudless. Today there is torrential rain – never a dull moment!

Natural history highlights in the past two months include the discovery of five Hochstetter’s Frogs in a 50 metre stretch of one stream. If you lift stones to look for frogs you need to be very careful not to squash them. You also need good eyes as young ones are very very small (less than 1cm) and cryptically coloured.  It would be good to have a better understanding of the distribution of both frog species as there is very conflicting information as to where they may occur within the estate. For example do Archeys Frogs only occur in higher parts of the estate or are they found across all elevations? If you find frogs please record location and date. If you can take photos, please do, as identifying the species is not easy.

On the bird front Kaka have been reported within the estate, presumably feeding on the Coprosma or other fruits. Kiwis have been heard by at least six owners at a number of locations through the central part of the estate. At present it is not clear how many birds may be involved. Probably, there are at least two male birds moving around within their territories. When densities are very low, territories may cover large areas.  Now is a very good time of the year to listen for them. Red Admiral Ecology has been contracted to carry out a call survey using bio-acoustic recorders placed through the estate. These continuously record for at least eight nights. The memory cards are then analysed using a specialized software package. This is time consuming and to keep costs down we will look at being trained to do this ourselves.

There are not a lot of changes on the bird front since my last post. Plenty of bellbirds calling and occasionally bursting into song but tuis are very quiet. They are still on the estate but few are singing. Kereru are also keeping a low profile. That is not the case with tomtits and fantails. They are singing strongly throughout the estate. We have several birds around the house, which has not been the case in previous years, so that is a very good sign. Silvereyes are everywhere and numerous flocks come to feed on the five-fingers and other shrubs.

Re-seeding of the cleared paddock area on lot 9 brought in large numbers of chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch and yellowhammer. They were around for a couple of weeks until they ran out of grass seed. This week there were just two yellowhammers left.

There are several small groups of rosella and the occasional kingfisher around to add colour to the bush and small coveys of californian quail often fly up from the road near the picnic area when we drive through.

We are looking forward to winter on the estate and hope to be able to report positive news about kiwi numbers. If you hear or see any please record date, time and location.

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