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News from Project Janszoon - July 2014

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In this issue - Beech mast confirmed; Wi Fi network extending; Storm hits stoat trapping network; 7 things about Pete Gaze; Project Janszoon benefits from Tomorrow Accord; Updates on education programme, Hadfield planting and more

Beech mast confirmed


Monitoring of beech seed has confirmed a widespread beech mast in the Abel Tasman in 2014 with evidence showing rat numbers have increased in response to the abundant food supply.
 
Over the last few months DOC has been monitoring beech seed fall in the Abel Tasman and counting the seeds.  They have found high or very heavy seed falls and predict that rodent and stoat populations will impact on native birds. 
 
DOC’s Chris Golding says a lot of seeds came down in the April storms and both silver and red beech seed numbers are over the trigger level to undertake aerial pest control.
 
“The abundant food supply means rodent numbers will increase to an extent that would overwhelm the stoat trapping network and other ground methods.  Timely aerial pest control will allow native birds to nest and fledge successfully,” he says.
 
Project Janszoon Director Devon McLean says in response to the beech mast Project Janszoon and DOC will undertake an aerial 1080 pest control operation some time between mid July and the end of August depending on favourable weather.
 
“Aerial 1080 pest control enables a rapid response. It reduces pest numbers to extremely low densities and is needed to supplement other pest control like our extensive stoat trapping network and ground control operations,” he says.
 
The operation will aerially apply cereal baits containing biodegradable 1080 pesticide over approximately 12,359 ha of Abel Tasman National Park. The toxic bait will be sown at a rate of 2 kg/ha—the equivalent of around 5 baits across an area the size of a tennis court.
 
The Abel Tasman Coast Track and 100 metres either side of the track, huts and campsites are excluded from the aerial bait distribution. The aerial pest control will also not include any part of the Canaan Downs–Takaka Valley area or the Marahau Valley.
 
The operation will be undertaken under stringent procedures to manage public safety and environmental risk.  However Devon says dog owners should be particularly vigilant.   “Dogs are highly susceptible to 1080 and the risk to dogs from poisoned possum carcasses will remain until the carcasses have rotted,” he says.
 
Adjoining landowners and concessionaires will be notified of the 1080 bait application before it takes place. Warning signs will be erected at access points and high public-use sites.  For more information click here or visit the DOC Motueka office.

Kakariki call Wainui home


May saw a milestone for Project Janszoon with our first bird release.
 
12 captive raised kakariki or yellow-crowned parakeet were released from our purpose built aviary next to the Wainui Hut in the upper reaches of the Park. They are the first captive raised kakariki to ever be released onto the New Zealand mainland and join the few remaining kakariki in the Abel Tasman.
 
Since the release Project Janszoon’s ornithologist Pete Gaze has been back to Wainui Hut and says while he didn’t see any of the elusive birds he did hear kakariki in the area.
 
“We can only presume they are doing ok.  It is positive that they are not relying on the feeder outside the aviary which means they have adapted quickly to the natural environment and given all the beech seed around they will have plenty to eat,” says Pete.
 
Project Janszoon Director Devon McLean says the release was only possible because of the stoat trapping network which has been operating in the area for 18 months now.
 
“We have reached a milestone where we believe the extensive stoat trapping network we have installed has suppressed predators to the point where these kakariki should flourish,” he says.
 
Pete will be back to the Wainui Hut in November to undertake his annual bird count.  “12 birds are a small number to notice a significant difference but we are hoping to pick up greater numbers especially because the resident birds should have had a good breeding season with abundant beech seed and ongoing pest control, including the proposed aerial 1080 drop in the area,” he says.
 
This initial cohort of 12 birds will be followed by many more in future years with Lochmara Resort, EcoWorld Aquarium and Tui Nature Reserve all raising kakariki on behalf of Project Janszoon. 
 
Click here to view the video we made on the bird release and see some images from the day below.
 

Weeds for the chop


Congratulations to the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust who secured Lotteries Board funding for further weed control in the Park.  For more information follow this link

Whio spotted


In May Dave from DOC spotted a whio or blue duck at Glennies Clearing, right in the heart of the Park. It follows on from the one spotted on the Falls River last year and gives us hope that the environment might be suitable to reintroduce whio in the future - very exciting.
NCEA credits for “Adopt a Section” 
 
Motueka High School geography students have earnt NCEA credits as part of their involvement in the Adopt a Section pilot programme.
 
The students collected raw data between Anchorage and Watering Cove to assess how relief, climate, soil and vegetation interact to make the various locations different.  

For more information
click here

 

Education programme inspiring

 

The Abel Tasman has been a hive of activity in the last three months with students collecting data, counting invertebrates, planting trees, examining animal tracks and generally assessing the ecology of specific areas within the Park.
 
All this hard work has been part of our Adopt a Section pilot programme. Motueka High School, Motupipi Primary School and Golden Bay High School students are designing and implementing their own five-year ecological plans for their adopted areas of the Park in consultation with Project Janszoon, DOC and other experts.
 
Already Motueka High School has had a number of students engage in fieldwork in its area between Anchorage and Watering Cove, and Golden Bay High School has had four planting days at the Hadfield Clearing near Awaroa. While Motupipi Primary School has had their all-school event at Taupo Point thwarted by the weather, several of their students were involved with the kakariki release at Wainui. Their site event has been rescheduled for July when they return from the school holidays.
 
Janszoon’s education advisor Wendy Reeve says it has been great to see the students connect to their specific areas and begin to feel a sense of ownership.

“The students are looking at their areas with new eyes. They notice issues they didn't notice before and want to take action. It can be frustrating for them when the "action taking" has to wait because they need plants or gear that they don't have yet. But it's an indication that they are already beginning to care about their place, and that is great to see,” she says.
 
The schools are currently working on their five-year plans with the draft versions due to be submitted to Project Janszoon and DOC at the end of term two.

“The schools are really excited about this partnership and we are looking forward to seeing their vision for how they will engage with their areas.  Writing a five-year plan is a major first step and it is as important to this programme as getting students into the Park. The plan is a commitment from the school community, but it is also a living document that will change as they learn more about the issues at their sites and get inspired to try new things,” says Wendy.

Wi Fi network extending 

 
Work is underway to extend the Wi Fi network and smart phone app throughout the Park for the coming summer season.

Environmental technology company Groundtruth has been looking at potential sites for around a dozen hot spots which will allow visitors to the Park to download our free “virtual visitor centre” app on their smart phones.  The app has been re-developed by Groundtruth and gives users access to up-to-date information on weather and tides plus photos and all they need to know about points of interest, history, plants, wildlife and walking times on the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

While users won’t get general internet access they will be able to download the app and visit sites like DOC, Project Janszoon, Birds Online and Met Service.

Groundtruth’s Daniel Bar-Even says the hotspots will be located between Totaranui and Marahau.  “We are pretty happy that the locations we are looking at will work in terms of connectivity and coverage.  It will extend last year's trial which saw hot spots between Marahau and Anchorage which are being really well used,” he says.

Following feedback and testing the app has been updated and will be extended to include information on the whole Park this season.  It will be available to download from Apple iTunes and Google play stores from July.

Planting underway at Hadfield Clearing


Hard work from Forest & Bird members and Golden Bay High School students has seen around 6,500 trees planted at Hadfield Clearing.
 
On ANZAC weekend 25 keen Forest & Bird volunteers planted around 4,000 plants including kahikatea, flax, coprosma, kanuka, manuka and toi toi.  That effort was followed by four different groups of students from Golden Bay High School who planted another 2,500 plants.
 
Hadfield Clearing is one of the Nelson / Tasman district’s last remnants of lowland kahikatea forest.  The site is also Golden Bay High School’s “adopt a section” area. 
 
Mike Crawford is leading the reforestation project for Project Janszoon and says it is great to see planting underway.
 
“The Forest & Bird members knew what they were doing and made quick work of the planting and it was great to see the students out there appreciating the environment and understanding the importance of planting trees,” he says.
 
Mike has also spread kahikatea seed through the area of planting so hopefully some of those seedlings will germinate.  In the future it is hoped to reintroduce pateke or brown teal after we get stoats under control through the trapping network.
 
“This area of the Park is under utilised and could be really special.  We can’t rush this but it’s a fantastic area which deserves to be beautified and enjoyed more by people in the future,” says Mike.
 
There are still around 5,000 natives to be planted this year.  We are organising more public plantings.  If you are interested in helping contact marika@janszoon.org

Beech trial launched


A black beech tree trial on Adele Island could be ground-breaking if it is successful but it will be decades before final results are in.
 
Project Janszoon is funding the trial which is looking at beech tree survival in inhospitable environments.  The aim is to reintroduce beech back into environments where it has been lost.  While recolonisation of this keystone species is incredibly slow because it can only re-establish gradually from existing stands, It is hoped ultimately the beech trees help to restrict the spread and growth of hakea which needs a lot of light to survive.
 
In May, 20 plots of ten black beech seedlings were planted on the ridge lines of Adele Island.  The ridges were chosen to replicate similar conditions near Anchorage which have poor soil, are prone to erosion and where vegetation, except hakea, struggles to establish.  The advantage with Adele is it does not have any browsing predators.
 
DOC technical advisor Simon Moore says historically beech trees did live on the ridges of Anchorage and Adele Island but repeated fires burnt off vegetation, caused erosion and removed a lot of organic matter.
 
“The idea is to give the process of beech regeneration a helping hand.  In the first instance the trial will establish whether beech will survive in the conditions and then we will wait, hoping they live, reproduce and spread,” he says.
 
“This is the first time beech tree regeneration has ever been trialled in this sort of environment.  It’s a long game but it could be ground-breaking for granites if it works,” says Simon.
 
Volunteers from the Birdsong Trust and students from Motueka High School are helping with the trial.  The first test is whether the trees will survive the summer, in time, if it works on the island it will also be tried at Anchorage.


Pictured below is DOCs Simon Moore and Motueka High School student Finn Wilson-Howarth 

Stormy start to stoat trapping network

 
The new stoat trapping network is now up and running after some extreme weather in April took out some of the new trapping tracks before they were fully operational.
 
Sections of three trapping track lines were badly damaged in the storms with trees blown down impacting on access to the tracks and traps.  It took over a month to clear some tracks in the top of the Park and a team of three DOC rangers spent eight days re-opening a track on Awapoto Ridge.
 
However DOC’s Chris Golding says the tracks are now all operational with 70% of the park or 15,000 of the Park’s 22,000 hectares covered by the stoat trapping network.
 
“While the tracks are now all operational some are taking twice as long to check so it is going to take a bit longer to get an overall picture of how it is working and how long the whole network will take to check,” he says.
 
Initial results saw over 120 stoats and nearly 800 rats caught in the first two months of operation with a noticeable increase in rat numbers between May and June.   Two cats were also trapped north of Awaroa. 
 
An added benefit of the trap network is that it will make it easier for DOC and Project Janszoon to get to areas of the Park that have been inaccessible in the past.  Our ornithologist plans to take advantage of that and undertake more extensive bird surveys.

Project Janszoon benefits from Tomorrow Accord

 
An accord signed by the Government and the NEXT Foundation will secure the ecological gains made by Project Janszoon past its 30-year life span.
 
Conservation Minister Nick Smith and NEXT Foundation chairman Chris Liddell (pictured left) signed the accord in Nelson in March.  It commits the Government to maintaining long term results from philanthropic conservation projects like Project Janszoon.
 
The NEXT Foundation is a new $100 million philanthropic foundation, established to invest in high impact New Zealand-based environmental and education projects.   Its founders, Auckland couple Annette and Neal Plowman, are the funders behind Project Janszoon.
 
Chris Liddell says the Tomorrow Accord is a tremendous initiative.
 
“It will secure the conservation achievements of NEXT and other like minded philanthropists for the long term benefit of New Zealand. It is entirely consistent with the thinking that lies the very successful partnership we have with the Department of Conservation in Project Janszoon,” he says.
 
Conservation Minister Nick Smith was reportedly “gob smacked” when he learned the foundation was putting up $100 million and hailed it as an "incredible deed of generosity".

For more about the NEXT Foundation click here

7 things you may not know about Pete Gaze


Pete is Project Janszoon’s resident bird expert and our go-to guy when it comes to planning the re-introduction of native birds back into the park. Here's a few things you may not know about him.
  • He has climbed Mt Taranaki 23 times
  • In the late 80s he was involved in campaigning for the formation of the Department of Conservation and he jumped ship to work for DOC in 1988 
  • His favourite bird is the rock wren but he can’t specify a favourite food, instead he prefers to thrive on the variety and richness of what is available
  • As well as working with Project Janszoon he also works with Fauna Recovery NZ in the Marlborough Sounds, assisting with the ecological restoration of privately owned Puangiangi Island, and with its other projects
  • He swam a mile at age seven
  • One of his favourite overseas destinations is Marova Lagoon in the northern Solomon Islands
  • He is the immediate past secretary of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand and is always looking for new opportunities to involve others in the study of birds
If you would like to subscribe or contribute to Pete’s blog please follow this link
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