Jamie McAulay is doing some excellent research into the diet of stoats in the alpine zone of four national parks around the South Island. Please have a look at these links.
The Otago Daily Times wrote a feature article on our plans for introducing predator control alongside the Dart and Rees rivers – the Braided Rivers Project. Please follow this link to ‘read all about it’.
Photo: Vladka Kennett
Our trustees took over responsibility for managing the 34 traps on the Lake Sylvan trap line (in Mt Aspiring National Park) at the end of last month. We have a monthly roster, with each of us being responsible for the traps for the month. Thanks to Whitney, from DOC, for her patience with us and her excellent training.
We have now decided that the Braided Rivers Project is our next challenge. It is ambitious and exciting. By extending predator control alongside the Dart and Rees rivers that flow from the Routeburn and Dart valleys into Lake Wakatipu at Glenorchy we can protect five bird species that use the rivers as habitat and also link to Project Routeburn and Project Rock Wren as well as with other existing predator control projects. Our vision of a predator free zone from Martin’s Bay to Lake Wakatipu is possible – from the ‘ocean to the lake’. Our next steps are to get a detailed scoping report, plan our fund raising and finalise our business plan.
Richard Maloney, a DOC national expert on braided rivers, spent a day in Queenstown this month, working with us on a table top exercise to assess the feasibility of predator control on the Dart and Rees rivers. We decided to go down this route at our board meeting in November last year. A report written by Richard and Geoff Hughes, following the table top exercise tells, us that the ‘Braided Rivers Project’ is challenging but possible. We need to take a long term view and accept that we will not get immediate success. Our next step is to consider the report and then decide if we want to go to ahead with the project.
At the beginning of next year we will do a feasibility study to explore the possibility of extending our predator control work into the Dart and Rees braided rivers that flow from the Routeburn and Dart valleys into Lake Wakatipu at Glenorchy. Technical expertise will be given by Richard Maloney from DOC. Richard is a national expert on the ecology of braided rivers.
We are pleased to announce the appointment of Geoff Hughes as a part-time executive officer for the trust. Geoff moved to Queenstown in 2016 after taking early retirement from his career as a medical practitioner. He and his wife emigrated to New Zealand from the UK in 1997. They have been fortunate to travel to many parts of the world with a focus on wildernesses and wildlife conservation. He is a keen birder, finding them fascinating and wonderful creatures. We look forward very much to working with him.
January 6th was an extraordinary day for the trust as Helen Clark, administrator of the UN Development Programme and former Prime Minister of NZ took time to visit the Routeburn and see the progress we are making to ‘bring back the birdsong’.
It was a good day to be in the hills with clear skies, a gentle breeze and stunning views as the chopper lifted us above the bush towards the Harris Basin, home of the NZ Rock Wren. Traps are soon to be installed above the bushline to boost their breeding success. Similar trapping in the nearby Gertrude Valley has increased nesting success from 14-86%.
Flying along the Hollyford Face towards Ocean Peak and MacKenzie Hut we were able to point out existing traplines along the track and the valley floor and the proposed extensions down connecting creeks which will provide comprehensive predator control throughout the Routeburn Track. Landing at Paddy’s Point above Routeburn Falls Hut with its stunning views around the Harris Basin and the valley below was a great starting point for our familiarisation with the area and the role of RDWT and was further enhanced by an overflying falcon and a curious kea.
Helen Clark and her husband Peter Davis are long term advocates for and users of NZ back country and they are at home in the hills. They have a natural interest and appreciation of our wild places and have an unpretentious, friendly manner that makes meeting them for the first time delightfully simple. They were keen to discover how RDWT is working with DOC, Air NZ and Genesis to secure long term predator control. Helen offered a unique insight to environmental issues around the globe and the need for all initiatives to be sustainable. Our partnership with DOC, commercial operators and the community gives us a robust base to ensure that predator control in the area will be ongoing.
Ultimate Hike’s generosity in providing morning tea at Falls Hut (and the helicopter) was much appreciated, especially by those of us who had skipped breakfast. As we headed down towards the Flats we were lucky enough to hear and see kaka. A close look at the beech trees confirmed the extent of this year’s flowering and it seems highly likely that this will be another ‘mast year’. A chance meeting with Lou Sanson, Director General of DOC, confirmed that this is on their radar and applications to government for funding have already been made. It was good to see him on the track and experiencing firsthand the delights of the Routeburn.
The first flats up the North Branch were a great place to have lunch and listen to the mohua in the canopy. Helen Clark (trustee) has been involved with bird protection for a long time and with a keen ear for everything that we can hear but not see, she interpreted for the rest of us. The success of whio releases locally and recent sightings in the North Branch encouraged us to head further into the valley in hope of glimpsing the ducks but time constraints were against us this time.