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What’s been happening in the RNRP in May and June 2017
May was a busy month in the RNRP with a lot of monitoring work being carried out. Tracking tunnel monitoring was carried out at Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa to measure rat and mice abundance through activity indices. Five-minute bird counts were carried out at Rotoiti and Rotoroa. We carry out these bird counts as part of a long-term dataset in the RNRP to determine how the populations of forest birds are changing over time with pest control. This data is currently being analysed by a Masters student Kelly Whitau from Canterbury University who will be presenting her results at this years RNRP Technical Advisory Group meeting.
The last check of the traps along the top of the St Arnaud Range was done for the year with snow now covering the traps. Catches in traps have really dropped off as we come into winter with 12 stoats caught in May, and 5 in June as well as one ferret.
Kiwi transmitter changes have now finished for the year. Unfortunately, the juvenile kiwi Totoweka dropped his transmitter before he could be caught to give him a new one.
The subadult female Joy who had moved outside the RNRP has now moved back in and we will be keeping a close eye on her to see whether she stays or wanders off again. Pat and Emma W have put out acoustic recorders to try to determine why she moved. Possible theories centre around the likelihood that she is approaching breeding age and either there is a kiwi on the other side of the range that she has gone to investigate to pair up with, or where she was within the RNRP was on the edge of the territory of an existing pair that were prepared to tolerate her as a juvenile but not as breeding bird.
We have had good turn out to our kiwi monitoring sessions and now have a nice group of people trained up. These will continue through winter so if you are keen to attend get in touch. And a special thanks to Julie who came out on two catch missions to help catch Joy.
June has been a quieter month with the focus being on tidying up the RNRP infrastructure. Emma W, Pat and Graeme have done an excellent job getting around the traplines with scrubbars to trim back the vegetation. While Emma McCool, Gareth and Athow have been out chainsawing the old windfall along these lines. These lines will now be much quicker and easier to get around now.
Jamie McAulay, a Masters student at Otago University researching the diet of alpine stoats, spent a week at Rainbow skifield at the star of June collecting samples with the assistance of RNRP staff. Jamie spent the week catching passerines for blood sampling, and collecting mice and weta. He has dissected the stoats sent to him from the RNRP and FOR traplines to examine their gut contents and they are now being sent away for further analysis. You can follow Jamies research on youtube.
Beech Seed Monitoring
Beech seed monitoring is undertaken at Lake Rotoiti and Rotoroa as beech seed is an important food source in beech forests and drives the breeding of several species like kaka. Unfortunately in heavy seeding years the availability of this food source allows rodent populations to increase to high levels, which in turn causes an increase in the stoat population. Monitoring is carried out each year from February to June to determine what the level of beech seedfall will be on the ground and help our decision making for what type of response is required to prevent a rodent and stoat population increase. Trays are placed under red, silver and mountain beech trees to collect seed that falls, and these samples are collected and sent away so that the amount of seed of each beech species can be counted and the fertility rate assessed. Gareth has just finished the beech seed monitoring for the year and sent the samples sent away for counting.
This monitoring indicates how much beech seed is on the ground, but to get a jump on this we can measure seed while it is still on trees. In the past, this has been done by shooting branches out of trees and counting the amount of seed present in the pods. This year the Science and Technical team sampled sites around the country (including the RNRP) by removing branches from the canopy from a helicopter. This monitoring showed that in RNRP beech seeding was expected to be low and samples from the trays should confirm this.
What’s coming up in July
July is another quieter month for the RNRP and a chance to catch up on report writing and general maintenance We will be writing up the results from the last year into our Annual Report. The kea nest protection work will start up again, with trap networks targeting stoats and possums around kea nests on the Raglan Range, St Arnaud Range and Travers Range opened for the kea breeding season. We will finish the windfall and vegetation clearing on the stoat traplines within the RNRP and then move on to the wasp control grid. The Dogleg trapline in Big Bush will be extended to create a loop down to the TRF trapline and enclose that area with traps. All stoat traps will be weight tested to check they are springing off at the correct weight.