February 2018

Piwakawaka/ Fantail fledglings. Photo - Russell Chilton

Great Spotted Kiwi Project - Volunteers required

Kiwi acoustic monitoring
We want to undertake acoustic monitoring of great spotted kiwi within the RNRP this summer for two reasons. Firstly so that we can establish where GSK currently have territories prior to the new translocations occurring so we can decide where the best places to release new kiwi will be. Secondly as part of a long term monitoring programme measuring the call rate of kiwi each year to establish whether the population is increasing or not.
The peak time of year for great spotted kiwi calling is November to March but best practise for acoustic monitoring is between February and June. As a result monitoring will be carried out in March this year. Monitoring also has to coincide with the new moon phase as the effect of the moon phase on kiwi call rates is complex and varies by site and habitat type, the best thing to do is just carry out the monitoring during the darkest time of month and keep it this way each year. As a result GSK acoustic monitoring will be carried out between the 10th and 25th of March 2018.
This is a big piece of work and we need volunteers to help out. There are a range of jobs covering all fitness levels and abilities.
Volunteers to deploy and pull in recorder:
Recorders will be deployed on Saturday 10th of March and then pulled in on Sunday 25th of March.
Fifteen recorders will be deployed in the RNRP, the Rainbow and Travers valleys. Trips to recorder locations vary from 2 to 8 hours, and from medium on track walks to hard off track. If you would like to volunteer to help with recorders please be in touch with which date you can help with, your fitness level (how long can you walk for, on track or comfortable being off track with a GPS) and any medical conditions.
Volunteers to analyse call data:
Currently recorder data cannot be automatically analysed, and we must manually go through recordings to identify kiwi calls. Using a piece of software called Audacity, recordings are viewed as a spectrogram so that we can visually look through them for kiwi calls, when we see something that looks like a kiwi call we listen to it to double check. As there will be a lot of recordings to go through we are after volunteers to help with this. This is an activity that can be done anytime either from the DOC office on our computers or from home on your laptop. Once we have keen volunteers, training sessions will be organised.

Wasp Control

Here is the Nelson Mail article on our annual wasp operation: https://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/100892823/nelson-lake-wasps-ready-to-take-the-bait-in-wipeout-campaign .


This huge operation will make working and tramping in the Park much safer and more enjoyable, we had one helicopter rescue from Lakehead Hut this month when a gentleman was stung twice. There will also be some biodiversity gain for the birdlife in the area under control.



What’s been happening in the RNRP January and February 2018


It has been a very busy time in the RNRP. The wasp control operation was undertaken in January and lots of monitoring work was done in February. We also had two volunteers from the Sir Peter Blake Trust (Marie and Sian) here for a month, and these two were a big help getting through the workload.


As expected January and February have been very stoaty, with 35 caught in RNRP traps in February and 26 in January. This brings the summer months tally (December to February) to 74 compared to only 19 caught for the previous 6 months of winter and spring. This is the usual trend seen in the RNRP in non-beech mast, with spikes in catches over the summer months as young stoats leave the dens. We will continue with monthly checks of all traps.

In February mustelid tracking tunnels were done at both Rotoiti and Rotoroa. The Rotoiti result is again no mustelids detected in three-night tracking tunnels which is great. In comparison 23% of tunnels at Rotoroa, where no pest control is carried out, were tracked by mustelids. This shows that the trapping in the RNRP is successfully suppressing mustelid numbers. As mustelids are at undetectable levels in the RNRP from standard tracking tunnel monitoring, this year we have been doing longer term monitoring. Tracking tunnels were set up in February with a salted rabbit lure and will be left for 21 nights. We will be picking up the cards next week and it will be interesting to see if we record any mustelid tracking.


Possum catches in the RNRP have remained steady, although a new line put into Big Bush along the Flying Moa track has caught a lot since its set up. We are still in the early stages of the trial comparing possum dough to clay clips soaked in aniseed oil. This trial will run for at least a year and may give us a better lure to use in sentinel traps for attracting possums.

Next month the RNRP will be carrying out possum waxtag monitoring up the Travers valley as part of the post-operational monitoring for the 2014 Battle for the Birds 1080 operation. Prior to the 1080 operation waxtag monitoring in October 2014 showed the possum activity index was 19%. In monitoring carried out after the 1080 operation in February 2015, possum activity had dropped to 4%. Monitoring to be carried out at the start of March is to determine what the current level of possum activity is, three years after the operation.


 Great Spotted Kiwi Monitoring

Datastream monitoring has been carried out fortnightly by a number of FOR volunteers. We can now confirm Puremahaia nest has being successful, with a chick observed on the trail camera.

The young female Joy also appears to have breed for the first time, with low activity recorded. This nest was never located however, with several close approaches finding Joy in a different location each day. It is likely that Joy was attending the nest at night and roosting away from it during the day. Hopefully when Joy is checked later in the year she will have a chick present.

We have also been getting ready for kiwi acoustic monitoring to be carried out. This monitoring will be carried out by the FOR and RNRP in March with recorders going out on the 10th and coming back in on the 25th. These acoustic recorders will record kiwi calls between 8.30pm and 12.30 am each night and be used to work out which territories are occupied. This method will also be used after the translocations to monitor the longer-term trend of the RNRP kiwi population. We are still after volunteers to help put out and retrieve recorders, as well as people to help go through recordings looking for calls. Call analysis can be done from home to anyone who is keen please get in touch.


Tracking Tunnel Monitoring

February has been a very full on tracking tunnel monitoring month in the RNRP, with the team out every week doing tunnels. Overnight rodent tunnels were put out at both Rotoiti and Rotoroa to determine what the level of rodent activity was. Wayne ran the Friends of Rotoiti tracking tunnel lines around the village. As already described mustelid tracking tunnels were also done. As well as this we have carried out wider tracking tunnels for the first time in Nelson Lakes NP as part of the national monitoring programme, we put out rodent and 21-night tunnels at Dipflat, Mt Misery, West Sabine and Morgans.

Results from the rodent monitoring show 6% tracking at Rotoroa and 33% in the RNRP. This is the usual story with mustelid control in the RNRP releasing rats from predation and meaning more rats are present. While at Rotoroa the lack of predator control means stoat numbers are high, which keeps rat numbers low in years of low beech seed. Mouse tracking at Rotoroa was 22%, while at Rotoiti it was 5%. On the FOR lines around the village no rat tracking was recorded and mouse tracking was 43%.


Five-minute Bird Counts

Pat, Emma and Jen all carried out sets of bird counts on the St Arnaud Range track, up near Lakehead and up the Mt Misery track at Rotoroa. This data has been added to the long-term dataset collected by the RNRP. Quite a few riflemen were heard up the St Arnaud Range track.


Skink Monitoring

Skink monitoring was carried out around the village during February. Over five days of pitfall trapping 15 common skinks were found at the Black Hill site and 5 on Ward Street. This was more than in the November monitoring when only two were found at Black Hill and four at Ward St. No speckled skink have been found yet. When out doing the FOR rat lines in this area if you happen to notice any sticks have been taken out of the pitfalls please put them back in. With so many people around this seems to have become a slight issue. If the sticks are removed skinks can end up stuck in the traps and starve to death.



Long-tailed bat monitoring

Long-tailed bats have historically been recorded at a number of site in the Nelson Lakes area. Long-tailed bat populations are classified as 'critical/vulnerable', with populations continuing to decline through loss of habitat and predation by introduced species. In December and January, a pilot study was carried out in the RNRP to monitor bat abundance using automatic bat detectors (ABD). Twenty ABD were borrowed from the FOR and Moira Pryde at the Nelson office, Moira is DOCs bat expert and has developed the technique the RNRP plans to use. These were placed at both Rotoiti and Rotoroa for 14 nights in places bats were likely to fly past as they foraged. Bats navigate by echolocation and the recorders work by picking up noise that sound like a bat flying past. Once retrieved from the field these recording are analysed to spot actual bat passes from other noise like rats and boats.

There have been a lot of recordings to go through, and so far Emma McCool and Graeme have found bats at Rotoiti along the Borlase farm boundary, along the edge of the lake and up the Travers valley. At Rotoroa they have been detected on the edge of the lake, up the D’Urville and up the Sabine valley. This work will now be carried out annually as part of a long-term dataset and should give us a good indication of how the pest control carried out in the RNRP is affecting the long-tailed bat population.




Julie Robilliard