November 2017 – The lone kauri at Aongatete

The long loop track at Aongatete leads gently up into the Kaimai forest. The forest changes as you climb. The lowland trees like puriri and kohekohe give way to tanekaha, totara, miro and the white-flowered tawari. If you turn west and scramble along bait line 23, you will get a surprise. You will find a lone kauri tree. It is taller than the surrounding forest and must be more than 100 years old. Aongatete is beyond the southern margin of kauri forest, which stops rather abruptly at Hot S...
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October 2017 – Fun in the Forest

The native forest is full of surprises. During the coming Conservation Week in the Aongatete forest there will be two opportunities for everyone who is curious to explore. The first activity, ‘Secrets of the forest’, will be on Sunday morning, 15th October from 10 to 12.30. This guided walk will be particularly suitable for families and children 8 to 12 years old. Every child will be given an activity booklet with quizzes and quests and we will set out to find the answers along the Short ...
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September 2017 – Flowers of the Forest

Most of the flowers in the native forest are not showy. Many are small, white and – to our eyes – boring. But flowers are not designed to please us but to attract animals to carry pollen from flower to flower to fertilise their seeds. Pollinating insects like bees and butterflies can see colours but New Zealand had few native butterflies and only small, solitary bees (the familiar honey bee is introduced.) But we have hundreds of native moths, beetles and ants, and these insects are colou...
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August 2017 – Predator-free 2050

  Can we rid New Zealand of possums, rats and stoats by 2050? ‘Yes, we can,” says Forest & Bird’s Advocacy manager, Kevin Hackwell, who will be the guest speaker at the AGM of the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust. But Kevin cautions that this is an ambitious goal and will require new techniques and a co-ordinated team effort across communities, iwi, and the public and private sectors. Caution doesn’t come naturally to this dynamo of a man who has been on the frontlin...
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June 2017 – Extinction

Extinction is like a full stop. It happens when the very last individual of a species dies. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has just reported that one in three of our native bird species are at risk of extinction. Already in the Kaimai forest birds like kakariki and kokako are locally extinct. But there are many steps along the road to the very last bird. The same report says that that four out of five bird species are ‘in trouble’. They are not gone from our forests, ...
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May 2017 – Tracking tunnels and discovering geckos

You have to be lucky to see a native gecko in the forest. The little lizards are rare because rats, cats, dogs, stoats, pigs and possums eat them. So it was a red letter day four years ago when a volunteer putting out rat bait came face to face with a gecko. It was a brown and grey forest gecko, an endemic species, which means it is native only to NZ. Then two years ago on a guided walk led by the Aongatete Trust an observant participant saw a green gecko, just as another walker trod on i...
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April 2017 – Giant moss

A giant grows at Aongatete. It’s not a tree or a fern or a flower – it’s a moss. It is the Giant moss, the tallest moss in the world. Mosses are usually short, like green carpet under the trees, but the Giant moss looks like a miniature forest of pine seedlings. Up to 50cm tall, a forest of Giant moss grows along the banks of the track near the Aongatete swimming hole. The Giant moss only grows in New Zealand and its scientific name is Dawsonia superba, Dawsonia aft...
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March 2017 – Rat dog

A new volunteer has come to Aongatete forest to help the Project to control rats. She didn’t walk in carrying a bag of rat bait. Instead she trotted in on her four paws, wearing a special vest and muzzle. She is a rat dog called Millie. Rat dogs are specially trained to detect rats. They and their handlers go regularly to our sanctuary off-shore islands, to check that they remain free of rats. At Aongatete, Millie and her boss Scott Sambell explored around the Outdoor ...
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January 2017 – Rata

Everyone loves the pohutukawa with its crimson canopy of flowers. But fewer people know its cousins, the rata trees and vines. Several vine species grow in the forest at Aongatete and it is a white rata that is flowering at present. Each flower, like that of the pohutukawa, is a tiny cup filled with nectar and fringed with stamens. Tui and honey bees love the nectar. Amongst our climbing rata species there are several with white flowers, one with spectacular pinkish...
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December 2016 – Spiders

If you go into the forest at night and shine a torch around the tree trunks, you will see tiny pinpricks of light. It is the reflection of spider eyes. These spiders are not the ones that live in our houses – they are nearly all newcomers, accidentally introduced from other countries. The spiders in the forest all belong there, some of the 2500 odd species native to New Zealand. At night, spiders are out hunting. In the trees the orbweb spiders sit in the centre of their symmetrical web. O...
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