May 2016 – Rare fern discovered

The king fern is a magnificent plant. Its glossy fronds grow up to three metres long and a metre wide. It looks rather like a big tree fern without a trunk. The king fern belongs to a tropical family and only grows in lowland forest from Kaitaia to the Bay of Plenty. Once it was very common and its large, starchy root was an important food for Maori in pre-European times. But now it has been decimated by pigs, which dig up and eat the roots, and by deer and goats which browse the fronds. Kin...
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April 2016 – Stoats at large

It has been a strange summer. The threatened drought did not happen and instead regular rainfall made the garden and the forest grow and be fruitful. Trees have been laden, which is great for home gardeners and the native birds and insects, but also great for their predators, the rats, stoats and ferrets. Reports of stoats seen running across the road – and sometimes squashed on the road – indicate that their numbers are rising and this will be bad for the birds, particularly those like our newl...
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March 2016 – Return of the rifleman

‘Bring back the birds’ is the slogan of the Aongatete Forest Project. In previous years the eggs and chicks of birds like fantails, robins and kereru were eaten by rats, stoats, feral cats and possums. Now that pest control is reducing the number of these predators, the birds are getting a chance to breed. We are helping to ‘bring back the birds’! An extra bonus which was not expected is the appearance of a new species – the rifleman or titipounamu. Of course riflemen must have always bee...
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February 2016 – Killing for Survival

In New Zealand conservation is all about killing. It’s tragic but it’s true. The animals we kill we call ‘pests’. Before people came, bats were the only mammals that had made their own way to these islands. New Zealand was a land of birds, lizards and invertebrates including giant weta and metre-long earthworms which were eaten by enormous worm-eating snails. All other warm-blooded furry animals in native forests are foreigners – rats, stoats, ferrets, feral cats, hedgehogs, deer, goats and p...
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December 2015 – A cold swim at Aongatete

From the uplands of the Kaimai Ranges the Aongatete stream flows clear, clean and cold through the forest. It tumbles over rocks and down waterfalls into some deep holes which are fun for swimming in. A track from the Aongatete Outdoor Education Centre leads to two of these swimming holes. The original track follows an old clay road, bulldozed during the Kaimai tunnel construction. It is steep, rutted and slippery. But now a group of volunteers led by DOC have created ...
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November 2015 – A cuckoo in the nest

Now watch out, riroriro! Shining cuckoos are calling in the Aongatete forest. They have flown here from the Solomon Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago to lay eggs in the nests of riroriro – the grey warbler. The cuckoo lays her egg in the riroriro’s nest, tossing out one riroriro egg to keep the number the same. When the young cuckoo chick hatches it tramples or pushes out the riroriro eggs or chicks. Then it grows into a large and hungry juvenile, demanding more a...
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