February 2018 – Forest ringlet butterfly

Forest ringlet, Dodonidia helmsii, Mokihinui by Melissa Hutchison
As the song goes; ‘If you go into the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise,’ and that is just what happened recently to two volunteers checking Timms Trap lines in Aongatete forest. In a sunny glade, Barbara and Jenny saw a Forest ringlet, or Helms butterfly. It had alighted on the leaf of a grassy plant but, as they fumbled excitedly for a camera, it flitted away. The grassy plant was a sedge called Gahnia which is the food plant for the butterflies’ caterpillars. Sure enough, when th...
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Newsletter for our Neighbours

Greetings, neighbors of Aongatete Forest. This is the first of more regular newsletters from us, to keep you informed about our activities. Pest Levels We regularly measure the pest levels in the Forest. Monitoring done in early February shows that OUTSIDE the controlled area, our traps showed a 65% incidence of rats, compared to 8% within our controlled area. In one part of our forest where we have recently deployed 50 or so Good Nature traps, our rat indice is now 0%. Possum levels out...
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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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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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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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November 2016 – Breakfast with the Birds

The overnight event at Aongatete Lodge was billed as ‘Breakfast with the Birds’. It could equally have been described as ‘Spying on the Spiders’ or ‘Walking with the Weta’! The rain had stopped and, fuelled by a sumptuous dinner, the 60 participants went out in the dark to walk in the forest. We were guided by spider expert Bryce McQuillan, an excellent choice as there were spiders everywhere, lurking in sheet webs, tangle webs, orbwebs and tunnels, or just hunting on the forest floor. And it...
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October 2016 – the birds are back

Spring is here. The shining cuckoos are calling in the forest. They have spent the winter in the Solomon Islands and flown thousands of kilometres to breed here in our summer. The riroriro or grey warblers are singing too. The female cuckoo will follow their song to find a riroriro nest to lay her egg. But all is not lost for riroriro for after they have fostered the cuckoo chick they will nest again and raise their own chicks. Kotare the kingfisher is repeating his harsh squark-squark-s...
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Interactive Nature Trail Opens to Public

A walk in the Kamais is about to become even more enjoyable with the opening of a Nature Trail at Aongatete Forest. Thirty beautiful interactive panels make up the trail, including panels on forest ecology, tree, insect and bird identification, geology, and pest control. A separate trail covers plants associated with rongoa, or traditional Maori medicine. The Nature Trail is a joint project between the Aongatete Outdoor Education Centre and the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust. The b...
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