I spent my two flights up excitedly chatting away to everyone seated around me. Just before the plane landed in sunny Nelson there was a shout out to the New Zealand Volunteer Firefighters on board from an emotional flight attendant, whose house had come within meters of the Brightwater Fire before being saved!
At the airport I met up with Skye and Jen, the DOC ranger who would drive us to St Arnuads, but first we had to go buy some food… you know you’re going to get along with someone when your two-week long supermarket shop priorities are the same!
When we arrived Jen showed us around and we met what was left of the DOC team who weren’t off fighting the Brightwater fire. We then settled in at Cummings Cottage and had a swim in the lake.
My first day of work sent me off with Laura to show me the ropes of checking and rebaiting traps, I started with the sentinel possum traps and then later we swapped and I checked the DOC 200 traps. Currently they are comparing the effectiveness of two different traps, the Best Practice – a chicane of wire mesh walls with two opposite facing traps, and the Run Through – a straight tunnel with large gapped bars at either end and both traps facing the same way.
Almost as soon as we started working I was stung by a wasp, Laura has the record on the leader board for stings so maybe she is at fault for that one! What surprised me the most was the number of hedgehogs caught in traps and how often neither or both traps had caught something. We had a great old time chatting about 1080 views and reducing our carbon footprints, among other things.
Later on in the evening I caught a sooty and knackered Guy McDonald sneaking through our back yard to the DOC workshop after fighting the Brightwater fire all day! Guy and I both went on an expedition with the Sir Peter Blake Trust to the Auckland Islands in 2016.
Work today started with a commute on board Whio, the smaller tin DOC boat, from Kerr Bay down to the other end of the lake with Emma. Out on the lake it’s easy to see how the area makes an ideal location for a mainland island, it’s like an oasis walled in by the surrounding mountain ranges.
We beached Whio and I headed uphill to set four tracking tunnel lines while Emma did bird counts along the ridge. To set the tunnels I slid ink paper inside and squirted some peanut butter on either end. The idea being that, as long as toutouwai (South Island robins) don’t make short work of the bait, you’ll get some nice footprints of the peanut butter loving beasties that walk through the tunnel. The usual suspects include rats and stoats, but occasionally other mustelids or mice are observed. These observations are then turned into percentage data and this is used in combination with other data from bird counts and other surveys to determine which areas need more attention, and how effective the current management strategies are.
The Lake Rotoiti Recovery Project has always been a research site for testing different methods of pest control and eradication. Emma explained that usually any new strategies are introduced in several areas around the national park and then compared with the current method.
Today I was loaded up with a big pack full of Vespex wasp poison to carry around the lake and place into wasp stations. The active ingredient in the poison is fipronil, which is added to a protein base. Unlike bees, it turns out protein in the form of minced chicken is just what wasps want. So the worker wasps carry it back to the hive and it kills them all.
After work I went for my routine run around the peninsula and then swam in the lake with Skye. Both of us felt knackered but satisfied with the hard work we’d done this week.
After having a sleep in on Saturday Skye, Laura and I decided to do a day walk up Mt Robert and along the ridge to Angelus hut. From there we went down the Speargrass Creek Route back to the carpark.
BLAKE DOC Ambassador 2018