Dougal was checking the traps around the Pounui Lagoons and saw not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 bitterns.
Here are a couple of the best pictures.
Trying to hide
Just caught a fish!
Te Rakau is alive with tui at the moment. There is plenty of food for them with pohutukawa flowers just coming out and the flax buds are bursting through as well.
The picture shows a tui feasting on some newly opened flax flowers – note the pollen on his head.
The aerobatic displays are a joy to watch and illustrate just how happy the birds are at this festive time of the year.
After an unusually long winter absence the kereru have finally returned to Te Rakau. We presumed that they have been feasting elsewhere as they are very in very good condition! One flew into our ranch-slider the other day and made a loud thump – it almost felt like an earthquake.
Tui are also in abundance and protecting their patches vigorously. In fact all the birds around us are in mating plumage and behaviour. The first banded dotterel’s nest has been sited on the Spit indicating that a new season has begun.
We try to be vigilant here at Te Rakau to control all pests both plant and animal.
I have a rat trap permanently set quite close to the house and I regularly catch rats – on average about 3 per week.
However last Sunday’s catch was one to remember. It was the biggest male rat I have ever seen. He weighed in at 188gms! He immediately became named “Big Daddy” and I’m really pleased he won’t be fathering any more babies in the future. Of course this is the best time of year to be catching rats and mice as the bird nesting season is over and the pests are hungry. We find peanut butter the best bait for our traps. Of course we know it will be impossible to completely eradicate these bird pests from our property, but at least we can keep them controlled and our eels are getting well fed with the carcases!
I urge everyone to do their bit and try to control pests in their gardens. I’m not able to offer any rewards like other famous environmentalists, but the rewards will be yours with more birds to enjoy in your own backyards.
So get down to your local hardware store and get trapping.
On Sunday Dougal and I put six Penguin boxes between Onoke Spit and the Wharepapa River. You can see what they look like below.
The initiative to encourage the Little Blue Penguin to nest in these boxes is being driven by Clive Paton from Ata Rangi Vineyard. Many of our senior locals tell us that they used to see these delightful little birds ashore much more than today, so by providing suitable nesting boxes we hope to give the population a boost.
Of course we will also need to continue to control the relevant pests and continue to educate visitors about keeping dogs under control during nesting time, which for Little Blue Penguin can be from July – December.
We would appreciate knowing of any sitings in the area in the future.
Queen bed – bunkhouse
Queen bed bunkhouse
Bunks and single bed
Well the inside of our “bunk house” carriage is finished even if the outside still looks authentically rustic. Our first guests are staying tonight and for the next week.
Having a second bedroom will give us so much more flexibility.
Sadly the Caspian Terns have given up on breeding for this summer and left the Spit.
I believe that the main reason that breeding has not been successful this year is because of the windy and changeable weather we have had this summer. These conditions would make it very difficult for the parent birds to get out and fish for their chicks and mates. Also the strong winds can blow loose sand around and bury the eggs. Last weekend we had a massive southerly swell and the waves were breaking right up into the middle of the Spit – not the best for any nesting birds in exposed sites.
One consolation is that Caspian Terns are long-lived birds and so successful breeding each year is not quite so necessary.
Dougal and I are of course very disappointed, but will continue our vigilant pest control and look forward positively to next breeding season.
On Friday Dec 20 we took Sarah Bradley on one of our bird tours. She is writer and editor of a popular holiday magazine called NZ Today. She loved the half day she spent with us and said she learned so much about birds.
Watch out for the article early in 2014.