About 70 Auckland neighbours in Paremoremo have evicted rats and
possums from their gardens and welcomed native birds in their place.
Derry McLachlan dreams that one day he’ll have kiwi poking around in his
Auckland backyard. Even if that seems a distant goal, he’s doing the
best he can to create a safe haven for more common native birds.
In semi-rural Paremoremo, at the northern edge of the North Shore, Derry
and 70 other neighbours are controlling possums, rats, stoats and other
introduced pests on their properties. They are part of the Pest Free
Pare project, which is backed by Forest & Bird.
Before Derry became the project co-ordinator in 2007, he and his wife,
Judi, had many problems with possums on their one-acre property. “They
were eating our grapefruit and lemons and creating havoc,” he says. He
found a rat in his compost bin and neighbours saw them running over
their roofs and decks. They were keen to see more native birds in their
garden, which includes a patch of regenerating native bush and a stream.
Forest & Bird Auckland Field Officer Nick Beveridge helped organise a
survey of pests in the area, putting tracking tunnels in a few gardens
to check which pests were there. The first survey in August 2008
recorded pests in 11 properties but the most recent survey last
September recorded pests in just three properties.
Derry had never set a trap or filled a bait station, but he completed a
two-day NZQA course on pest control. With advice from Nick, he put two
Timms traps, a DOC200 trap and four bait stations around his garden. The
equipment and bait is subsidised by the Biodiversity Condition Fund.
In the first year, Derry caught eight possums and six rats in the Timms
traps. It’s impossible to tell how many rats and possums took the bait
but Derry had to top up the bait stations every couple of days
initially. Now, there are so few rats or possums to eat the bait that it
goes off before it’s consumed. “A lot of people don’t like disposing of
dead bodies,” Derry observes. They prefer bait, which means no animal
carcasses to get rid of but it’s harder to tell how many pests have been
Derry started out checking his traps at least once a week, which didn’t
take long on a small property. Last month he caught the first possum in
two years, which shows the need for ongoing pest control. He has put
bait stations on trees at eye level so it’s easy to see if bait has been
taken and needs replacing.
The McLachlans are starting to enjoy the benefits of a pest-free
backyard. The main avian visitors were once sparrows and doves but now
kereru, tui and fantails (piwakawaka) are regulars. “The kereru sit in
our birdbath and splash around,” he says.
With the pests gone, the McLachlans are making an effort to make native
birds feel at home. They have put in two bird feeders filled with sugar
water for the tui, and they have planted native plants, such as flaxes,
kowhai, sedges, kawakawa, putaputaweta and kahikatea. They were never
happy about the possums and rats raiding their fruit trees but they’re
perfectly content to indulge the birds. “It doesn’t matter if you lose a
bit of fruit,” Derry says.
Paremoremo locals have become more interested in wildlife, and Forest &
Bird’s North Shore branch chair, Alan Emmerson, and Nick have given
community talks about native birds. An annual bird survey is held one
weekend in November. Figures from the survey last November show 415
reports of native birds of 14 species including tui, fantails,
kingfishers, keruru and paradise ducks.
“People are often commenting that there are a lot more birds in the
area,” Derry says. “The use of the bait has gone down. It seems to have
knocked a lot of the problem but we’ve got to keep vigilant about it.
The emphasis now should be on encouraging bird feeders and planting
Derry sees his community playing a part in a much bigger project, the
North-West Wildlink, which aims to create a corridor for birds
stretching between Tiritiri Matangi Island wildlife sanctuary in the
Hauraki Gulf and the Forest & Bird/Auckland Council Ark in the Park in
the Waitakere Ranges.
Nick would like to attract tuneful bellbirds back to the Paremoremo/Lucas
Creek bush area. “Bellbirds have been extinct in the Auckland area for
more than 100 years,” he says. “They were introduced to Tiritiri and
they have started moving back to the mainland. We’d like to get them to
Paremoremo as another step on the way to Ark in the Park.”
The Pest Free Pare project has had spin-offs for the people of
Paremoremo as much as the birds. Derry says it’s helped build a better
community, with people getting to know each other and sharing a common
goal. “It has been very satisfying to see the results and to see the
bird life that’s improved around the local area. We’ve got to keep up
what we’re doing.”