of the great things about having a dedicated field team working in the
bush throughout the year is that unusual plants or animal species get
noticed. The six member field team working in the 620 hectare Windy Hill
Rosalie Bay Catchment Trust Sanctuary are all armed with cameras so that
interesting views, aspects of their work, and species can be recorded at
the time they are seen. Plant or fungi species are often brought into
the field base for identification. These practices have created an
enormous record of what is present within the Sanctuary and the
frequency with which things are recorded also provides us with an idea
of how species recover and become more visible when rat numbers are
Having many pairs of eyes on the ground has been how we found out we had
an invasive water weed. A sample of the unusual species, probably
brought in by ducks, was sent off to Ewen Cameron at the Auckland Museum
and identified as the invasive Ludwigia palustris. The offending plant
was then sprayed with an especially sourced organic spray and then the
site monitored for a number of years. It has not returned.
A visiting herpetologist found the velvet worm (peripatus) on a recent
visit. (See back cover article and photo.) This spectacular looking worm
(when photographed closely) is a sign that the environment is in a
pristine condition since it would not be present otherwise. This little
critter has been around for about 500 million years - anatomically it
represents a sort of half way stage between worms and arthropods
(insects and crustacea). Some of the earlier fossil versions which lived
in the sea were very weird - so much so that one specimen was called
Halluciongenia! Velvet worms are found under rotting logs and in similar
damp environments in the forests of the fragments of Gondwana
(Australia, S. America and NZ).
it takes a while for specimens to be examined. Invertebrate monitoring
carried out by Auckland Museum at Windy Hill in 2001 has at last
revealed a new species of worm – Aporodrilus aotea sp. nov. – it was
identified by Robert Blakemore working on samples in Japan!
A young bird enthusiast recently visiting the sanctuary, identified a
pair of bellbirds with a juvenile bird and found a pair of fernbirds
which had been seen only once before.
The Sanctuary has a comprehensive monitoring program which has been in
place since 2000. The data collected on rat densities, birds, weta,
lizards, invertebrates, seedlings, and freshwater stream species allows
us to measure how well our pest management is going and how much
difference it is making. Monitoring for lizards using a range of traps
has identified the rare striped skink and the chevron skink.
A Duvaucels gecko was caught in a rat trap in early 2010 – while its
demise was sad – the specimen proved (with this second sighting ever in
40 years), that this species was still present, albeit in tiny numbers.
The Windy Hill Rosalie Bay Sanctuary field team and interested locals
recently joined Dr Maj Padamsee on a three day ‘fungal foray’ to find
out what fungi are present in the sanctuary. Maj, who is a scientist
with Landcare Research, and the team found 94 different species of fungi
to add to the 40 already known to Landcare. A further six species were
found on the way into the hot springs. The most spectacular fungi were
found in the leaf litter under kauri trees on Benthorn Farm
Often, it is the day to day encounters that really give you a sense of
the abundance of species that was once present on Great Barrier – the
baby Pacific Gecko that has been born in my letterbox, the masses of
cave weta that enjoy the warmth of my generator shed, the flocks of
kaka, tui, and kereru that are present in the view from my home makes
the grind of keeping rats at very low levels worth the effort.