Marc’s Polhill Project is off and running!

Hi Everyone. Nick here. Marc Slade is the powerhouse behind the Polhill project and with the amazing commitment of the community around him, he is getting the job done. Give us an update Marc.

Polhill Blog – Part 2

Hi Nick. Well it’s a month or so since we met and a lot has happened in that time. Thanks to your posting of my blog I have had a huge amount of interest in the Trapping Project and this has been converted into 28 volunteers (and counting!) We held an induction meeting at my place one Friday evening (flapjacks and coffee courtesy of my lovely partner, Belinda) and Illona Keenan, Pest Control Officer at WCC came to brief people on using the DOC 200 traps and run through what we were trying to achieve, how the traps worked, how we would set up the project and a few other matters.

Poll Hill Blog 2 PicFollowing a “walk over” with Illona we realised that many of the traps were in a really poor condition not having been serviced for over a year, and several were completely munted – a technical trapping term. With the support of WCC we have now replaced all the old traps with brand-new, stainless steel DOC200s – which should last a lot longer.


Locked and loaded

We have now set up three trap lines and established and trained teams to service them. I have taken each team over their lines, switching the old traps for new and re-marking the routes as we went. After a couple of weeks set-up we now have all 14 traps “locked and loaded” and being checked fortnightly by our band of volunteers. Cheers guys – you rock!

Poll Hill Blog 2 StoatSo far we have caught one weasel and one hedgehog that we know about. As well as people volunteering their time, the publicity has attracted a number of other offers of assistance. Amongst these is the donation of four Goodnature Henry resetting stoat traps – the prototype for the current A24 resetting trap. Kev, who donated them, lives next to the reserve and bought the traps himself to reduce pest numbers, but hasn’t had time to fit in checking the traps alongside his busy life (including a self-declared addiction to trail building). This donation is worth a considerable amount, and will help us fill in some gaps in the trap network or target pest “hot-spots”. Cheers Kev, this donation is awesome!

Good on yer Goodnature

As soon as I got this great offer I got straight on the phone to the boys at Goodnature, to see if they could help out in other ways too. Stu Barr, one of Goodnature’s founders and Directors, offered to replace these traps for the new A24s, as the traps have evolved considerably since the Henry traps were first developed. After some further korero Goodnature have also agreed to work with us in laying out the traps and we are looking at how we can use the project to carry out further trials of their traps in an urban setting to eradicate rats from the reserve.

Pollhill trap 3

Kaka nesting in the area

If the number of species breeding in the reserve was not inspiring enough to motivate volunteers to get involved in the project, enthusiasm has been further reinforced by the positive sighting of a kaka nesting in a big old pine stump at the edge of the reserve. I was on my way to catch up with Craig and Garth from the Brooklyn Trail Builders to discuss how we could work together, when I heard the squawking of a kaka close at hand. This is not that unusual these days, but what caught my attention was that it was much lower than usual, and when I looked closer I saw the parrot disappear into a large crevice in the stump of an old pine tree that had been felled. Knowing that kaka nested in holes in rotten trees I strongly suspected that this bird might be breeding outside of the Zealandia fence line. My suspicions were confirmed shortly after when I went out with Matt Robertson, Park Ranger for Wellington City Council, and Matu Booth from Zealandia. Matu soon confirmed that there was a bird nesting in the tree stump, and this was corroborated by the appearance of the bird’s mate. Matu later checked to discover 5 eggs deep in the tree stump.Kaka Blog 1 Male kaka come to the nest site to feed the brooding female approximately every two hours, and call them out with a surprisingly soft and romantic call, compared to the birds more commonly heard boisterous squawks and whistles. A group of volunteers (including Jack, our original young volunteer) has been trained in monitoring kaka nests by Matt Robertson (an ex-Zealandia staff member with extensive kaka experience) and we are now keeping watch on the progress of the birds’ breeding endeavours. With any luck the young will be successfully reared and add to Wellington’s growing kaka population.

Citizen Science in action

Our next plan is to set up monitoring in the reserve to see what pests are present and help us see the results of our trapping work.

Pollhill Trap 1We are planning on carrying out an exercise to put in a grid of chew cards to help us find out predator presence and hot-spots – where there are most, as well as points of re-invasion into the reserve. This exercise will involve putting in over 100 chew cards (small pieces of folded core-flute – or real estate agent signs – filled with peanut butter which critters can’t resist leaving their teeth marks on giving away their presence). Using this technique it is relatively easy to tell what species are present and at roughly what densities. The chew cards all need putting into the reserve on the same day and then need removing 7 nights later – a fairly labour intensive exercise. We will do this in November, using a team of volunteers to put them in and then remove and analyse them a week later. We also have plans to carry out 5-minute bird counts and nest monitoring, to help us assess the health of the bird populations in the reserve, and lizard surveys to assess what species of skinks and geckos are present. I’m sure we will discover many more treasures in the reserve and hopefully increasing the understanding of why this place is so special will encourage more people to care for it even more. I will keep you posted on how we are going and what we find out.