How are things in your bubble? We hope you are all well and getting by OK. Just imagine how isolated we would have felt without the internet to communicate over. There’s no chance of a Travis work day on the 18th and probably there won’t even be one on the 16th of May either, so we’ll really be itching to get back out there by the time it’s safe to do so at last. I suppose the non-human life at Travis is carrying on regardless while we’re not there. However, I have read on The Guardian that some zoo animals are really missing the visitors that normally go by each day.
We’ll keep putting out a newsletter each month while we wait to be allowed to go back to work at the swamp, but the number of articles might keep diminishing. Once the government gives guidance on what the regulations will be once lockdown ends the Trust board, in consultation with the CCC, can look at how work days could recommence, while complying with whatever physical distancing requirements there are. I have the horrid feeling that the last thing we’ll be able to do is have morning tea together back at the Education Centre, which will be very disappointing. I hope it will be recognised that it’s quite easy to maintain physical distancing from one another while releasing plants and the possibility of transmitting the virus to another person by breathing in the outdoors is pretty low.
In the meantime stay safe and stay home – apart from essential trips for food supplies and local exercise. If you’re feeling blue read “StayiNatHome: A Cure for the Blue Fly Blues” about the many species of flies in NZ with bright metallic blue abdomens. More about StayiNatHome below.
Work Day, Saturday 21 March
We had a cloudy, windy morning for our mission of releasing plants near the access road to the Southern Woods. It was pleasing to see 18 people arrive, including 2 enthusiastic children.
The area we worked in had mainly kanuka, flax, cabbage tree and a variety of small-leafed shrubs. It was interesting to see how plants in low-lying areas had made poor progress, probably due to becoming water-logged over the winter.
In some areas plants were surrounded by tall growth of aster and willow herb. Once we had chopped down the weed species many of the young kanuka plants were covered with whitish-grey fluff from willow herb seeds. Looks like we will be busy in the same area next year!
Some small shrubs were completely smothered by weed species. Common Marsh Bedstraw ( Galium palustre ) covered plants in a dense mat of tiny green leaves and minute white flowers. This is a close relative of the common or garden cleaver, but finer and more smothering.
Our rangers worked hard on removing some small patches of Beggar’s Tick and trying not to spread the sticky seeds in the process.
Although it was a mild day we developed quite a thirst and were happy to return to the Ed Centre for food and drink. Thanks to everyone who came along. With level 4 Covid 19 measures in place it may be a while before we can socialise in this way again. Keep safe everyone and maybe include the wetland in your daily walks if you live nearby.
Article: Sue Britain, Images: Dave Evans
Here’s another fun, informative thing to occupy part of your days – creatively, constructively and educationally – during this extraordinary time. The website iNaturalist NZ – Mātaki Taiao enables you to record natural history observations any time, any place, whether you know what it is, or not. Experts whizzing around in the background will name the plant, animal or microbe for you.
We can still get out around our homes to record, learn and share our natural history discoveries on https://inaturalist.nz/ (There’s information in this online pamphlet on how to join on computer or phone app). In the spirit of the current lockdown we have set up a project StayiNatHome NZ ( https://inaturalist.nz/projects/stayinathome-nz ) that automatically accumulates any observations you record for now.
This (safely) contributes both to individual (adults and kids) learning about nature and to valuable citizen bio-science knowledge. Nature is on the move while we settle, and anything is fair game – plants, pets, fungi (it’s the season), annoying starlings, spiders in the pantry, moths on the window, vegetables, weeds and moss in the footpath, street trees, and lichens on your letterbox – just get the records before the mopping, dusting, gunge removal and mowing begins. If it is planted or domesticated, remember to tick the ‘cultivated or captive’ box. But inside, outside in the yard, or along your bubble walk, is all fair game.
After 15 days the StayiNatHome NZ project had aggregated over 9200 observations of 2300 species by 1000 people around the country. Interestingly in the top 50 records so far all but 8 are invertebrates, birds and fungi – https://inaturalist.nz/projects/stayinathome-nz?tab=species ?. It is building an interesting inventory of essentially urban/peri-urban natural history, and you are learning as we go.
And that’s not all. This is gearing up to the global City Nature Challenge on 24-27th April (https://inaturalist.nz/projects/city-nature-challenge-2020 ). We are encouraging people to explore and observe what is in and around their homes. Last year’s results are here: https://inaturalist.nz/projects/city-nature-challenge-2019 when Christchurch was the only NZ city entered, but we did well anyway on the global stage.
Let us know if you have any questions and please share.
Article: Colin Meurk
When is a shag not a shag?
The family Phalacrocoracidae comprises about 38 species of aquatic, fish-eating birds commonly known as cormorants and shags. That sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Unfortunately it isn’t, especially for us down here in the shakey isles, where we have a tendency to do things “our way”. So let’s start with a bit of history.
So what actually is a shag and yes I know but this is a family newsletter. For our purposes the word comes from before the 12th century and basically means rough hair or wool. For our purposes the crest on the head of the bird. Cormorant comes from the 14th century and applied to a variety of dark, web footed water birds.
As I said NZ has it’s own way of naming birds. In the UK and the rest of the world the Black Shag is called the Great Cormorant, these birds are found in Australia also. The Black Shag is not alone in having a different common name in NZ to the rest of the world, the White Heron and Banded Dotterel fall into this category as well, being the Great Egret and Double-banded Plover respectively. In fact in NZ we called everything a Shag regardless.
But as it’s turned out a third of all known Cormorant species worldwide are found in NZ. Confused yet ?? Around the Christchurch region and at Travis we have 5 species of Cormorant / Shag. They are Black, Pied, Little and Little Black Cormorant and the Spotted Shag. Spotted Shag have been seen at Travis but it’s not their usual habitat. You more commonly find them around Sumner and they nest on the cliffs around Godley Head etc. Amazingly all the Cormorants breed at the Bromley oxidation ponds and it’s the only known breeding site for the Little Black Cormorant.
I’ll leave the final words to Andrew Crossland, one of his hats is Christchurch City Council ornithologist. “Shags nest on cliffs or slopes, have bright coloured feet, live in marine environments, don’t roost on posts, fences, power poles, or trees and don’t need to hold their wings out to dry.
Cormorants usually nest in trees, have black feet, live in freshwater, estuarine and near shore coastal environments, roost on posts, fences, power poles and trees, and do have to hold their wings out to dry.”
When you see the new signage in the bird hide coming later this year you now have an idea why some of the bird names will have changed.
So when is a Shag not a Shag, it’s when it’s a Cormorant.
Article and images: Grahame Bell
Speaking 4 the Planet
If you have some young people in your life they may well be interested in this competition. Speaking 4 the Planet (S4P) is a public speaking, spoken word and visual arts competition created to provide opportunities for students to express their ideas for a better world.
This year due to Covid-19 the competition is going entirely online.
This year the UN’s World Environment Day theme is “On this earth eveything is connected”. With this theme as a starting point, students prepare and deliver punchy, quirky, creative and pointed speeches, dramatic spoken word performances or artworks designed to influence the thoughts, emotions and actions of the viewing audience and, of course, the judging panel.
More information here.
Article: Dave Evans
Images: Grahame Bell