All previous newsletters can be found here.
Work Day Reminder, January 21 2023
The next monthly work day will be from 9.00am – noon this coming Saturday.
This month we’ll be hunting out Giant Willow Herb and weeding at the Tōtara/Mataī forest. The prospect of a Giant Willow Herb hunt reminded me of The Hunting of the Snark. I hope our hunt is not An Agony in 8 Fits like Lewis Carroll’s poem, but I can imagine a Boojum feeling right at home behind a Giant Willow Herb!
They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
If you arrive late there will be a notice on the Education Centre door explaining where we have gone.
All tools provided. It may be wet underfoot, so gumboots are advised. If you don’t own any we do have some for loan. Please bring your own gloves if you can.
Report on Last Month’s Work Day, 17 December
Our last workday for the year was a warm one with 20 keen folk attending. We worked along the western boundary starting from Clarevale Reserve.
It wouldn’t be December without convolvulus and removing the invasive creeper was a big part of our task. Smaller natives, planted 2 or 3 years ago, bounced back after release from their tangles of weeds. Under taller trees weed removal revealed hidden native seedlings and some young kahikatea.
Ranger John found a tall specimen of Giant Willowherb (Epilobium hirsuitum). This plant is very invasive with wind-spread seeds, so sightings are reported to MPI. Another find was a nursery web spider (Dolomedes minor). This arachnid produces special webs on tips of foliage, where the females guard their numerous spiderlings.
Eleanor posted it to iNaturalist where it was identified by Travis member Jon Sullivan. He commented: “I’ve been told that the female nursery web carries around her egg sac in her mouth for some time, without being able to feed, until she’s found a safe place to web them up.”
One group of volunteers prepared a grassy clearing for future planting. The area was covered with newspaper and cabbage tree leaves, ready for later introduction of Travis sourced mānuka seeds.
Eleanor took a group, including a young family, to see some insectivorous sundews (Drosera binata) and explained how they are cared for.
Back at the visitor centre everyone was grateful for a cool drink and food from the varied barbecue selection. Colin Meurk spoke to the group, congratulating Eleanor on her recent Christchurch Civic Award and thanking her for her dedication to the wetland.
Happy New Year everyone. We look forward to more great volunteer efforts in 2023.
Article: Sue Britain, Images: Eleanor Bissell and Stuart Payne
World Wetlands Day Walk – 6.30pm Thurs, 2 February
As usual we will have an evening guided walk to celebrate World Wetlands Day on 2 February. We’ll make a brief tour of the Tōtara/Mataī forest area at the southern end of the wetland. It can be a bit wet accessing the forest so waterproof footwear may be required, depending on conditions. You’ll be able to borrow some gumboots from us if necessary. Meet at the Education Centre near the carpark at the end of Beach Rd by 6.30pm on Thursday, 2 February. Please join us.
Christmas Thank-You’s to our Lovely I.D.E.A.S. Teams
Excitedly Cherie and Tess’s teams, who have so competently assisted us at Travis this year, travelled to St Martins to play croquet as a thank you for their amazing help. Throughout the cold of winter Tess and Cherie rugged up their clients, loaded the trailers with bark chips and trundled wherever we needed them to go at Travis. They also obligingly carted water to dry, newly planted areas and carefully watered the plants.
At the croquet green everyone scored at least one goal. All were enthusiastic and we could see an improvement in skills as games progressed. A picnic lunch at Hansen Park followed; another enjoyable experience with beautiful summer weather.
Just as much fun, two days later was the BBQ at Travis. Wayne’s perfectly barbecued sausages were followed by snacks and fruit. To round off the party poppers were detonated! The whole packet was disposed of in very short time, accompanied by much laughing and enjoyment.
Article: Eleanor Bissell, Images, Eleanor and John Dunlop
Civic Award for Eleanor Bissell
In December Eleanor was the very worthy recipient of a Christchurch Civic Award at a ceremony in the Town Hall. The citation on the CCC website reads:
She has been contributing to the restoration of Ōruapaeroa/Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park for more than 25 years.
She has been a leading supporter and board member of the Travis Wetland Trust for all of that time. In addition to the regular work of the Trust, she can be found every week painstakingly toiling away on hands and knees, caring for the rare and endangered plants of the wetland, some of which would not have survived without her meticulous care.
She is a key member of the small team that organises the monthly Trust working party, and has been since the beginning, and is a much-valued provider of home baking for post-work morning teas.
As a former teacher and long-time Forest and Bird Kiwi Conservation Club leader she takes every opportunity to open the eyes of visiting children and their parents to the wonders of the wetland, both plants and the ‘creepy-crawlies’ that especially excite young, impressionable eyes.
Nor is this all. She participates in other community conservation projects in her own neighbourhood of Huntsbury, at the Ernle Clarke Reserve and the King George V Reserve, as well as initiatives at Lake Clearwater. She is a gem indeed, and worthy of the highest of accolades.
Kahikatea Mealy Bug
At the December work day Colin spotted some white fluff on a recently planted kahikatea and duly posted it to iNaturalist. It was subsequently identified as kahikatea mealy bug (Paraferissia podocarpi), which is only found on kahikatea and rimu.
The adult female is oval, about 2 mm long and 1 mm wide, the male is smaller still. After mating and when it is fully grown, the female mealybug settles on a young shoot and produces a white fluffy wax chamber at the rear end of its body. It lays orange coloured eggs into the egg sac. As it fills up, the female mealybug moves forward making the sac bigger as it continues to lay more eggs.
Mealybug adult females and nymphs have sucking mouthparts. The mealybugs suck the plant’s sap, which is high in sugars and low in other nutrients. Mealybugs excrete the excess sugary liquid, which is called honeydew, through a short white wax anal tube. This honeydew probably attracts black sooty mould to the kahikatea that are infested with mealybugs, just as it does on beech trees.
There’s lots of images and information on the mealybug in this Landcare Research fact sheet. I’ve seen nothing to say that the mealybugs are a danger to the plants, but they are certainly unsightly.
Article: Dave Evans, Images: Colin Meurk