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      A Weka on the track

      There was a dead Weka on the track yesterday. I didn't spot it at first but I did notice the flies buzzing about.

      For so many years my backyard has been a little sleepy hollow. The people movements being outnumbered by the wild pigs and other wildlife, some opossum, rats, plenty of bird life.

      This has changed recently. Firstly a couple of likely locals spent a year patiently building a mountain bike track down the manuka scrub hillside, to provide another route for their sunday bike rides. Then local  legendary anarchist, dick nichols retired from his longtime Milnethorpe revegetation project and moved up the end of the Parapara valley. Dick lives for the bush, he finds a piece of mind in wandering the hills on various projects and in the process cuts with his slasher, tracks which meander through the bush. You would be amazed at the seemingly effortless way at which his slasher will cut through two inches of native wood. He places the offcuts to the sides, cuts wee steps where needed and slowly, methodically builds tracks. He has no expectation of others using the tracks , it's all about here and now with Dick. He became interested in my backyard, which is the northern edge of the Kahurangi National park, as part of his fascination with the early colonial industrial developments on Mt Rinopai here at Parapara

      They were an intrepid bunch, the early colonialists  in the district. They burnt the hillsides of Mt Rinopai, and using basic machinery,horses and a heap of hand power, digging  watercourses, build tracks, tunnel into the hillsides, in their quest to find minerals to assist in building the new colonial outpost. At first gold, then iron ore. This all ended in the 1930’s and the wilderness reclaimed its territory. All the hand dug watercourses , the stacked rows of boulders along the creeks, the tunnels with names carved into the inner walls, were reclaimed by the forest. The weta inhabit the tunnels, Moreport guard the entrances, Manuka covers the land, the reeds takeover the dams. A few scraps of cut totara posts, a block of old concrete, some sheets of iron, lie in the bush. So Dick has taken it on as a project to open up the old tracks. As part of this Dick set about re-establishing the Washbourne dam and so I now have a large body of water on my back boundary.  

      So back to the weka on the track. When I first arrived, twenty eight years ago, the weka were still plentiful but already in decline from a decade earlier . Then suddenly they just disappeared and for over a decade maybe even two the weka were not seen in our neighbourhood. It was not just here. All around the top of the South Island and further afield the numbers of these birds rapidly declined. Eventually it was determined that it was a virus which had swept through the population and so it remained for most of two decades. Slowly they have returned in recent years. First I sighted a pair about seven years ago over in the deep bush and they have moved closer and closer as their numbers increased. The nights are again filled with the searching calls of the males. My vege garden is ravaged if not protected. They love freshly dug soil, so I have learnt to dig and leave the soil for a few days then to plant, or they will come at night and pull all the plants out of the ground. They really are a pain to live with. But I love the Weka. Last week I saw a weka roadkill. Another sign that the numbers are again getting back to pre epidemic amounts. So a dead  weka on the track is probably a dog . With all the increased walking traffic due to Dicks tracks, martins mountain bike tracks, it is inevitable that dogs will come along.  Dick reckons that dogs can't catch weka. I doubt that opinion, I've seen it , but the Weka are good at escaping. No one probably really cares, but I do. We have dogs and it could be ours , but we were away with our dogs when this happened and we have trained the dogs to not chase the weka , but how do you know? I love the weka, their wild eyes, beautiful brown patterned feathers, their status as a bird of the forest of Tane! What can I do? Erect a sign to say ' beware weka crossing !' , dogs must wear muzzles? I don't know. It is the national park and dogs are not allowed without a permit ! We have dogs and we walk most days In the kahurangi national park. I do not know the answers but info feel a tinge of sadness. I continue to set my line of rat and stoat traps and this line has now lengthened due to the new tracks. I plan to plant Kahikatea around the area of the Lake and look to add to the large numbers of young Rimu and Miro which are evident in the hills.

      So things are changing in my backyard and it will be interesting to see what these changes bring. Hopefully access to the bush encourages more people to value conservation of our national asset which is the Kahurangi National Park. Hopefully a pair of Blue Ducks may come and visit the new lake.