As part of a project to publish the wildlife diaries of Edgar Stead (see blog of 15 December 2010), I am revisiting some of the islands that Stead camped on during the period 1929-1947. The main focus is describing how the ecology of the islands has changed since Stead’s time. The visits also provide an opportunity to take photographs to illustrate the diaries.
Stead camped on Nukuwaiata, at the outer entrance to Pelorus Sound, with his wife and son, and companion Major Robert Wilson for 10 days in January 1936. Stead and Wilson had also previously visited in 1926.
We stayed on Nukuwaiata Nature Reserve (with permission from the Department of Conservation) for two nights in January 2011, and noticed some dramatic changes since my previous visit in April 1993. Pacific rats and weka (both introduced to the island) were eradicated by DOC later in 1993, allowing remnant lizard populations to recover. Stead noted “We saw no lizzards of any sort” in 1936, whereas we saw over 30 lizards of four species, including the first records of forest geckos from the island.
Another dramatic change was that the 242 ha island’s bird population had recovered sufficiently to support a top predator. New Zealand falcons had recolonised, and a pair had successfully raised three young to the flying stage. These were curious about the new intruders on their domain, and occasionally broke off from their dogfights to check us out.
One thing that had not changed was the tameness of the South Island robins. Stead wrote “Our most constant visitor is a cock bird…He sits on our coats and hats, on the billies or frypan, and even on the crossbar of the fireplace when the fire is on”.
Other blogs in this series:
By Colin Miskelly, Curator Terrestrial Vertebrates