Waiheke was once covered in thick forest and was extensively logged especially for the Kauri used for shipbuilding and building houses. The Kauri trade was highly lucrative, however by 1850 it was all but over; the trees were logged to near extinction and only a few small strands survived. Meanwhile the increasing deforestation of the Island began as other trees were rapidly felled for house foundations, fence posts and firewood. In the 1940’s the island was mostly farmland with very few stands of original broadleaf forest remaining.
This aerial photograph taken on the 18th of March 1940 clearly shows our piece of of forest and the location of Waiheke Holiday’s accommodation.
Unbeknown to us, our forest was a dying forest. Yes it had plenty of mature broad leaf specimens, There were plenty of towering Nikau, some outstanding Puriri but the forest floor was barren and there was an obvious lack of anything between 1 and 5m in height (except Nikau whos seeds are propagated through the wood pigeon) The rats had effective vacuumed the entire forest floor clean of seeds and fruit.
When we moved to the valley in August 2005 there was a distinct lack of bird life. Sure is was better than the Hunua’s but it wasn’t a patch on Tiritiri. Our realisation of the problem came one night in 2009 when shining a torch into a tree to try and identify a noise where we had seen a Kingfisher nest we saw a large rat. Further observation proved the forest was teaming with rats.
That was 2009. The following Saturday we purchases our first bait station from the Forest and Bird stand at the Ostend Market. The bait station was a 400mm length of drain coil with a tent peg to hold a bait block. The bait was Pestoff Rodent Blocks which are an extruded chocolate flavoured, blue block bait containing 0.02g/kg brodifacoum. Over the next few months we fine tuned our baiting programme all the time experimenting with bait station placement.
More is Better
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and with hindsight I can say we pretty much wasted the first year or so. our biggest mistakes were:
- Poor bait placement.
- Inadequate number of traps.
- Inadequate reload frequency.
Probably the biggest eureka moment was when we realised that rattus rattus predominantly live in trees rather than burrows. Placing a bait station at the base of a tree markedly increased the bait uptake.
To be continued