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  • Writer's pictureRose Parsons

Realising our conservation goals.

We love what we do, almost all of the time. And our conservation work in and around our eight hectare covenanted wetland is no exception. The wetland was already in the process of being formally covenanted under the Queen Elizabeth II Trust when I took over the property in 1999. It was conditional to sale and no great hardship as I could see the long term benefits of protecting all the hard work of the previous owners Graham and Ethany Copp. They had considerable help from Fish and Game to create a freshwater wetland to compliment the vast estuarine wetlands nearby. The wetland has a metre high flood stop bank to the west and the slow moving tidal Opawa to the east with the expanse of the Wairau Lagoons beyond. When I purchased this property, I had no idea what a gem it was going to be.

View from our wetland looking south to the lovely Wither Hills. Birds proliferated in the wetland, but also introduced plants that we had not expected. Like Himalayan strawberry trees, red oaks, figs and more recently I stumbled upon a greengage covered in plums! It turned out that these were planted to attract ducks for the purposes of game hunting. The big worry was the crack willows accidentally introduced and looking set to completely fill the wetland and draw water from it faster than it could be replenished. Help was at hand, the Marlborough District Council at that time supported landowners trying to maintain wetlands like ours and we successfully applied for funding assistance. At a vitally needed time we were able to plant trees endemic to the location and contractors tackled the willows and other exotics, followed up by myself. We did however leave a magnificent Swamp Cypress, so were are not purists.

A young crack willow, the name originates from the fact that any piece that cracks off the tree can grow in water. The wetland now looks a lot more like what the Wairau perhaps looked like before humans started draining and cultivating the valley. On a warm summer evening when you hear the birds squawking and booming from the raupo, you can only imagine how it must have sounded to those early settlers. The birds of the wetland and nearby river were our next focus. Over the years we have lived here we discovered some nice surprises and not so nice ones as well! We did not know that the mystery bird we were trying to identify in the coastal ribbonwood would turn out to be the perhaps the only pair of Fernbird reported in the area between Havelock and Oamaru. Only by recording their call and playing it back did I manage to lure the shy birds out and take a photo.

A fernbird in our wetland showing its distinctive web tail. On a routine walk through the wetland I was suddenly startled by a huge flapping of wings, it was a rare Australasian Bittern, possibly from a small colony of them living downstream. There is even romance in our wetland! When we first saw the Glossy Ibis, it has us running for our bird book. It was a vagrant from Australia carried over perhaps by a storm. After two years of living alone with pied stilts, we were pleased to see one day that it had a mate. Extraordinarily four more have since joined it. The mysteries of the natural world are beyond our understanding.

Glossy Ibis with Paradise Shelduck are no longer hunted and have refuge in our wetland. On the negative side we have discovered a wide range of introduced predators prowling the area, mostly at night. Wild and abandoned cats, mustelid such as stoats and ferrets, Norwegian rats & field mice. Our trapping started with simple tubes with rat baits wired inside, the QEII Trust kindly donated a mustelid trap which we are pleased to say has caught and swiftly dispatched around one hundred mustalids and hedgehogs. No more nest marauding for them.

A large ferret caught near the river last year. As a result we have seen a marked increase in bird life such as fantail, ducks and grey warbler. Recently we have been excited to be asked to take part in the planning of two new conservation areas, one adjacent to our property and one over the river. Both these areas have been made into public reserves by the Council and we have the rate payers of Marlborough to thank for that. The development of conservation areas for the benefit future generations is something to be proud of.

These Fantail chicks are getting too big of the nest and will soon fledge. But it is just the beginning! Driftwood Eco-Tours environmental policy is to plant one endemic tree for every eco tour taken. If you are interested in visiting our wetland please call us to arrange a time, you can also book our accommodation if you want to treat yourself.

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