Goodbye possums, hello tui
Did you know that in the 1990s tui were a fairly rare sight on the Miramar Peninsula? The success of the 2003 Miramar Peninsula Possum Eradication Programme led by Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council, had a positive, and long-lasting effect on other elements of the local ecosystem.
The Miramar Peninsula covers 822 hectares to the east of Wellington City, and is largely surrounded by sea, but connects to the mainland at Wellington airport. In the early 2000s it was seen as a prime site for eradication, due to its isolated geography and lesser chance of being re-infested.
The programme involved a mix of bait stations and traps throughout the area, which were used intensively for a 3 year period, and in 2007 the Peninsula was declared possum-free. Since then, the programme has been committed to maintaining the possum free status of the area and has relied on ongoing monitoring from Greater Wellington.
The odd possum does still turn up, but these are quickly reported by residents and followed up by Greater Wellington to keep the Peninsula possum free. Bait stations remain in place in public and private land, so they can be filled in the event of possum sightings, and for future rodent control.
The increase in native birdlife on the Peninsula, particularly for tui, has been noticeable. WCC have completed annual bird counts in Maupuia Reserve since 2001. Silvereye, fantail and grey warbler have been present in the reserve since before the possum control operation, but tui, kererū and kingfisher have returned in recent years. Blue penguins nest in coastal vegetation, and native lizards are relatively common in the coastal habitats.
Ben Bell, from the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology at Victoria University of Wellington carried out research on tui numbers seen and heard at a coastal suburban site overlooking Worser Bay, Seatoun from 1998 until 2006. There was a considerable increase in tui observations after the Peninsula become possum-free. You can read his full report here.
The increase in native birdlife, has been a happy by-product of possum removal. The decreasing possum population has seen increasing vegetation, which is more attractive to native birds for feeding and nesting. It appears that native birds have moved through to the Peninsula from other parts of Wellington - Matiu/Somes Island, Eastbourne, Zealandia.
The next challenge for the area will be to combat rodents and mustelids (the family name for ferrets, stoats and weasels). These pests are a threat to the nests and food supply of our native birds, lizards and invertebrate populations. This will be achieved through a mix of tools, including backyard trapping.
Wellington residents can help combat these threats to our native birdlife. Find your local group here and start backyard trapping.
Keen to know more about increasing birdlife numbers in Wellington? Check out this recent report by the Wellington City Counci.
Posted: 9 April 2018