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Trip Report - Otaki Forks area, western Tararua Range

Trip Report – 5 December 2010:   Otaki Forks area, western Tararua Range

Day 1: 4/12/10

We met at the caretaker’s car park at Otaki Forks, to botanise the area, and check our camping gear for the Fiordland trip.

We crossed bridges over the Waiotauru River, and the Otaki River, then began botanising along the track which goes up the valley of Waitatapia Stream.   A sign advised that 1080 had been laid, because this valley is within the 22,000-ha “Project Kaka” zone in the range that DOC is treating with 1080 at three-yearly intervals.   The aim is to restore the indigenous ecosystem, to provide a safe corridor for birds across the Tararua Range, between Kapiti Island and Pukaha / Mount Bruce, in the Wairarapa.

The easy track follows a 1930s-era logging tramway up the Waitatapia Stream valley.   (Gavin, Bryan, and I attempted to get to the old steam boiler further upstream, but were stopped by a large slip, and a lack of time.)   The day was sunny and hot with little wind.

There was no plant list for the valley, so we used blank forms, filling them in as we went.   Of particular note were numerous profusely-flowering kaikomako, kamahi, and putaputaweta trees.   We also saw:
•   a forest cabbage tree in flower
•   one frond of Botrychium australe / parsley fern, recorded as Naturally Uncommon in the NZ threatened and uncommon vascular plant list
•   Cortaderia fulvida in dense colonies stabilising old slips
•   numerous greenhood and sun orchid species, and one Orthoceras novae-zeelandiae
•   masses of beautifully perfumed Earina mucronata
•   large dragonflies, black and white stripes
•   although not seen, a NZ falcon was heard.

We arrived back at the caretaker’s car park at about 5 p.m.   Robert and Andrea headed off, while the rest of us took about 10 minutes to lug our camping gear over the Waiotauru River to the grassy camping area near Parawai Hut.   We were concerned that the hut was occupied by people about to celebrate a 40th-birthday party, but we need not have worried because they were well-behaved!

We set up our tents, then cooked a pot-luck dinner on two gas stoves.   The first course was an interesting mix of assorted dishes, while dessert comprised cheese cake and gourmet chocolates!   After dinner, Mick, Sunita and Gavin went home.

Earina mucronata
Earina mucronata at Otaki Forks.   Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.
Day 2: 5/12/10

We awoke to drizzle wetting our tents – making our loads to be returned to the cars heavier.   We paid the caretaker’s wife $6.10 / person for our campsites.   The cost of staying in the hut was $5.00 person – an anomaly she could not explain!

We five drove 1.5 km further up the Waiotauru Valley to the main campground.   From here we botanised the Fenceline Loop track that passes through regenerating forest above the campground – we got good views of the Waiotauru Valley through the mist.   It is usually a 1½–2 hour walk but in BotSoc-style we took 4 hours – which shows how botanically-interesting the forest was!

Seedlings of hutu and pukatea were common.   Seedlings of both plants look very similar, so we did intensive study to determine the distinguishing features.   Essentially these are that hutu has small, hair-like stipules on the new leaves, and pukatea has none, and crushed hutu leaves smell peppery, and pukatea leaves are not aromatic.

We also saw:
•   plentiful Blechnum colensoi / waterfall fern,
•   kaikomako in flower,
•   Caladenia sp. in flower.

We noted several species of invasive weeds during our stay, notably:
•   Carex ovalis, an invasive sedge,
•   Hypericum androsaemum / tutsan seedlings, common in the forest above the Otaki River,
•   cotoneaster shrubs, and clumps of Cyperus eragrostis in the planted areas around the caretaker’s car park.

We left to return home at about 2 p.m., with plant list sheets that were not as blank as when we started!   We had listed about 100 native plant species and 20 weed species on each day.   When the lists are finalised they will be sent to DOC and the NZ Plant Conservation Network.

Participants :   Gavin Dench, Bryan Halliday, Chris Horne, Sheelagh Leary, Barbara Mitcalfe, Chris Moore, who answers to Moorei, leader / scribe, Andrea and Robert Oliver, Mick Parsons, Sunita Singh.


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