In 2013, the Bream Head rangers made the discovery of a lifetime, high in the cloud forest of Bream Head, amongst rocks and tangled vines, Pete and Cathy Mitchell stumbled upon a skink completely new to science.
Ben Barr and Northtec conservation student Ayla Wiles studied this coffee-coloured marvel and have revealed it is distinct, but closely related to a skink in the lower North Island. We also know it is very curious and loves sunbathing and climbing trees, but it can only be found in an area less than a hectare due to introduced pests… in other words, it is very cool but without management it is doomed to extinction.
The work of the rangers up the hill appears to be making a huge difference already. The skinks are surviving, breeding and becoming more abundant, but we’ll need to stay vigilant. Keep a close eye out next time you are up Bream Head and you might be able to spot one of these fascinating creatures.
In the summer of 2014, we also found two other lizard species that hadn’t been seen in Bream Head before: the Moko skink and Forest gecko. We now know of nine species of lizard in the Whangarei Heads area, which is basically unheard of for the mainland. Make no mistake my friends, Whangarei Heads is the lizard capital of mainland New Zealand and you
With sustained and intensive pest control at Bream Head the ecosystem is flourishing; birds are being reintroduced that have been absent from mainland Northland for over a century and some species that were only occasional visitors from the Hen and Chicken offshore islands are now breeding within the Reserve. As of 2021 the kiwi population has increased substantially and no further releases are planned. North Island Robins/toutouwai were reintroduced in 2016 and Whiteheads/Popokatea in 2017. Grey faced petrels/Oi have self-introduced but their survival is dependent on continued intensive predator control in their nesting areas.
Bream Head Conservation Trust has established a planting programme which has seen the planting of over 37,000 trees and plants between 2002 and 2015. Together with pest control, the planting programme has been responsible for the growing health of its forests and profusion of birds in the last decade.
Bream Head Scenic Reserve is home to an incredible diversity of nationally and regionally significant plants including threatened species and species not seen anywhere outside Whangarei Heads.
"In 2020 Adam Willets, project manager, discovered this “At Risk-Relict’ plant while he was checking traps and bait stations at the eastern tip of the reserve. Carmichaelia williamsi – (Williams Broom) – was previously mainly found on offshore islands from the Poor Knights to the East Cape. The flowers, fruits and seeds are palatable to rats. Carmaichaelia williamsi is principally bird-pollinated."
For Lots of great conservation information visit the Department of Conservation website here
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