Waikato

Through a com­bi­na­tion of plant es­tab­lish­ment-ma­tu­rity and se­lec­tive plant­ings, Hamil­ton Gar­dens has at­tracted more and more wildlife. And vis­i­tors have taken no­tice.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

Gus Flower takes in the wildlife at Hamil­ton Gar­dens

In­creas­ing the num­bers of na­tives, par­tic­u­larly the likes of Co­prosma

ro­busta, flax, ma­hoe,ˉ kawakawa, kowhai and wineberry, has had a big im­pact on at­tract­ing birdlife.

Along with the black­birds and thrushes rustling about in the dense un­der­growth for­ag­ing for worms and grubs, dainty na­tives such as sil­ver­eye, fan­tail and grey war­bler have be­come more com­mon and can be seen flit­ting from branch to branch in search of smaller in­sects. But there is def­i­nitely one bird where the in­crease in pop­u­la­tion has been the most no­tice­able.

Ask any gar­dener who works here what bird has es­tab­lished it­self the most in re­cent years and they will say the tui.¯

They used to be just a spring vis­i­tor but the menu we have planted and the size of it have rapidly in­creased bird num­bers over the years. Large ar­eas of flax and kowhai plus or­na­men­tals such as banksias, camel­lias and flow­er­ing cher­ries are on offer to them now.

Fresh from Eng­land, I re­mem­ber the first time I heard a tui bur­bling, cough­ing and wheez­ing its amaz­ing tunes, and thought it was some type of ex­otic bird in a cage. It’s a sound you never tire of and one guar­an­teed to put a smile on your face.

Other birds here in­clude Aus­tralasian har­rier, chaffinch, goldfinch, green­finch, more­pork, myna, spur-winged plover, quail, rosella, spar­row, star­ling, swal­low and yel­lowham­mer. We’ve also had vis­its from kak¯a¯ and New Zealand fal­con.

Also, with the Waikato River run­ning the length of our south­ern bound­ary, vis­i­tors may see king­fish­ers, mal­lards, pied shags and white-faced herons.

Dur­ing the early years of de­vel­op­ment, some of the outer and more nat­u­ral ar­eas were planted up with quick-grow­ing na­tives such as pit­tospo­rum and kanuka to pro­vide fast ef­fect. This re­sulted in limited bio­di­ver­sity, high canopy growth, and very limited ground­cover and un­der­storey growth. In­va­sive weeds, par­tic­u­larly trades­cantia, es­tab­lished and spread, smoth­er­ing the ground.

Sim­ply clear­ing the weeds and re­plac­ing them with na­tive plants such as hen and chicken fern, and paratani­wha have made a great – and heart­warm­ing – im­pact.

Com­mon prac­tice for gar­den­ers work­ing in the outer ar­eas where main­te­nance isn’t so in­ten­sive is to re­cy­cle larger material from tree work di­rectly onto the site. Care­fully po­si­tion­ing large limbs on the ground and al­low­ing them to decay en­riches the soil and provides habi­tat for in­ver­te­brates.

One of my favourite trees at Hamil­ton Gar­dens is an old and dead ma­ture pine.

Stand­ing half­way down a river em­bank­ment, safely away from foot­paths and to­tally sur­rounded by vir­tu­ally in­ac­ces­si­ble bush, this mag­nif­i­cent tree is host to a mul­ti­tude of in­ver­te­brates and sup­ports other life.

Pro­vid­ing the right habi­tat and food source is the key to suc­cess – for all wildlife. Hamil­ton Gar­dens has nu­mer­ous water fea­tures in­clud­ing a lake, pond and gul­lies. Be­sides be­ing at­trac­tions in them­selves, these sup­port pop­u­la­tions of na­tive long fin and short fin eels, and the jewel-like Aus­tralian green and gold bell frog. These stun­ning-look­ing am­phib­ians are of­ten heard be­fore seen, emit­ting a won­der­ful croak that sounds like a mo­tor­bike.

A sec­tion of low-ly­ing dense bush, perched on an em­bank­ment that re­mains wet through­out the year, is home to glow-worms.

A path runs along­side this area, lead­ing you through some bush fol­low­ing the river. For a de­light­ful early evening sum­mer‘s walk, you can‘t beat start­ing on the beach area of the river then wind­ing through the bush look­ing out for an­other spe­cial res­i­dent of Hamil­ton Gar­dens, the long-tailed bat.

Amongst the bush there are nu­mer­ous ma­ture trees, both na­tive and or­na­men­tal, that pro­vide ideal roost­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for these mam­mals. The host­ing tree provides cav­i­ties and gaps un­der the bark that en­able the bat to hide dur­ing the day.

I’ve no doubt that the won­der­ful dead pine stand­ing on the bank over­look­ing the river is a great refuge and highly prized.

Many peo­ple are sur­prised to hear that we have two na­tive species of bats in New Zealand.

They are the long-tailed and short-tailed. Long­tailed bats are de­light­ful small crea­tures weigh­ing be­tween 8g and 14g, and have a wing­span of about 250mm.

They are a joy to watch as they per­form in­cred­i­ble aer­o­batic and fly­ing skills in pur­suit of their prey. In­cluded in their diet are mosquitos and midges which, for my wife and the many other suf­fer­ers of those in­sect’s bites, gets those bats the big thumbs up.

As a large public park, Hamil­ton Gar­dens is a truly won­der­ful show­case of mankind‘s as­so­ci­a­tion with gar­dens, hor­ti­cul­ture and plants.

But look and lis­ten care­fully, and you will find many won­der­ful and amaz­ing ex­tras that you per­haps had not ex­pected.

Gus Flower is Hamil­ton Gar­dens’ Op­er­a­tions Man­ager.

Knigh­tia ex­celsa.

Elatostema ru­go­sum.

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