DO THE BASICS WELL
RAISING CALVES may seem very complex, and there is a lot of science and technical detail says Wendy.
“Best practice is very complicated, but best practice can also mean you want to do the best you can and sometimes that’s overwhelming, and it’s a hell of a lot of hard work. That’s why I say the basics are more important, to do them well before we worry about anything else. If your calves are in a draught or there is a build-up of ammonia, it doesn’t matter if you’re giving them a molasses block, a prebiotic or a probiotic or something fancy, you need to fix the basic problem first.”
• A small, plump, stocky, introduced game bird predominantly grey and brown, with a forward-curling black plume rising from the top of the head. The female’s crest plume is much smaller than the male’s. • Males have a black chin and cheeks edged with white and separate white ‘eyebrows’ which join on the forehead. The breast is blue-grey and the lower belly cream to rust brown with distinctive black scalloping shapes. • The female is slightly smaller, duller and browner with more subdued scalloping on the belly. • Common over the whole of New Zealand but less frequent in Westland and coastal Southland. • Found on the rough scrubby edges of rivers, inlets, forests, roads and rural gardens where good habitat include bracken, tussock grass, matagouri, gorse, blackberry, and lupins. • Breeding season runs from September to February – nests are a flattened grassy area often placed against a log or rock. • Eggs are beige with dark splotches and incubated by the female in 22 days. • Eggs hatch at the same time, partly achieved by the chicks calling to each other while still in the egg. • Bumblebee-sized striped chicks leave the nest as soon as they are dry, and are able to fly at just three weeks. • Consume seeds of many kinds, some fruit and leaves. • Feed mainly early in the morning and late in the afternoon, spending more time foraging when food is scarce, eg winter. • The young are initially fed insects. The call of the male california quail is distinctive. The calling bird is usually perched slightly above the surrounding area, on a post or branch, and has been described as sounding like ‘Chi-ca-go’, ‘Dick-vercoe’ or ‘qua-quergo’. In the autumn, family groups join up and stay together until late winter when the ‘covey’ (group of quail) breaks up into breeding pairs. Males can be very aggressive when courting and often fight each other. Courtship displays when attempting to woo a female include head dips, puffing up of contour feathers and spreading of the tail feathers. These birds are exceptional at cleaning up spilled seed beneath bird feeders. However, quail are notoriously shy and it can be challenging to attract them to even the most bird-friendly property. You can make your block more ‘comforting’ to California quail by: • sprinkling seeds near brush and shrubs or in a low broad ground feeder; • having water baths/drippers on the ground; • planting abundant, dense shrubs and thicket-like patches of vegetation where they can easily retreat to.
• About 17-20cm long, weighing about 26g (females) to 34g (males) • Males are olive green, slightly paler on the under parts, with a head tinted purple. • Females are browner with a narrow white-yellow stripe across the cheek from the base of the bill and bluish gloss on top of the head. • Most distinguishing feature are the winered eyes. • Found in native and exotic forest, scrub, farm shelter belts, urban parks and gardens throughout the North, South and Stewart Islands. • Almost completely absent on the mainland north of Hamilton, other than on Coromandel Peninsula. • September to February. • Nests are usually in the fork of a tree under dense cover, from near ground level up to 5m. • Clutch size is typically 3-4 and a pair can raise two broods in a season; eggs are pale pink with reddish spots and blotches. • Pairs return to the same breeding territory each year. • Feed mainly on nectar from many native and introduced plants, but in late summer and autumn they will eat fruit and berries. • Will also eat many insects and spiders by gleaning (collecting off) trunks, branches and leaves. ‘Hawking’ (catching prey in flight) is another method. • Young appear to be fed insects almost exclusively. The bellbird is quite an aggressive bird both territorially and when it comes to defending a food source. I once witnessed a very severe aerial ‘beating’ of a long tailed cuckoo at the hand of a bellbird – the cuckoo didn’t stand a chance. Most Kiwis can easily recognise the bellbird by its melodious song which comprises three distinct sounds resembling the chiming of bells and these can have regional ‘dialects’ just as people from different parts of New Zealand can have noticeable regional accents. It’s sometimes confused with the sound of the tui but the bellbird ‘voice’ is more ‘pure’ in tone. The bellbird loves nectar-rich plants: flax, kowhai, varieties of banksia, cabbage tree, bottlebrush, fushsia. Sugar and water in a feeder will also attract bellbirds.
• September to February • Nest built by the female high in the canopy, laying 2-4 white eggs with dark ‘splotches’. • Preferred diet is nectar and honeydew from plants such as kowhai, fuchsia, rewarewa, flax, rata, pohutukawa and gums. • In the breeding season, the diet is supplemented with large invertebrates such as cicadas and stick insects obtained by hawking (capturing while in flight) or by gleaning from the outside of trees. I think the tui has the most melodious song of all native birds, perhaps rivalled only by the bellbird. Another wonderful feature is its display flights. This involves flying upwards, high above the bush and then making a noisy, speedy, near-vertical dive back into the canopy. Note: don’t do as Captain Cook did – it’s illegal! Their top six favoured plants are kowhai, mountain flax, cabbage tree, mountain five-finger, ngaio and tree fuschia. Bird feeders are also a great way to provide a regular food source of sweetened water for tui which will keep coming back. A sugar/water ratio of 1:8 or 1:10 is ample – any stronger and you run the risk of attracting bees and wasps – and never use honey as it spoils quickly and can make birds ill. Keep the water clean by replacing it regularly.
• Males are similar in size to a house sparrow, with the females being a little smaller. • Males are brightly coloured with brickred breasts and chestnut mantles (back), greyish-blue crown and nape, wings black with a prominent white wing-bar and shoulder patch. • Females are dull brownish-grey but with similar wing markings to the males. • Widespread throughout the New Zealand mainland, Chatham Islands and Stewart Island. • Occupy a wide range of habitats such as pine and other exotic forests, indigenous forests, sub-alpine scrub and are common in gardens, parks, orchards and farmland. • September to February, when they will become quite territorial. • 3-6 pale blue to greyish eggs with red and dark brown spots are incubated by the female alone but both parents feed the chicks. • Feed predominantly on seeds in winter, including tree seeds, and a variety of other seeds taken from on or near the ground, eg cereals, fat hen, chickweed, dandelion. • Chicks are fed almost entirely on invertebrates (eg flies, beetles, moths, caterpillars, aphids and spiders) and a large proportion of the adult diet also consists of invertebrates during the breeding season. The chaffinch is the most common and most widespread of New Zealand’s introduced finches.
During wildlife and bird photography forays, my observations are of a fairly shy, aloof bird that prefers to avoid the fierce competition that other backyard birds like the sparrow get involved in. That said, outside the breeding season, chaffinches will often ‘mob up’ and live together in small flocks, sometimes pairing up with other species of finches and occasionally with others like fantails or silvereyes.
The male chaffinch has to work to get his girl. He becomes very territorial establishing his ‘patch’ in late July to early August and then sings his heart out. Females will visit his home turf and when she eventually likes what she sees and hears, will form a pair bond with the resident male. Unfortunately, he isn’t always rewarded with fidelity and loyalty after his hard work as the female may leave the territory during nestbuilding and mate with other males in territories nearby. Seeds, seeds and more seeds. This is probably the key to attracting these relatively shy birds. Leave an area to go to ‘fallow’ in your garden which will feed chaffinch and many other species of birds.
One of their favourite foods is sunflower seeds. They will take seeds scattered on the ground and pluck seeds from the flowers themselves. Next time you’re thinking about putting some colour into your property, perhaps consider planting some vibrant sunflowers for the chafffinches. n
dangers to children in their environments in the same way we always have. Appropriate supervision of youngsters is always required, no matter the laws around responsibility for accidents. You don't want them drowning, even if you do have a properly fenced waterway that complies with health and safety rules.
As owner-operators without staff, people on small blocks are less exposed to the risks of having other people on the property. We don't need to supervise staff who "know better" and refuse to wear safety equipment as provided or can't or don't follow instructions.
If you get a contractor in to do any kind of heavy work, your obligations are to know and outline to them any hazards which exist where they will be working. You must also be sure that the person you have contracted to do the job has the appropriate skills. For instance, you would not contract someone with more money than sense and a shiny new digger who's never built a road, to create a track alongside a steep drop into a swamp. At best you'll probably get a poor track; at worst, a digger in your swamp, possibly with an injured driver inside.
People you contract to do work are responsible for their own health and safety plans, however you must confirm that they have one. They must, like anyone working on your land, report any hazards they discover and any accidents while they're on your property.
You must outline your emergency procedures too: • can they contact you by mobile phone from where they're working? • what is your RAPID number in case they need to call for assistance?
We cannot afford to treat ourselves and our own safety carelessly. Injuries are rarely minor events. Even the smallest cuts or knocks can slow you down for a couple of days if you hurt some part of your body you use all the time. Major injuries to joints, bones or the spine can take months to heal and even longer to restore to previous comfort. Sometimes that won't be possible and you'll have to live with the ongoing consequences of the actions of a moment. If that moment could have been avoided by an action you didn't take, living with the resultant injury's effects can be a bitter experience of regret.
Even if nobody is hurt, incidents which cause equipment to break or be damaged are often inconvenient and generally costly to repair. While you might think that's what insurance is for, insurance never restores all the time you take to fix things or the time lost on the job you were doing.
For me the purchase of a farm bike several years ago automatically necessitated buying a helmet, even for the very moderate speeds I might reach around the farm. I've banged my head once since, when I flew into a ditch. I'm glad I had the helmet on; I was hardly hurt at all, but I do remember feeling the cushioning in the helmet as my head banged back on the ground.
If something awful does ever happen, you will need to demonstrate your usual good practice. For example: • do you keep your tools and machinery well maintained? • have you identified and dealt with any hazards around your property? • do you remove the keys from vehicles and ensure children do not have access to farm machinery? • do you always wear appropriate safety equipment when working?
Farming is one of the most dangerous industries and whether it's your 'real' job or something you do for pleasure, many of the risks are the same. Being badly injured will put a stop to everything you do, work and pleasure, regardless of whether you were being paid when you hurt yourself.
There have been floods of letters to the editors of the farming newspapers outlining people's resistance to the new legislation. We're all such independent sorts, those of us who choose to get out of the way of employers and work for ourselves, that restrictions on how we work are unwelcome intrusions. But everyone ends up paying for accidents and serious injuries. We all contribute to ACC and the health system and some people who are unnecessarily injured will spend what remains of their constricted lives being dependent on the care of those organisations and it is that burden which will be reduced by attention to the prevention of injuries and accidents. Not to mention the reduction of the personal, human cost.
It's challenging having a new mindset imposed by legislative change but the aims are positive for all of us.
Next month I'll work through the process of setting up a Farm Safety Plan.