Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Weta.... take 1

A big part of the work I will do in my time at Rotokare will be monitoring weta. Two years ago, weta roosts (or hotels or houses) were created by lots of students in our area, volunteers and others that were keen. They were then put out into the sanctuary and left.
As I mentioned in another blog, weta are an indicator species- they tell us about the health of the bush that they live in. If there are no predators around, then the weta will thrive.
The monitoring I hope to carry out will help the staff at Lake Rotokare to know whether or not all the hard work is paying off.

Melissa and I ventured out this afternoon to start this monitoring. To be honest I was a little nervous about the concept of handling these wee critters!
As you can see from the photo, I had to have a lot of things with me. One thing I forgot to put in the photo was my headlamp .... this was still on my head!
The screwdriver is for opening the roost- these are screwed shut so that they can't be tampered with or fall apart. It ensures that the roost stays really dark (and we all know that weta like dark places!)
Please add a comment if you want to know what any of the other things are.

Melissa showed me how to carefully remove the weta from their roosts into a container for basic recordings. During the first few mintues in the container we can record, where we found them, was gender they are, what species they are and what life stage they are in.
Melissa opening a roost
Inside the roost
From the container to the bag, the easiest part of the job!

Then we move them into a plastic bag to do some measuring. My goal is to get confident enough to do this measuring without using the bag (the bag made it quite hard to see some of the smaller detail and provided lots of glare when using the headlamp.... which you needed to use when looking for the smaller detail!)
Using digital callipers to do precise measurements.

So we took measurements of the length and width of many body parts ... will post more photos and details in another post when I get some better pictures.

Once we had taken these measurements we carefully put the weta back into the roost, screwed it shut and moved onto the next roost.
Today I only checked 4 roosts and one of those the screw was too rusty to open. I only found single ladies in these roosts, so am hoping that next time I find multiple residents!
I imagine my heart will race a little the first time I open a roost and find more than 1 in there!

It was lovely working out in the bush on my own, I had a few visitors in the form of kereru and a very curious female tomtit. I was quite excited to start with when I saw the tomtit as I thought it might have been a North Island Robin (they are in the reserve but only in small numbers.) But alas, not this time, thanks to Mr Google I found out that no it wasn't a robin but in fact a female tomtit.

So an exciting afternoon. Can't wait for tomorrow's adventure!


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