So I finally started my new job with the Department of Conservation! This week was pretty exciting and the job is a dream! I get to work in Glenorchy, arguably one of the most scenic places in the world, and walk along trap lines or trails checking traps set for pests that are known killers of native birds. Sometimes the work is a bit gross as the traps could have been set off up to a month earlier and the dead rodents might be a bit rotten by the time you find them. Sometimes I even have to use a bit of bone identification/ forensics to figure out what kind of animal we caught. On an average day I am involved in fording a river with a Toyota Hilux, dropped off by a jet boat or even being flown in by a helicopter! Once we have been dropped off, the walks can take an entire day or even require overnight stays.

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Check out my ride to work!!!

Many of the first days have been spent asking questions, trying to soak up as much information about the local creatures and plants as I can. So many things are completely different. Robins here are not the robins I am used to, pigeons are gigantic and there are more species of duck than I ever knew existed. The trees and shrubs are all new and unidentifiable as an outsider. It can feel a bit overwhelming but I’m learning (and I can at least identify Canadian geese and seagulls!). I am also learning how to use radios, GPS, data loggers and navigation techniques. Thank God I am good with technology!

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The entrance to Routeburn, one of the popular “Great Walks”

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The backyard of the Routeburn falls cabins

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And the front porch view from the Routeburn falls cabins

The first day was spent filling out paperwork, getting uniforms and meeting a lot of new people. On day two it was straight into the job. I assisted a more experienced trap line Ranger on the Dart track, which was filled with amazing scenery and loads of obstacles from fallen trees to washed away trails. Overall the walk clocked in at about 18 kilometers! Luckily Wednesday was a little more relaxed with training and a meeting on how the structure of DoC works. There was even free pizza! On Thursday it was back to the bush and I was introduced to the friendly local sand fly, which is without a doubt is one of the most annoying insects to grace the earth with its presence. They can somehow track you down within minutes of stopping and relentlessly attack any piece of exposed skin to grab a bit of blood. Finally, on Friday within the first two traps I was swooped down on and attacked by a nesting Falcon. I thought I had something fall on my head and was genuinely surprised the bird didn’t kill itself with how hard it hit me. I even got this nice little talon slash on my head.

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But overall this job is amazing. I get a spectacular drive into and out of work every day. My work takes me on trails that most people come all the way here for and might only ever get to walk on once. I’m learning heaps of new info about so much of the flora and fauna around me. With every pest that is trapped there is a chance that some of the birds unique to this island will increase in population. And to top it all of I should be in pretty incredible shape by the end of the 6 months! For example I see things like this that are off the beaten path and no one else has access to!

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Somewhere in a gorge

The best part of Friday though was coming home. I was greeted by Tracey and some neighbors to start my birthday weekend. Tracey went out and bought streamers, a “Happy Birthday” banner and a bunch of balloons! Then I got the best birthday present ever, a video that Tracey somehow coordinated with friends and family. It definitely brought a tear to my eye and I still can’t believe how amazingly the whole thing came together. I am completely blessed to have such a great wife, friends and family! In case you missed it, here you go!

We even popped back out to the Dart track and did a bit of a photo session and river fording with a few of our neighbors! One of our neighbors, TJ, got me a 3L Camelbak for walking the trails and another got me some sand fly repellent to keep the pests away!

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River Fording!

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Somewhere on the Dart track

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The weekend was filled with fun and good times and I wish everyone from home could have been here to celebrate. A big thank you to everyone who made such an awesome weekend happen!

By Alex


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