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Bushy Park Sanctuary

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Photograph of tui: Paul Willyams

Bushy Park is a Top 25 Australasian Ecological Restoration Project situated north-west of Wanganui. Bushy Park's lowland rainforest is highly valued for biodiversity conservation. The reserve is surrounded by a pest-proof fence constructed in 2005. Since then, all mammalian predators, other than mice, have subsequently been eradicated. Mice will probably never be completely removed, so the emphasis now is on controlling their numbers below a level where they could severely affect the success of other species in the forest ecosystem. At the same time, they serve as a major food source for morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae), which might otherwise prey excessively on native birds and reptiles.

It is one of the largest of 85 protected natural areas in the Manawatu Plains Ecological District. Most of the park comprises temperate lowland rainforest with rimu, (Dacrydium cupressinum), northern rata (Metrosideros robusta), kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides), tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa), pukatea (Laurelia novae-zelandiae), hinau (Elaeocarpus dentatus) and miro (Prumnopitys ferruginea) being the dominant canopy and subcanopy trees. Forest in the moist valley floors is dominated by pukatea and tawa, often with a dense understorey of tree ferns (6 species have been recorded), supplejack (Ripogonum scandens), kiekie (Freycinetia banksii), nikau palms (Rhopalostylis sapida), and abundant seedlings. Drier ridges have tawa, hinau and northern rata. The understorey is less dense than in the valleys and is dominated by broad-leaved shrubs.

About 14 native bird species and 10 introduced species are recorded regularly in and around the forest. The most frequently recorded species during a recent series of 5-minute bird counts were North Island robin (Petroica longipes), grey warbler (Gerygone igata), and North Island saddleback (Philesturnus rufusater), which together made up more than 50% of all individuals recorded. The apparent abundance of robins is not surprising as, apart from being common and widely distributed throughout forest, their habit of approaching people probably biases this impression of abundance upwards. In contrast, grey warblers, which were particularly vocal at the time of the survey, making it easier to detect them, are small and tend to forage high in the canopy, meaning that any birds present and not calling could go undetected, biasing their numbers downwards. Saddleback, the third-most commonly recorded species and one that is readily detected because of its noisy behaviour, neither always approach observers nor move away, so the numbers recorded were probably a reasonable reflection of this speciesí overall abundance in the forest.

Six other species made up a further third or more of all individuals recorded: fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa); wood pigeon or kereru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae); bellbird, (Anthornis melanura); tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae); tomtit (Petroica macrocephala); and silvereye (Zosterops lateralis). The numbers of kereru fluctuates considerably through the year, with up to 300 birds being recorded at times, feeding on planted tree lucerne (Chamaecytisus palmensis). The abundance of these archetypical New Zealand forest species is a testament to the relative ecological integrity of the forest.

The other notable feature is the comparatively low frequency of non-native species in the forest, including song thrush (Turdus philomelos), blackbird (Turdus merula), starling (Sturnus vulgaris), chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), and Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen). These species are common on the forest fringe and homestead garden, however. Eastern rosella, (Platycercus eximius), in contrast, was encountered well inside the forest, as is a small flock of sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita).

The Bushy Park Farm was established in the mid 1860's at Kai Iwi, a farming district north of Wanganui on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island.

The farm prospered and by 1890 was a significant property but during the 11 years from 1891 to 1902 all the family died except the youngest son, George Francis (Frank) Maitland Moore as the sole survivor. He commissioned Charles Tilleard Natusch to design a house and what is now the Bushy Park Homestead was completed in 1906.

During the late 1950s Frank Moore gave the forest to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and shortly before his death in 1962 he also gifted the Homestead. In 1995 the administration changed. The Society retained ownership of the forest and formed a Trust to administer the Homestead.


(page last updated  13 May 2013)