Our writing competition closed on September 30th. Thank you to everyone taking the time to enter. The winning entries judged by Chris McLean and Rob Cross are as follows:
First place winning $100:‘Throwing Hedgehogs to the Wind’ by Gillian Candler
Second place winning $50: ‘Waikanae Estuary Care Group’ by Pat Menzies
Third place winning $30: ‘Starling in the Sanctuary’ by Renee Gerlich
Our thanks go to the judges for giving their time to judging this our first competition. Our congratulations go to the winners.
The winning entry is published below. This will be followed next month by the second placed entry.
Throwing Hedgehogs to the Wind By Gillian Candler
I’ve learned a thing or two from taking part in local conservation projects. “Don’t throw a dead, maggoty hedgehog into the prevailing wind” is the latest piece of wisdom I’d like to pass on from my trap monitoring experiences.
You might wonder why someone squeamish about flying maggots would take on monitoring traps. On the day I learned this lesson, I wondered that myself. But the truth is that I like a challenge and love to learn new skills. Early on in my conservation volunteering career I learned how to plant and pukeko-proof trees. I learned that children on a nature walk in any group larger than two will not stay together in the same place for more than a minute. And I learned that no matter how much plastic you pick up from the beach, there will sadly be more the next day.
More recently, I’ve tackled some new challenges. At Maara Roa in Cannons Creek I’ve learned to identify trees, harvest seeds and turn them into clay seed balls. I’ve learned that unlike disposing of dead animals, it’s fun to send seed balls rocketing away into gorse-covered areas via tennis racket. I’ve led groups of Forest and Bird trampers into places like the Wainuiomata water catchment area (and yes it rained hard the whole time, as it should in a water catchment) and the Maungakotukutuku forest where I managed to mislay a few fellow trampers. I’ve learned to fall gracefully on muddy slopes and spectacularly into shallow streams and that people use walking sticks for good reason.
I admire the people who drive our local conservation projects, their vision and ability to get people doing the most humdrum of tasks such as cutting milk cartons down to make plant pots. I admire the people prepared to take on the regular grind of managing nurseries or monitoring traps. So when the notice came out from Friends of Mana Island for volunteers to monitor traps just a short walk from my house in Pukerua Bay, I leaped at the challenge. I learned why we were trapping - to protect the native skinks and geckos, especially the rare Whitaker’s Skink. I learned how to open a trap safely and I successfully removed my first dead stoat.
And now I’ve learned to get over the cuteness of hedgehogs - they have voracious appetites and they love to eat our native skinks. That is how I ended up on a windy cliff, throwing a dead hedgehog into the wind.