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Citizen Science Month 2019 - Bird Counts Kaipatiki

Finally all the results of August’s Citizen Science Month are in! A big thank you to all the volunteers who got involved and monitored reserve chew card lines, and to those of you at home and on the streets who reported weeds, bird counts, created photopoints and registered an interest in monitoring the health of our streams

Across the month 95 volunteers gave a whopping 265 hours of monitoring time. Their contribution to science helps us target campaigns and action for the care of certain areas of our Kaipātiki landscape.

You can read the results of each monitoring topic in our PFK blog (there are four), and if you want to get further involved and take action – all the information you will need to get started is in the blog on our website.

Pest Free Kaipātiki Restoration Society is committed to protecting and enhancing all forms of our native biodiversity through pest control and restoration. Birds are at the top of most people's list when they think of making our neighbourhoods a wildlife haven. For them to flourish we need to do three things as is the mantra of the North-West Wildlink; create Connected habitat (i.e plant natives for food and homes), create Safe habitat (i.e free from predators) and create Healthy habitat (free from the pressures of invasive weeds). But how will we know we if we are gaining towards our goal? Observations are a great start, but if you really want to track how we are doing (and have some enjoyable time out in the bush), we can monitor birds through five-minute bird counts. Anyone can do these with or without experience, and this year was incorporated into Citizen Science Month.

A massive thank you to our funders and sponsors who provided spot prizes for participation and volunteering awards. Our thanks to the Kaipātiki Local Board, Auckland Council including the Research and Evaluation Unit and Birkenhead Licencing Trust for making Citizen Science Month possible. Thank you Kaipātiki Project, Bunnings Warehouse, New World, Key Industries, 100 Percent New Zealand, Te Ngahere, Samsung and Andrea Reid from Pollinator Paths for your generosity!


What do we already know

RIMU (Auckland Council's Research and Evaluation department) conduct a variety of surveys of the environment in Kaipatiki - including bird counts.

34 scientifically random locations are monitored in reserves, and a total of 102 five-minute bird counts (5MBC's) are conducted by professional contractors. The 'top 15' bird species in Kaipātiki Local Board reserves are as follows:

^ Image above: Data summaries of the relative abundance of birds from 102 5-minute bird counts. * indicates exotic species

The most recent bird counts have reported astonishing results. From the graph below, you can see that the counts for 2018 were unusually high - at least in the context of the two previous years. Birds across the board have seen an increase in the number of detections for both native and exotic bird species.

^ Image above: Number of bird detection's per count - 2018 went through the roof!

5-minute bird counts use 'detections' (not necessarily density), and 'conspicuousness' is another way of thinking about how 5MBC's work. Some birds are more conspicuous than others (i.e grey warbler vs tui), and will therefore register a higher 'density' than more cryptic species.

It is also possible that weather patterns that cause birds to be more active will make them easier to detect and therefore there will be a visible 'increase' in conspicuousness.

Nevertheless, digging deeper into the data, RIMU have found that while there is some variation from species to species (i.e probably conspicuousness), all seem to have increased by 3 to 4 times what was reported in previous years!

More analysis is recommended to compare reserve bird counts with areas where predator control is ongoing.

So what has caused this increase? Numerous factors could be in play, particularly the warm and wet weather in spring last year, flowing onto a booming feeding and breeding season. We have all since seen the affects of the nations 'Mega-Mast' where climatic conditions have promoted our native forest to produce a great deal of seed and fruit. This is fantastic for our native wildlife, but as you will have heard - also the pest animals that prey on this wildlife. Here in Pest Free Kaipatiki, with the results of the recent Chew Card survey, we hope that in part these results are being boosted by the great work volunteers are doing trapping or baiting predators.

Next year, the counts will help paint a clearer picture whether this was a one-off event, or if things are looking up permanently. With more sampling and data points we will know. In the meantime, Citizen Scientists can help further....


Citizen Science 5-minute bird counts

This year, we incorporated 5MBC's into the Citizen Science Programme. The aim each year will be to encourage as many people as possible to create a monitoring point in their backyard or a reserve - and do a 5 five minute bird count there during Citizen Science Month. PFK will collect the results each year and feed this information back to the community.

You can be a complete beginner to get involved, as everyone gets better with practice. Your skills on identifying birds by sight or by the calls they make will improve faster than you think. All data is useful, and will only become more robust as time goes on.

You can conduct a 5MBC at any time during the year by the way for your own interest! Learn how by reading our guide here.

The following introduced species spotted during the survey window were:

^ Image above: Top left: Eastern Rosella, Starling, Spotted dove, Myna, House sparrow, Blackbird (male and female)

^ Image above: Kōtare - Sacred kingfisher, Spur-winged plover, Tauhou - silver-eye, Southern black-backed gull, Red-billed gull

^ Image above: tūī, riroriro - grey warbler, pīwakawaka - fantail, Black-billed gull

Wildlife Photography challenges

The challenge is on! We challenge you to get out and about Kaipatiki, and be the first person to photograph of one of our target species, and submit it to us at anytime after the 28th July 2019. There are some fun little prizes to be won all in the aim to encourage people to get out there, spot and enjoy finding our native taonga.

Congratulations to Kimiko Sugimoto and her son for being the first to photograph a Kārearea (New Zealand Falcon)!

^ Image above: Example of the magnificent Kārearea - capable of flying at speeds over 100km/h. Their diet includes insects, mammals and lizards, but mostly other birds. They presence would indicate increasingly healthy ecosystem where many forms of native biodiversity are themselves increasing in number. They are at risk from habitat forest clearance, stoats, hedgehog and cats that can access their on-ground nests.

The challenges are still open for:


Miromiro (North-Island Tomtit)

Pekapeka (New Zealand Bat)

^ Image above: All the three above species have been rumoured to have been seen near Rangatira reserve in Kaipatiki


What more can we do to help bring back the birds?

If you want to see flocks of kereru in the skys, kaka visiting the trees in your backyard, fantail and grey warbler singing to you while you bush walk - or see some of the rare species like tīeke (Saddleback) in Kaipatiki - there are a few things you can do to make this happen! If we all work together we can make this a reality.

1) Create SAFE spaces for wildlife through trapping or baiting predators. Predators like rats, mice, hedgehog, possum, stoats and even stray cats were bought to New Zealand by people. Before then, our native wildlife had grown up and evolved without the need to escape from them, were often flightless, curious or had no defense against hunters on the ground.

Making a contribution can be simple - Look after a trap or bait station four times a year in your backyard, or volunteer to join a roster and check traps in a nearby reserve!.

2) Create HEALTHY spaces through weed control, so our forests can continue to grow and produce food and homes for birds. Get stuck in at home or as a volunteer in a reserve. Help is available from Pest Free Kaipatiki.

3) Create CONNECTED spaces by planting natives, planting year-round food for birds AND creating artificial homes for nests while our large trees are growing.

^ Image above: Auckland forests currently have a lack of big, decaying trees that in a forest environment provide important homes and sources of food for wildlife. Top left: decaying standing trunk, sacred kingfisher hollows in decaying standing tree, kaka nest in hollow tree, Kākāriki nest in hollow trees.

The large and old trees many of our native birds require for nesting have simply been removed by logging in the past, for urban development or because dead standing trunks are a health risk. So what can we do? We can plant large specimens that are missing due to felling like kahikatea, tōtara, rimu and kauri but these take hundreds of years to get to the size many birds would require. So what else?

  • Spread the word about the benefits of saving old trees and adding trees to the tree register

  • Utilise trees about to be felled or big old pine trees (invasive species) and re-create artificial hollows

  • Construct bat roosts (The Living Tree Co. are involved with this)

  • Construct Kākā and other artificial nest boxes

  • Use wireless transmission cameras in conjunction with these artificial homes to track success (or failure)

  • and lastly........ conduct lots of PREDATOR CONTROL!

^ Image above: Artificial Kākā nest (men's shed design) and Living Tree Co. re-utilising trees to create artificial hollows


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