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Annual backyard science survey is saving the birds

Become a citizen scientist and have fun researching the birdlife in your backyard with the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research New Zealand Garden Bird Survey this year.

The annual survey takes place this year between Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 8, and birdwatchers from all walks of life are invited to take part. Simply pick a day, grab a comfy chair, sit back for an hour and record the birdlife.

Whaingaroa Environment Centre coordinator Stacey Hill says the aim of the garden bird survey is to learn more about New Zealand garden birds and track population changes, which can signal environmental changes. 

“The survey only takes an hour of your time. I think it’s a great way for families to take some time to sit in the garden, connect with their environment and watch the birds – it’s really grounding.”

Local conservationist Danny Parker has come on board to support the survey in Whaingaroa after noticing changes in his own backyard birdlife following pest control work.

“The wildlife that has evolved in New Zealand is unique and can never be replicated. I’ve trapped over 100 rats in the past three years in my quarter-acre section. It was awesome to see a tūī fledgling for the first time in years.”

Keen birdies are also invited to join a bird identification workshop this Saturday, June 30 from 3-5pm at the community gardens behind the police station in Wi Neera St.

WEC has enlisted local bird expert Mark Hornby to share his avian knowledge with locals eager to make a difference for the birds.

Stacey says the bird identification workshop will help people interested in participating in the survey to identify their backyard birds.

“Most people will be able to identify a tūī and fantail but they might struggle with some of the other species. Mark is a great source of knowledge.”

The environment centre has check sheets available to assist with the survey and Stacey says attending the bird ID workshop is not a requirement to participating in the survey but it will be a lot of fun.

Participants can either enter their results online at gardenbirdsurvey.landcareresearch.co.nz or take them in to WEC to be recorded – for more information email envirocentre@whaingaroa.org.nz or pop into the centre at the Raglan Town Hall.

Janine Jackson

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Birds are ‘backyard   barometers’

Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research scientists believe our neighbourhood birds act as “backyard barometers” to the health of our environment and say declining numbers of our most common backyard bird the silvereye may be due to the warmer winters brought on by climate change.

Since the survey began in 2007, the silvereye’s population has declined nationally by nearly half and among other native species, tūī counts have shown a slight increase over the 11 years, while fantail and bellbird’s population have remained the same.

Researchers say even the decline of introduced birds is signalling change in our urban and rural environments we need to better understand.