Danger in the Bush

102_4313Kokako Following, Day 7, Fine & calm, 4 degrees.

Tools of the trade – warm clothes, back pack, binoculars, notebook, pen.

I have come to the conclusion that I am crap (excuse my language) at this job. The birds were silent this morning from 5.30 to 9.15. Tui kept me hoping with their constant back and forth (it’s easy to mistake them for kokako when they’re high in the trees) and I was positively harassed by toutouwai, (bush robins) but not a peep out of the kokako. Those hours drag when there isn’t much happening.

At 9.15 a bird sang briefly across the stream. It didn’t come any closer so at 10  I went home and sat in the sun for a while, warming my fingers on a cup of coffee.

Sitting, waiting for something to happen is a great time to ruminate. This morning the topic of choice was the health and safety hazards of bird following. Uppermost must surely be the danger of hypothermia. Even though I wrap up in thermals, track pants and beanie, the very nature of the job, sitting on the ground and listening, means the cold seeps in from the bottom up and with the temperature in single digits, it reaches the top quickly. Even a waterproof pad can’t insulate your bum completely from the cold, hard ground. A sore bum is probably the next most common hazard.

Aside from the normal danger of slips and trips, at 5.30 in the morning, the bush is still bathed in gloom adding another level of risk. And when you’re following birds, eyes to the sky there is the danger of walking into trees or holes or giant stopping spider webs and falling over logs or rocks or cliffs. And there is the danger of a permanent kink in your neck from all that looking skyward.

There is the danger of falling asleep on the job after all those early get ups, the danger of sitting too close to a wasp nest in the gloom (has happened) or having spiders and other creepy crawlies invade your clothes. A beanie helps keep them out of your hair but they can wriggle into your boots and up your jumper through the smallest gap.

The ultimate hazard though is that, after days and days of sitting and listening, going to work starts to look like a better option. Sigh! Another day tomorrow.


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