Pastime of a bird nerd for Lens Artist’s Challenge #97

Sue at The Nature of Things set us this challenge this week.

‘With so much time being spent at home, many of us have been looking for new pastimes or taking up old ones in order to stay occupied or even sane. So that is my theme for this challenge – Pastimes. It could be something that you are trying for the first time or a hobby or interest that you have enjoyed for many years.’

I am lucky to live in the country surrounded by rain forest and rare native birds. One of my pastimes is membership of a conservation trust right here on our doorstep. The Manawahe Kokako Trust is a bunch of volunteers who got together in 1997 to save a declining population of kokako, a beautiful native song bird.

Kokako, blue wattled crow.

Our job is to remove mammalian predators; brush tailed possums, rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets, hedgehogs and feral cats in an area of about 250 hectares (620 acres). We fill over 500 bait stations 4 to 6 times a year and clear and rebait 70 traps every 2 weeks to a month. It’s a big commitment but our dedicated crew love getting in the bush and the rewards are huge. The kokako are still struggling but every other species is flourishing in the safer environment.

BBQ after working bee.1
Volunteers enjoy a restorative barbecue and debrief after a working bee.

Before humans arrived about 800 years ago, New Zealand was a bird paradise. Our islands were covered in forest and with no predatory mammals, birds foraged on the ground, some like kiwi even lost the ability to fly. But people brought with them rats and dogs and great swathes of forest were felled and burned for agriculture and development. In their infinite wisdom they introduced possums from Australia for a fur industry. The possums flourished on our more palatable plants and decimated large areas of the remaining forest. They also fed on eggs and chicks. After possums we brought stoats, weasels and ferrets and when the fur industry died, the cages were opened, releasing a plague of predators onto birds that had never seen anything like it before and had no idea how to protect themselves.

Korimako, bell bird wearing blue kotukutuku, tree fuschia pollen.

New Zealand is home to 168 species of native birds, 93 of which are found only in this country. A 2017 report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment found 32 percent of species are in serious trouble, 48 percent are in some trouble and the remainder are doing OK.

About 50 native bird species have become extinct since humans arrived in New Zealand.


Tui, parson bird in kowhai tree.

There are many, many small groups like ours in New Zealand freely giving up their time to help our endangered environments and species. Most of us are aged over 60 and at 62, I’m the baby of our group and by no means the fittest.

Bait stations are in some tricky places.

We tramp (hike) over steep, bush covered terrain, carrying up to 20 kg (44lb) on our backs because if we didn’t our forests would be silent.

A pot of salted rabbit for baiting traps.

Our Department of Conservation, the public service department of New Zealand charged with the conservation of our natural and historical heritage has been chronically underfunded for decades making volunteer groups so vital in the fight for a predator free New Zealand.

A tracking tunnel for counting rats.

My favourite place to be is in the bush with fellow Manawahe Kokako Trust volunteers and kokako singing above. Working bees can be exhausting but all that exercise is good for my health and the trust members have become close friends. What more could you ask for besides the reward of bird song coming back to our bit of bush?

Kereru, wood pigeon.

My thanks to Sue and the other Lens Artist’s Challenge hosts for their hard work and for keeping us connected.

Here are a few links to other articles and information that support this post.

Kokako information and song at NZ Birds Online.

Manawahe Kokako Trust Facebook page.

Some of my earlier posts about the Trust and it’s work.



  1. Thanks for all the work you’re doing in support of our very special wildlife Wendy, not only in all that effort outside but also through your blogging. I wish you good health and good weather!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Liz, it’s the most rewarding thing to do even with the setbacks we’ve had. The heartening thing is there’s an army of people out there doing it.
      We are very well thanks Liz but winter has come early and we’ve had sub zero starts all this week. Ouch. I wish you good health too and better weather than you’ve been having.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s amazing and important work you’re doing there Wendy, and your bird images are truly wonderful. I remember when we visited NZ and learned there were no natural enemies for most of the wildlife. How sad that that’s changed. Here on Kiawah we have a wonderful Conservancy. I served on their board for years and am currently co-editor of their magazine which is (patting my partner and myself on the back) really terrific. We are blessed with amazing wildlife here, including nesting sea turtles who return to lay their eggs on our beach every year. Dedicated volunteers patrol the beach in the pre-dawn hours to protect the nests from foxes and other predators. It sounds like their work is similar to yours. Anyway, good for you for your commitment. Great job!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Tina. You will know from your own work how rewarding it is. It’s those amazing experiences that leave you with a goofy smile and a warm heart that keep us keeping on. It’s wonderful to know there’s a world wide community of dedicated people saving our precious creatures for our grand kid’s grand kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love those birds! Thank you for the work you do to give them a fighting chance. BTW, one more thing we have in common from half a world away – I’m 62, too. Good year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful bird photos Wendy. Amazing one of the Kokako. Love it. Keep up the great conservation work. Hope to join you one day to see what you do. Time is flying by fast. I’m busy painting our kitchen which is keeping me out of trouble!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue. I neglected to mention the kokako is a stuffed and mounted bird I borrowed from DOC to do a talk to a school. 🙂 Good work doing the painting. But trouble sounds like more fun. Hope you’re both well xx


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