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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.