By Pam Ferla
Nine-year-old Levon Baer-Harwood of Whenuakite spent an hour wandering around his family’s five-acre orchard recently taking note of the birds he saw. Along with ornithologist, Tony Wilson of Whitianga, he was one many nature-lovers taking part in the annual New Zealand Garden Bird Survey. The on-line survey invited people to record the number and species of birds they saw during one hour in their garden, marae, local park or school grounds. It took place between June 25 and July 3. When collated, the results help researchers identify trends in bird populations.
Walking between apple and orange trees and by “the big gum trees”, Levon recorded six fantails, one hawk, a kingfisher and a pheasant. When he hopped on his bike, a group of quail scurried by and their fast tiny legs made him laugh. “But the best thing”, says the enthusiastic Levon, “was suddenly spotting a Kereru only a couple of metres away. It was so close it startled me.” Levon is home-schooled by his parents Diana Baer and Roger Harwood. He says his favourite birds are fantails, and eagles because they fly so high.
Tony Wilson has been a professional bird-watching guide for overseas tourists. Along with his wife Carol Harker, he now runs their Mastercraft Kitchens business in Whitianga. Tony took time on a Sunday evening to do the survey and get a snapshot of bird activity in the area. He noted that there were few birds around during early evening but he did see some tui and a kereru heading off to roost for the night. “I have noticed over the last ten years that there has been a proliferation of the spotted dove, from being quite rare to being quite common around Whitianga.” His favourite New Zealand garden bird is the tui, especially at this time of the year. “This is because of its charismatic range of calls and exquisite colouring, the bird’s feathers are amazing.” Tony is enthusiastic about the national survey because it encourages people to take time out and appreciate birds in their neighbourhood, and is also an incentive for children to appreciate bird life.
Previous results: The good news coming from last year’s survey showed that nationally kereru numbers increased rapidly over the past five years (57%). Fantails were up 47% over the past 10 years and tuis have increased by 30% in that time. However, bellbirds show little change over the past five years and silvereye only a moderate increase. Statistics on introduced species such as song thrush, house sparrows, dunnock and chaffinch also show little change over the past five years.
Goldfinch have shown a shallow increase over 10 years and starlings continue to decline. Nationally there has been little change in myna counts, except in Wellington, where they have increased 202% in the past ten years.
Pictured: Levon Baer-Harwood (9) of Whenuakite enjoyed taking part in the national bird survey.