Saturday, 20 September 2014

Counting Birds - New Zealand's 10 most common forest birds

I've been subjected to some friendly teasing from friends and family, who find it amusing that I just spent 2 days on a bird counting course. "How hard can it be?" they laugh, counting off 1 - 2 - 3 on their fingers.
 One tui in a kowhai tree

I admit even I can see the amusing side. Picture this - a dozen adults standing in a rough circle not on a track or in a clearing but right in amongst the tree trunks, deep in the ferns, poked by branches, barely able to see a bird for the trees. Each clutches a clipboard. A series of strange scenes ensue. Eyes shut, ears cocked, they point in seemingly random directions. Then eyes open but utterly silent they turn their heads this way and that all the while scratching away with their pencils on the clipboards.

We were standing like this just metres from the path, a tramper walked past head down, a bellbird call trills out loudly from one of speakers our tutor has hidden, still he doesn't look up. What a fright he'd have got if he'd looked up and seen our silent coven standing still amongst the trees.

Deep in the forest - where are the birds?
I've put my teasers in their place, explaining that I was learning a special technique, used all over New Zealand -5-minute bird counts. We're counting all birds seen and heard in 5 minutes from marked locations to figure out trends in bird population and the health of the forest. Identifying their calls when they can't be seen is the biggest challenge. We used the DOC online bird identification tool and practised the calls of the 10 most common forest birds.

The 10 most common birds in the New Zealand forest:

  • tui
  • bellbird - korimako
  • fantail- piwakawaka
  • tomtit - miromiro
  • grey warbler - riroriro
  • rifleman - titipounamu
  • NZ pigeon - kereru
  • silver eye - tauhou
  • blackbird
  • chaffinch