Thursday, 23 June 2016

Garden Bird Survey and Volunteer Week - Citizen Science at its best

Days, Weeks or Months that highlight different causes or ideas pander to our short attention spans, but if we only volunteer in volunteer week, not much would get done around the country! I'd like to think Volunteer Week gets people started, selecting a cause to volunteer with. There are so many deserving causes, there really is something for everyone, whether it is helping make breakfasts in schools , delivery library books to the housebound, patrolling a dangerous beach as a lifeguard or building rat traps.
Rat traps for gardens and parks in Paekakariki 

When I first started volunteering on conservation projects I thought I'd be mostly planting trees or weeding. Weeds are the number one issue for most community based conservation projects, so there is always weeding to do! As I got more involved I found that there were opportunities to volunteer in other ways too.
Volunteers building rat traps

While there is always the need for people to do hard physical work - removing pest weeds, climbing steep hills to monitor pest traps, digging holes for trees, building traps - there is also a need for people to get involved in the science side of conservation.  This is where Citizen Science comes in.

The Garden Bird Survey is one very well known example of ordinary people (citizens) giving up an hour of their leisure time to count birds in their gardens.

Get the whole family involved and kids start to realise that they can identify common birds. If they need help there is a guide here.

And plenty of New Zealand garden birds are depicted in 'In the Garden' and "In the Bush' too.

As kids (and adults) observation and identification skills improve, so does their confidence, and the sense of wonder about the natural world just gets bigger. Proving that the more you look, the more you see. If your family gets a taste for observation. there are many projects like this on a whole range of different topics.

Here are some true but crazy sounding examples of Citizen Science projects:
If you like to walk along the beach you can learn and help out with a 'large brown seaweed' citizen science project.

If you live in Auckland, you can look out for 'ladybirds', as a project to identify dangerous invading ladybirds has recently got underway. See Beware the Harlequin.

Not a harlequin but a native ladybird

And for rainy days, you could count penguins on Penguin Watch.

Two of the projects mentioned above use Nature Watch to record observations, Nature Watch is great for families and communities, you can set up your own projects in here too. You can read my blog about using Nature Watch here: NOTE 25.6.18 Nature Watch NZ is now iNaturalistNZ, you can see all of my observations at

More information
Volunteer Week runs from 19-25 June 2016.
The Garden Bird Survey runs from 25 June to 3 July 2016.

Bird Identification
NZ Birds Online:
Resources for schools

Follow my Pinterest Board to see other Citizen Science projects that catch my eye