Bird watchers keeping close eye on gardens

RACHEL THOMAS
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2014

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June Sunkel's peanut butter cone does well to stand up against the rain.

The cone is a favourite snack for silvereyes that venture into the back garden of her Fitzroy home, and even the gloomy weather won't get in the way of feeding time for Sunkel's visitors.

She is one of several thousand Kiwis taking part in this year's Landcare Research Garden Bird Survey, which began last Saturday and runs till July 6. The survey is a citizen science project aimed at monitoring population trends of common garden birds.

"The [silvereyes] get peanut butter and mandarin - I have a cone hanging from a tree and I spread it with peanut butter every morning."

It's the third year Sunkel has taken part in the survey, and this year blackbirds, finches, silvereyes, starlings and mynahs were among the common visitors - but the most regular caller was no surprise.

"It's that same old sparrow," she said.

The house sparrow has been the most popular Waikato visitor every year since the survey began, with the silvereye in second place each time.

Sunkel said she's had an interest in bird watching since she lived in the Akatawara Valley, near Upper Hutt.

"That was where I noticed the different birds that you don't see in the city - and there were 31 different kinds of birds there and that's what started me off."

Survey organiser Eric Spurr, of Landcare Research, said wet weather might skew results slightly, but with the focus on long-term trends, there was no great cause for concern. "Birds do come out in the rain but might not be as active as they will be on a fine day. It might just be a blip in the system, and we hope the weather will average out over the years."

The survey asks participants to note birds visiting their garden over one hour.

Spurr said worms came to the surface during times of heavy rain, which could attract more bird types. "I'm no worm expert but I think the soil gets waterlogged which brings the worms to the surface, so people might see more blackbirds and thrushes in the wet weather." 

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- Waikato Times

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