The past week has been a perfect opportunity for any of you wildlife watchers, nature nerds or conservation voyeurs out there - thanks to the annual Garden Bird Survey
run by Landcare Research and supported by Forest & Bird and the NZ Ornithological Society.
The brainchild of Canterbury Landcare Research scientist Eric Spurr, the survey has been running since 2006
. It is a fantastic wee exercise
, whereby people are encouraged to spend just one hour (that's two episodes of the GC and far more rewarding!) between June 30 and July 8 counting and recording the types of native birds they find in their backyard. That means there's still a few days left to have a go at counting how many kinds of birds you might find in your little patch. There's a nice set of piccies collected so far by Landcare Research here
I thought I'd help kick it off by listing the kinds of birds I've seen in my little corner of the world in Woodend, North Canterbury. Of course, I can't count this as part of the survey, because the idea is that you pick a one-hour window and then document whichever birds appear during that time. However, for the sake of moving things along, here's a rundown of birds we've encountered in our backyard.
We get the usual suspects in introduced birds of blackbirds, sparrows and occasionally thrushes. The sparrows have a grand old time trying to steal chook food off our chickens. We also get the odd starling. A month or two ago, I came home and there was a canary hanging out in the front yard. I felt a little sorry for this brightly coloured fellow, as he was obviously an escaper, and was very tame. I put out some birdseed mix for him, sighted him half a dozen more times that evening, and then he was gone (hopefully not into the gullet of one of the many neighbourhood cats, she said cynically). Pet escapers don't cope too well in the wild, and I have a feeling his lifespan was probably reduced dramatically after his daring escape.
When it comes to the native variety, for a fairly homogeneous landscape (we are on the Canterbury Plains after all), we do see a few native birds. My favourite native bird is the fantail or piwakawaka (something to do with them being small, bold, cheeky and rowdy, I suspect?). They tend to appear around home about April/May, flitting about the house and making their wonderful "kissing noises" racket. I was a bit worried that last year's snow storms might have wiped most of them out in my neck of the woods, but back they came, to my delight.
We have an abundance of silvereyes, and many more when we remember to put up our home-made winter birdfeeder
. We hear and occasionally see the tiny grey warbler or riroriro, which weighs about the same as two 10-cent pieces. Today I heard a shining cuckoo
, and in December I spotted the shiny blue-green plumage in the silk tree in the front yard as it it practised its whistling scales (reminiscent of a farmer calling his sheepdog).
I'm not sure if you can count flyovers, but we have harriers, canada geese, ducks and often in summer I hear the distinctive call of the spur-wing plover.
Apparently some of the lucky people who have already filled in their surveys have reported kaka, hihi and even kokako - (not sure where those people are living, but I want to move there!). My list might be meagre in comparison, but I do get a real kick out of seeing native birds in my backyard.
What about you guys, what's your favourite or most unusual backyard visitor (of the bird variety!)? Have you filled in the survey yet? I want to hear all about it (and put your piccies on the In Our Nature Facebook page).
The National Garden Bird Survey started on Saturday (June 30) and runs till July 8.
Tell your friends/family about it or mention it on Facebook or Twitter – #gardenbirdsurvey. The online survey form is here and more info is here