Bringing native birdsong back

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 12:44 20/02/2013
Clare St Pierre
Chris Hillock/FAIRFAX NZ

Green at heart: Volunteering has become a huge part of Clare St Pierre’s life in Pirongia.

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Eco-volunteer Clare St Pierre says everyone from teenagers to octogenarians can experience the kind of priveleges she has while working to bring native birdsong back to her mountain.

In the late 1990s she helped form what turned into the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society and she's now gearing up for the second phase of the robin release programme on the town's bush clad mountain.

And she's putting out the call for others to chip in.

Stooging through remote native bush rich in bird life and getting up close and personal with the country's avian treasures is part of her privilege, she says.

The other big one is the characters she rubs shoulders with.

''You're mixing with a lot of other people who want to make a positive contribution to the environment so the social side is really rewarding.''

The second phase of the robin release programme is about to kick in.

A handful of volunteers will take the first steps this weekend. The ultimate aim being to re-establishing the North Island Robin on Mt Pirongia.

Last year, 29 birds were successful re-introduced.  

But first the team has to tramp into the Mangatutu Ecological Area, located southeast of Otorohanga.

Then the wooing starts.

Volunteers walk through the forest trying to lure individuals out of the trees with meal and worms.

When they flitter out for a snack the location is marked.

The team will return to the same spot with more food, again and again, until they're confident they can arrive and capture their quota of 30 individuals.

Apparently 60 is the magic number required to establish a sustainable population.

The field work doesn't require specialist skills.

Instead, volunteers learn about wildlife translocation techniques in a remote forest full of wildlife.

The release schedule involves four stints for volunteers at Mangatutu and the society has taken care of accommodation.

And the more people, the better, Ms Pierre says.

The country is steep in places and walks can take up to two hours, but for the not so fit, there are easy, undulating tracks.

The days of bird capture and transfer are scheduled for around April 13 with help from professional bird translocation expert Paul Jansen.

The birds will be released in the society's pest control area, at the end of Grey Rd, Mt Pirongia, where low rat and possum populations should give them a high chance of establishing and breeding successfully.  

Returning the first robins to Mt Pirongia last year was something the society will always treasure, Ms Pierre says.

''We wish that the wider community be offered the chance to share in that experience.''

Follow the project on Facebook or call Selwyn June on 078433066 to get involved.

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