Friday, 28 March 2014

A night in the bush- kiwi calling

Last night I had the opportunity to go 'kiwi calling.' Another name for this is a kiwi survey.
Quite simply we were listening for any kiwi calls.

I spent a bit of time earlier this week listening to the 2 very different calls that kiwi make depending on their sex. Below are two links so you can hear the difference between them. (Thanks to DOC)

http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/conservation/native-animals/birds/kiwi-cd/male-ni-brown-kiwi.mp3

http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/conservation/native-animals/birds/kiwi-cd/female-ni-brown-kiwi.mp3


There were 9 of us that went last night, all volunteers that are involved with the kiwi work that is being done at Rotokare and surrounding area.
I was teamed up with kiwi guru Jenny. (You may have read about Jenny in my earlier post about my amazing kiwi experience.) 
The team met at the Eltham library and discussed our plan of attack for the night. We would be travelling not to Rotokare this time, but a piece of bush adjoining the reserve called the Totara Block.
This is an area of bush that is on private properties but is looked after by the local Forest and Bird Society. (I have put a link below so you can read more about what they are doing.)

http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/branches/south-Taranaki

Travelling into our spot was quite an adventure! A 30 minute drive mostly on gravel road. Then into a grunty 4 wheel drive up into the bush (glad I had my seat belt on and it was a pretty hardcore track. Then, when the track got too small for the 4WD we then hopped onto the back of a quad bike for another 10 or so minutes into our final spot.

Kiwi calling is typically carried out over a 2 hour period within the first 4 hours of the sun
going down. This is when kiwi are most vocal. A kiwi call can be heard over quite a large distance (up to a couple of kms in perfect conditions)
Jenny and I arrived at our spot about 7:45. We heard a lot of morepork in the next half hour. Darkness came about 8 (a little earlier than normal.)
Then we waited....
                          ...... and waited .......
                                                 ...................and waited......

Sadly for Jenny and I we heard no kiwi!  2 of the team did hear some though.
One was in the direction of Lake Rotokare and one was further south-east of where we were. The team were quite spread out around the edges of the Totara Block. As the night crept upon us it was neat to see the headlamps of our team around the ridges.

How the survey works is that a team of people are surrounding an area. If a kiwi call is heard, everyone documents the time, takes a compass bearing to where they heard the call and writes what type of call was heard. Then after the night finishes, all the compass points are triangulated on a map of the area. If everyone is correct with their bearings, a location can be determined.
The next step (if a kiwi needs to be captured for further monitoring) a kiwi catcher goes into the area and searches it for the burrow.

This is looking northwest from our spot. The bush on the ridge in the back is the edge of Lake Rotokare.
 
This is looking south west from our spot.
 
  
looking north from our spot. This country is rough!

Our spot for the night. After going prepared to sit on the ground for a few hours, we were pleasantly surprised to find a picnic table :)


The purpose of the night was really just data gathering. To see what was there or wasn't there. Hearing nothing does not mean that the kiwi are not there, just means we need to go back more and listen again. Kiwi calls have been heard in the area in the past. The Totara block is an area that kiwi may be released into in the future.  The forest and bird team are doing a fabulous job monitoring and trapping and doing their utmost to restore this piece of land to its original state.
This is another example of volunteers driving a project because of passion for the cause.

I really enjoyed spending the night in silence, sitting in the dark just listening. It certainly doesn't sounds like exciting entertainment on a Friday night but I can't wait for next time!

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