Bay of Plenty Polytech students visit Waikawau Bay

Every year a bunch of students come up from Bay of Plenty Polytech to help us monitor fernbirds, rodents & invertebrates in our Waikawau Bay Wetland project. This year we hosted 25 students, with the trip counting towards part of a 2 year diploma in Environmental Management.

So what does monitoring fernbirds entail? A few good sets of ears. The students are an invaluable resource- without them we would struggle to complete our Fernbird monitor, which requires synchronized listening by observers dotted around sites within the wetlands. The data they collect helps to tell us if we are winning the war against rodents.

The humble fernbird was what inspired Moehau Environment Group’s Wetland project in Waikawau Bay on the Coromandel. Members of our group had seen and heard less and less fernbirds over the years, so began trapping predatory pests in 2006 in the wetlands and saltmarsh area. As a consequence we’ve observed incredible increases in birdlife in the estuary. And it’s these years of hands-on experience which make resident ecologists Wayne Todd & Kathi Parr ideal tutors in monitoring techniques.


The humble fernbird (c) Crystal Arlidge

And thankfully, with less predators around, our fernbird population is once again thriving, with over 110 fernbirds counted in our last survey. We’re yet to analyse this years results, but it looks like our fernbird population is still really healthy.

The fernbird is an elusive little bird, which lives in low scrubby vegetation near wetlands. Extremely well camouflaged, and a bit shy, its likely a fernbird will be heard before it’s seen. The males and females live in pairs and make constant little “u-tick” calls to each other as they hop among the low-lying scrub.

In total the students spend a week in the Bay. They also get taught how to monitor North Island Robin up in Stony Bay. Their course is very hands on, and in their first year the group has already been on field trips to Ohakune and Tiritiri Matangi. We look forward to welcoming back a fresh set of students next Spring.