Tauranga students learn by doing in the Waikawau Bay wetlands

Every spring Bay of Plenty Polytechnic students visit Waikawau Bay to help Moehau Environment Group monitor wildlife. The data collected informs us on what lives in our wetland and whether we are winning the war against rodents.

The Bay of Plenty Polytech students help to undertake fernbird, rodent & invertebrate monitoring within the Waikawau Wetland Project. The search for creepy crawlies sees them peering into pitfall traps, peeking inside tree-collars and under ‘Artifical Cover Objects’ (a flash name for a piece of corrogated iron reptiles like to hide under). The annual fernbird monitor involves the students listening for an hour at dawn and dusk, to record the number of fernbird calls heard at different sites within the wetland. Some sites are exciting, with birds calling almost constantly. Others are quieter, requiring patience from the listener. The overall trend has been positive with a dramatic increase in the number fernbird heard within the project.

When Moehau Environment Group first started trapping rodents in the project in 2006, a baseline survey counted 20 fernbirds. Rodents are known predators, and were believed to be causing the fernbird population to decline. Mice might seem harmless enough, but they take a heavy toll on smaller residents in a wetland, and rats are notorious predators of lizards, insects and birds. With intensive predator control ongoing, the fernbird population is once again thriving, with over 110 fernbirds counted in our last survey. Preliminary results from this years survey looks like we’re set for a record number of birds.

This September we hosted 21 students from the Polytechnic, with the trip counting towards field work for their diploma in Environmental Management. In total the students spend a week in the Northern Coromandel. They also get taught how to monitor North Island Robin up in Stony Bay.

Learn more about the Waikawau Bay Wetlands Project here.