Life out on the field protecting the bittern
This week’s On the Job series features Department of Conservation ranger Kaitlin Morrison. ‘‘The other day, it was this deep [up to the waist] with the rain just bucketing down’’
While most are getting ready to settle in for the night, Kaitlin Morrison is out bird spotting.
But it’s not all for the sake of a hobby.
The Department of Conservation ranger has spent almost two years researching the bittern bird at Te Kauwhata’s Whangamarino Wetlands.
The wetland that spans over 7000ha is the second largest bog and swamp in the North Island.
Her work there is part of a programme to determine the bittern population in order to prevent extinction.
‘‘The last research they did in the 80s was that there was less than 1000 [in New Zealand].’’
She said a quarter of that was thought to be at the wetlands.
It’s one of the main projects she is involved with but part of Morrison’s job also includes the protection of other wildlife including the spotless crake.
While the role requires some desk work, the 27-year old gets really stuck in when she’s out on the field.
Sometimes she will dedicate a full two weeks to research.
The project has also included help from the community, mainly farmers, who have reported their sightings.
That is often by chance though as the brown feathered birds are hard to spot and are easier to detect by hearing their calls.
And those calls are more likely to happen before and after sunset.
‘‘I’m up at dawn and dusk, all sorts of weird hours... it takes a bit of getting used to at times but it’s quite cool seeing the wetlands at different types of the day.
‘‘A lot of what we do is at night time, we just have to sit here and listen to them.’’
So as part of the research, Morrison will return the next to day to study the same location where the birds were detected.
The team has developed a method of focusing on a two by two metre plot where the bird was found. A further four plots are studied a few metres north, east, south and west of that location.
Working in the great outdoors means there’s not much that will stop them from excursions.
‘‘The other day, it was this deep [up to the waist] with the rain just bucketing down.’’
Sometimes the rangers will have to use kayaks to navigate their way around, depending of the amount of rainfall.
On the odd occasion, there’s sometimes the need for a helicopter - one of those was to look for trespassing deer.
It’s been a long phase of the project and Morrison is excited for the next step of attaching transmitters to the bittern.
And while it isn’t a glamorous job by any means, there’s nowhere else she would rather be.