Life out on the field pro­tect­ing the bit­tern

North Waikato News - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

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.

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