New Zealand’s longest running citizen science Project, the Garden Bird Survey kicks off on the 27th June. It’s time to dig out your lucky bird-watching hat, pull on the woolly socks, grab a chair and a cuppa tea, and head into the garden to count birds.
This year’s Garden Bird Survey runs from 27 June to 5 July and birders across Aotearoa are hoping for the biggest turnout yet.
The results from last year’s Garden Bird Survey show positive signals for four native species. Increases in pīwakawaka / fantail, tūī and kererū have all occurred over the past ten years and accelerated in the past five years. Past data indicates a moderate decline in tauhou / silvereye is still apparent, yet has slowed nationally in the past five years to 2%. Retired researcher Eric Spurr, who started the survey 14 years ago, says the decline in tauhou / silvereye could be due to climate change raising the temperatures in gardens, meaning the birds are choosing to stay in the forest, where it’s cooler. Other survey results since 2009 show declines in counts of song thrush, goldfinch, starling and dunnock across Aotearoa. Combined information from surveys completed across Aotearoa New Zealand help to paint this picture of birds in our gardens – pretty important stuff!
Data is used in a variety of ways, including by regional councils, who use it to inform predator control and biodiversity programmes. Angela Brandt is a Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research Ecologist/Modeller with Ecosystems and Conservation. Her role in the survey is to coordinate and analyse the data. She explains, “We can see trends forming, and if needed, create alerts.”
In a quirky nod to today’s COVID-19 world, the science behind the count parallels the science behind the virus testing – data helps to develop a picture of the environment, so the more data, the better the big picture is. Data provides important puzzle pieces that researchers can then use to complete their research.
So the more people we get out in the gardens counting birds, the more we can understand not just our birds, but our whole environment.
The survey is easy to do. Choose a day between 27 June and 5 July when you have a free hour. Print off or download the tally sheet from the website (https://gardenbirdsurvey.landcareresearch.co.nz/) and head into your garden. You could also chose a school garden, or a park.
Look and listen for birds for that hour and record the highest number of bird species you observe. Head back to the Garden Bird Survey website and submit your results.
Over the past years, garden bird survey counters have become very social, with The Garden Bird Survey Twitter, Facebook and Instragram pages becoming packed with gorgeous bird photos – like these below:
Counting birds is also excellent for our well-being. People who do the Garden Bird Survey have repeatedly told the Garden Bird Survey team that they feel calm, refreshed, and entertained after taking part.
For Garden Bird Survey newbies who may need a little support on distinguishing their goldfinch from their touhou / silvereye, the Garden Bird Survey website has an extensive bird identification toolbox as well as support videos on how to complete the survey.
As well as completing the survey, there are lots of other fun activities for tamariki, including colouring-in pages, bird masks and a curious chocolate fish index. For teachers looking to include the garden bird survey into a wider inquiry on birds of New Zealand – check out the DOC – Manaaki Whenua education resource, Experiencing birds in your green space or the Kiwi Guardians – Toa Manu action medal.
So, what are you waiting for? Save the date and get ready to grab those lucky bird-watching socks, rug up and head into the garden and become part of our team of thousands of bird counters.