Fascinating bird life

As there’s a bit of interest in bird watching here I have a question. I observe quite a lot of bird life where I live, and have a sugar water bottle feeder that is frequented by tui and bellbirds. I have just seen a bird that at a glance looked like a tui -but after a closer look I don’t think it can have been.

It was about the right size and colour (black), but it looked a bit different shape, and in particular it had no white throat feathers. Instead it had a greyish collar. Does anyone know what that could be?

We have regular visits from tui and bellbirds. Just before seeing the strange visitor this morning I refilled the water bottle, and when I went out to mount it there was a bellbird sitting on the platform, and when I was about 3 metres away it let rip with typical birdsong – it was amazingly loud for a small bird.

Other birds around here – we have smatterings of thrush and pairs of blackbirds, plus frequent flocks of starlings (I have largely discouraged them from nesting in the roof). Also small birds like finches and wax eyes.

Each evening at the moment a bunch of sparrows hang around our grapevine, I think they mist be attracted by insects.

We have occasional visits from fantails, also after insects.

We are on the harbour flight path of seagulls – I like seeing them flying overhead (I detest them scavenging but they don’t do that here).

Hawks regularly soar along the bush line of the hill we face, but lately have been speeding past as a couple of magpie have taken residence nearby. It’s cool watching magpie harassing hawks, but as they tend to discourage other birds too I will have to move them on.

We periodically get paradise ducks flying over, and they sometimes hang around.

Kereru are often passing by or perching and feeding – we have quite a few trees near us. They sometimes swoop right overhead, they don’t seem to have any fears.

From time to time we get eastern rosellas visiting, sometimes two or three, occasionally a flock. They can be quite raucous. I think that Dunedin is one of the few places they frequent.

Less frequent visitors are oyster catchers and herons.

I haven’t seen any morepork but hear them occasionally at night.

All of this is observable from our living room. And they can make quite a lot of mostly nice noise, especially early in the day but through the day as well.

It is fascinating watching the variety of bird life co-existing with us in our neighbourhood.

We have a cat that occasionally catches birds, but their numbers have been increasing since we have been here so don’t seem adversely affected overall.

1080 and Protecting Paradise

Probably like most people I’d prefer poisons weren’t needed or used. But I use rodent poison, because rat and mice infestations make a mess, and a cat or two isn’t enough to keep them away.

The same applies to 1080.  I’d prefer it wasn’t used but the alternative, not using it, is worse.

New Zealand uses about 90% of the world supply of 1080. On the surface this sounds bad for us, but there’s a good explanation. 1080 is only effective against mammals, and much less toxic to birds, reptiles, insects, amphibians and other creatures.

Unlike just about every other country New Zealand has hardly any native mammals (a few bats) so a poison targeting mammals (especially rodents, ferrets, stoats and possums) can be a very effective way of tipping the balance back towards native species.

Deer can be affected by 1080, so it’s use annoys deer hunters.

1080 is a salt so disappears into the ecosystem very quickly.

This and more is explained in a Herald interview 1080: Finding the facts in a poisonous issue with science writer Dave Hansford, who has just published a book, Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s wildlife. Potton & Burton, RRP $34.99

…I’d been writing about pest control off and on for 15 years, and it became ever-more frustrating that the same old myths and misinformation about 1080 just kept on orbiting the national conversation.

They’re all so easily debunked…

I went to the Coromandel to witness a 1080 operation for myself.

I spent a few days afterwards combing the bush looking for all the death and destruction – the slaughter of native birds etc – that activists insist happens after every drop.

I never found evidence of any, despite going off-track with a GPS and conducting long grid searches and bird call counts at different locations.

Toxicity

One look at the toxicology studies tells you that’s untrue: some kinds of animals are more sensitive to 1080 than others.

It’s highly toxic to mammals, and unfortunately, dogs are the most acutely susceptible.

Birds are much less so.

Some invertebrates appear to be quite sensitive to 1080, depending on circumstances, while others – like worms – seem not to be bothered at all.

The same with aquatic invertebrates.

Reptiles are very resilient to 1080, as are fish – and the Cawthron trout research proved that – and it’s practically impossible to kill amphibians.

Water dilution

Some people also worry about what 1080 does once it lands in water.

The answer to that is that it begins to dilute, very quickly – it’s a salt, after all.

So much so that water testing generally has to be done within eight hours – and ideally sooner – if it’s to find any meaningful traces at all.

Out of more than 3000 tests from waterways in 25 years, just four have found any trace of 1080 in municipal supplies, and they were all tiny fractions of Ministry of Health permissible levels.

Suited to New Zealand

There’s a good reason we use so much: every other country has native mammals it can’t risk harming with poisons, while, except for three types of bat, all our mammals are introduced pests, so 1080 might have been designed from the ground up for New Zealand use.

1080 is known to kill deer, so some hunters consider that it’s impinging on their sport.

There is no myth about 1080 that hasn’t been comprehensively debunked many times over.

The effects of 1080

I wrote it for those people who are still undecided, or conflicted about 1080, but who prefer to form their positions on the strength of evidence.

I think the most effective advocacy of all is success: look at Abel Tasman National Park, where Project Janszoon has shown very clearly, that, if you get the pest off their backs, our birds, and snails, and lizards and insects just thrive.

People saw there that the sky didn’t fall in when the Park got 1080 in 2014: but what they did see were kaka, and robins, and kakariki returned to the park.

They saw the giant snails rebound in numbers.

They heard the bellbirds.

While 1080 won’t enable the Government goal of predator free by 2050, but it is very useful in keeping control of predator numbers while other solutions are found. And it seems to be relatively safe.

In the end, the decision is very simple: we can have our forests full of native wildlife, or we can have them full of rats, stoats, possums and cats.

Birdsong, or silence.

This is why Forest & Bird support the use of 1080 – see 1080 Frequently Asked Questions