Monday, May 3, 2010

Private Investigations and Roost Raiding

When applying for this fellowship, I had to put in a project proposal that included, among other things, key objectives for both the project and for my personal learning. While I'm well underway with achieving the objectives that were outlined, a significant set of field-skills are emerging which hadn't been anticipated ... those skills are that of investigation.

I swear that by the end of this, I'd make a fantastic private investigator having developed the ability to quietly sit, half-hidden, in the same spot for hours on end, regardless of weather. I am trained to not need bathroom stops or food-seeking distractions. Skilled map-reading is another honed skill, as is intuitive navigation. I wonder if PI's get a better pay rate than teachers??

Snooping through the layers of human folly aside, what all these factors have combined to produce in my situation is a set of skills that are most conducive for bird watching. And the birds have, thankfully, delivered.

Most recently, I have been on sunset-timed excursions in search of harriers flying in to roost. Kahu are different to the majority of flying birds, as they do not roost or nest in trees; both activities take place on the ground, in swampy clumps of raupo, sedge grass and/or rushes.

One harrier, let's call him Horatio, was observed approaching a section of raupo one evening, but passed over the raupo and landed in the reeds. Two nights later, he did the same thing. As harrier tend to keep the same roost site for considerable periods of time, I was confident in proclaiming I'd found my first roost!

A further two days later, I set out to physically locate the roost, as it had only been observed from a distance. This was done during daylight hours when Horatio was far away hunting. Accompanied by a very knowledgeable field minion/assistant we set out, gumboot-shod, into the bog. The reeds were up to our armpits and although it was fun to stomp about, we were very mindful that we were treading through a delicate eco-system.

Horatio's roost was successfully located and, very excitingly, contained several pellets. These were bagged and labelled as, with analysis, I may be able to determine what he's been snacking on. The great thing about the location of this roost is that it is a very short walk from two residential streets. This proves harriers are not just day visitors to our urban areas.

Not sure how useful the skills of private investigation and intrepid bog-searching will be when I'm back teaching, but I'm sure I can make them fit ... somehow.