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Save the kiwi: Old Mout Cider’s mission to save New Zealand’s national bird

I stood as quiet as could be, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I barely dared to breathe out, for fear of breaking the silence in room. Then I noticed it — a twitch and scurry signalled there was life in the faux nighttime of the nocturnal kiwi house, and watching intently, I saw this odd-looking wingless bird curiously exploring its surrounds by hurriedly hopping from one foot to another. I knew in that moment I was witnessing a rare and special scene.

Kiwi bird at night time in new zealand

Kiwi bird foraging in the forests of New Zealand. Image credit: Getty.

It was July 2012, back home, England was gripped by Olympic fever, but I had barely the chance to give that a second thought; for I was enjoying my first ever trip to New Zealand‘s North Island and my days were filled with hiking luscious green mountains, caving under star-like ceilings of glow worms and smelling the sulphur scent emanating from boiling hot geezers. And there was no way I could leave the island without visiting this kiwi breeding centre to catch a glimpse of New Zealand’s captivating national icon.

Today, conservationists are in a race against time to save New Zealand’s national bird. The unique and quirky kiwi is, sadly, on the vulnerable list as its numbers have shrunk by 99% — from 5 million to roughly 50,000. For this reason, I have joined the mission to save the kiwi with Old Mout Cider.

Old Mout Cider is supporting Kiwis for kiwi to relocate kiwi birds to predator-free islands where they will grow, thrive and reproduce. They will also donate 20p to the Kiwis for kiwi charity for each sign up they receive.

Kate on Conservation with kiwi and lime Old Mout Cider

Kate on Conservation joins Old Mout Cider’s mission to #SaveTheKiwi – and you can too!

 

What is a kiwi bird?

There are several features of the kiwi that make it a unique and incredible bird. They are nocturnal and flightless birds, with distinctive feather-like hair and nostrils at the end of their long beaks. Notably, the kiwi also has the biggest egg in relation to its size.

Kiwi are thought to have developed their weird and wonderful features thanks to New Zealand’s ancient isolation and lack of mammals. Without the threats that would have been present in other eco-systems, kiwi were able to safely evolve as ‘ratites’ – an ancient group of birds that can’t fly.

Kiwi bird close up

It is thought they evolved to occupy a habitat and lifestyle that elsewhere in the world would be filled by mammals, and their one-off evolutionary design holds all sorts of biological records.

Despite an evolutionary journey that goes back millions of years to the time of the dinosaur, New Zealand’s indigenous kiwi could soon go the way of its prehistoric ancestor if action isn’t taken now.

 

Kiwis could vanish within 50 years

The kiwi has been around for 50 million years, but despite being distant cousins of the dinosaurs, this distinctive bird could vanish within 50.

Kiwi evolved for millions of years before predators arrived in New Zealand. With no mammals to hunt them, there was no need for wings, to help them escape. When Europeans arrived, however, they brought with them terrestrial mammals that are now a menace for the kiwi.

Just one hundred years ago, kiwi numbered in the millions. In the last 50 years alone, however, the kiwi population has reduced by 99%  — from 5million to 50,000.

Today, an average of 27 kiwi fall prey to larger animals every week – unable to fly away from danger; only 1 in 20 kiwi chicks survive to adulthood on New Zealand’s mainland.

That’s a population decline of around 1,000 kiwi every year. At this rate, without intervention, kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime.

Therefore, it is down to our generation to help save the kiwi bird from going extinct.

 

What is Old Mout Cider’s mission to save the kiwi?

Now is the time to act, to save the kiwi from being resigned to the history books forever.

Old Mout Cider were shocked to find out that the New Zealand national icon, the kiwi, was in very real danger of going extinct. So they hatched a plan to help.

They’ve teamed up with Kiwis for kiwi –a national charity that supports community-led and Māori-led kiwi conservation projects — to help relocate kiwi to a safe environment, so that New Zealand’s most famous bird can thrive once again.

New Zealand-born Old Mout Cider has also joined forces with wildlife enthusiast Michaela Strachan to make the short film, ‘A Forgotten World’.

They are undertaking a remarkable feat – creating predator free islands – to ensure the kiwi’s best chance of survival.

Kiwis for kiwi relocate the birds to islands without larger mammals, where they can grow, thrive and reproduce without fear of being hunted. Kiwi chicks are then raised in a safe environment, protected from danger, until they’re strong enough and ready to be released back into the wild.

The survival rate of kiwis on these islands increases dramatically, to 99.2%!

To ensure their calls can be heard piercing the forest air at dusk and dawn for centuries to come, New Zealand native, Old Mout Cider, is helping to support Kiwis for kiwi’s work and hoping to inspire us all to help save this vulnerable bird.

 

How can YOU join the mission?

Old Mout Cider is hoping to make the people of Britain fall in love with the kiwi and inspire them to save this incredible animal by signing up to its mission. And for everyone who signs up to save the kiwi, 20p will be donated to the Kiwis for kiwi charity.

I’ve signed up to support Old Mout Ciders’s mission and am very happy to discover that this ‘green’ brand has also worked to make their packaging 100% recyclable! Even better!

Signing up to the #SaveTheKiwi mission only takes a minute and is completely free. You can sign up too, and instantly raise 20p for Kiwis for kiwi here: https://www.oldmoutcider.co.uk/help-save-the-kiwi

 

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*Sponsored post.

 

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Great Horned Owlets Rescue: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way!

Great horned owlets, Willow and Wisdom - Photo by Cheryl Aguiar

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of reading. So it was a real treat when first time author and all-round animal lover Cheryl Aguiar sent me a copy of her award-winning nature book, which chronicles her experience of observing a family of great horned owls and finding herself part of a rescue mission to save their two young owlets.

A modern day ‘Pocahontas’, Cheryl’s draw to nature and the great outdoors is a deep-rooted desire that certainly resonates. As does her compassion to help wildlife, one animal at a time.

Kate on Conservation holds Great Horned Owlets Rescue book

Kate on Conservation with author Cheryl Aguiar’s Great Horned Owlets Rescue book

Great Horned Owlets Rescue: Where There’s A Will, There’s a Way details Cheryl’s early encounters with wildlife in the woods where she grew up, and explains how these experiences — including rescuing a newborn baby rabbit and nursing it back to health as a child — inspired her later fascination with animals.

“Throughout the years, my love for wildlife continued to grow, along with many attempts at saving anything from small birds to tiny frogs”, Cheryl writes. “Some were successful and some were not, but I always tried to give them a fighting chance.”

I must admit, I knew very little about the Great Horned Owl before reading this book. Found throughout North America and Canada, these large raptors have bright yellow eyes and distinctive feather ear tufts, which combined with their deep sounding hoots, make them the perfect storybook owl.

Great horned owlet, Willow - Photo by Cheryl Aguiar

Through Cheryl’s tales of her daily (and weekly) visits to the owl family, I was able to learn fascinating facts about their diet (which consists of small animals; rodents, lizards, insects); how, and when, they are fed by their parents; the different stages of their maturity (i.e. when they lose their down feathers, when they leave the nest, etc.) and the challenges they face in their natural environment.

This charming tale takes readers on a journey of the highs and lows that Cheryl, husband Jim, her nearby Aunt and Uncle and close neighbours who share their woods, experience when high April winds bring down the gradually depleted nest that the young owlets have been hatched into.

Their affectionately named parents; Mama and Papa, like many great horned owls, chose to reuse an old nest — possibly built by hawks a year or so previously — and in this instance, it wasn’t up to the job!

Fortunately, Cheryl springs to action to save the little owlets, who find themselves alone and vulnerable on the forest floor as the last light of day is fading.

With her afore mentioned team of rescuers and the expert advice of seasoned pro and founder of Eyes On Owls in Dunstable, Massachusetts; Mark, she is able to give the little owls a fighting chance (and a brand new basket nest!). And so begins this beautiful and dedicated chapter of her life.

Great Horned Owlets Rescue book by Cheryl Aguiar

Great Horned Owlets Rescue by Cheryl Aguiar

An enjoyable read and a great source of information (for example, I had no idea that owl feathers are not waterproof, to enable them to be silent flyers), this is a cute little read and a great way to connect with nature.

To learn more about about Cheryl Aguiar, order her book or view her wildlife photography, click here.

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Want to discover more nature books?

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0

Travel, adventure, parties and… natural history! – Guest post by Adventure Ed

Starting the year with a focus on achieving success in 2018, young adventurer and bird specialist Eddie Williams, aka Adventure Ed, from California offers his perspective on making conservation cool and reaching new audiences with his one of a kind YouTube channel.       

adventure ed title card I have started a Youtube Channel that combines travel with environmental education in a way you may have never seen before.

Before I explain the details, I want you to ask yourself this question: How are you unique? I believe this is a question everybody should ask themselves. Though it is extremely cliche, everyone is unique in his or her own way, and if you realize your uniqueness, not only will the world be more colourful, but you will remember your purpose in life.

I am unique, like everyone else. I am a 27-year old guy who likes doing the things that most guys my age like doing. I like working out, watching football, going to the beach, and going to parties with my friends. Like many others, I enjoy the outdoors, but my fondness for nature is not average. Nature has dictated the course of my life so much that I now work as a wildlife biologist with a focus on birds. Not only do I study birds but I am also a keen recreational birder (birdwatcher). In case you do not know about the hobby of birding, it is when people actively observe birds in their habitats.

2018 year of the bird adventure Ed

Birding, as you might imagine, has some solid stereotypes. People think it’s “too simple” or “boring” or “awkward”. People joke that birding is for a dork still living in his or her parents’ basement or for a strange hippy lost in his or her own world. These stereotypes are not only often given to birders but also to people who actively observe and appreciate nature in general.

Back to the original question: how am I unique?  Well, I am a 27-year-old birder. The vast majority of birders are much older and many are senior citizens.  But I like to think that is not the only way I am unique because I believe that I defy the stereotypes of birders. I may enjoy a bit of weirdness and awkward humour, but like I said earlier I am just like everyone else at the end of day. I am no nature nerd, but a nature stud… Okay, that was a joke, as I don’t want to brag too much about my beautiful plumage! (Another bird joke). Throughout my entire life I have wanted to share my passion of nature and birds with other people and show that it is not for dorks or hippies but is really cool and interesting. My love of nature has become contagious and I have found that people can appreciate anything as long as you make it cool.

For example, in my early twenties I spent two and a half years traveling, studying, teaching, and doing ecological fieldwork in Australia and Central America. I met thousands of younger travelers who had never heard of birding or had assumed the usual stereotypes. But after an introductory bird walk and hitting up a beach party with me, pretty much every person I met learned to appreciate birding. My personal belief is that there would be more young birders in the world if they were properly exposed to birding.

adventure ed twitter bird pic

Just like anyone who travels I fell in love with the vagabond life. I visited many tourist destinations throughout the tropics that were developing rapidly and thought about the environmental impacts of the tourism industry in these places. I wondered how many of the other young travelers attending the beach parties actually thought about their environmental impacts.

I never really watched Youtube until a while after I came back to the USA and I discovered an entire community of travel vloggers sharing the world with each other. I realized that Youtube was a way to reach out and spread a message to people all over the world no matter what the size of the audience. It’s a potential way to make a difference in the world and a creative outlet to embrace one’s uniqueness. So I decided to start my vlog channel that combines travel with environmental education. It is called Adventure Ed.

Adventure Ed will show you my adventures around the world where I go birding, do other outdoor activities, and explore the young traveler party life. I will give budget travel tips, educate about birds and natural history, and give a perspective on environmental issues surrounding the places I visit by interviewing locals.

My ultimate goals are two-fold. The first is to get millennials more in touch with nature and expose the hobby of birding to people who have never been exposed to it before.

The goal is not to convert everyone into a birder but rather to make them appreciate the hobby and the general observation of nature. By using myself as an example and defying the stereotypes I hope that younger people see that nature is cool. Most young people think that partying is cool, so it is one way I will relate to my target audience. I encourage everyone to go out and have fun like the cool kids (in a legal and controlled manner) as long as they take time to appreciate the natural world around them.

The second goal is to educate about environmental issues surrounding tourism. I want tourists who are going to beautiful destinations to party to realize their potential environmental impact. Instead of ridiculing young party-goers, I join them, and advise that they consider their impacts.

Yes, this is a radical way to do environmental education, and that is my full intent. My main target audience is millennials, but there are aspects of this channel that will interest everyone.  If you do not like watching the beach parties, then maybe you will love the footage of exotic wild animals and learning fun scientific facts.

I started my channel a few months ago and my following is currently very small. I am brand new to videography and my videos are rough around the edges, but I am working hard to improve my skills. Fortunately I have a job schedule in which I work long stretches overtime and receive long breaks, which allows me to travel frequently and film content. This winter I am visiting Thailand, Panama, and Vietnam, where I hope to have a lot of fun and see a lot of cool wildlife.

If you are interested in learning about budget travel, nature, and environmental issues, I suggest you take a look at the channel. If you like the content, all I ask is that you click the subscribe button.  My goal for the end of 2018 is to get to 1,000 subscribers.

 

Subscribe to Eddie’s YouTube Channel and help him reach 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year by clicking here.

Adventure EdEddie is a 27-year-old wildlife biologist from California who specializes in birds. His YouTube channel combines travel, environmental education, and pure fun. He provides budget travel advice and shares his passion and knowledge of science and nature. He explores both the natural world and party life, two activities not usually associated with each other. He says his ultimate goal is to get more millennials in touch with nature.

 

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6

National Bird Day: How can we teach children to love birds?

Today is National Bird Day, which has naturally started me thinking about the way we live alongside this diverse and beautiful classification of animal. We are so used to seeing garden birds hoping around the bird table and perching on fences — and this is especially true of my childhood, spent growing up in beautiful Norfolk — that it can be easy to become so accustomed to these fascinating creatures that we barely notice them going about their daily lives. Even the so-called alien species that Sir David Attenborough spoke of in his Wild Neighbours lecture are a commonplace sight across London‘s parks.

Ring-necked parakeet in Richmond Park

Ring-necked parakeet in Richmond Park, photo by Kate on Conservation

But last year I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to reflect upon the beauty of birds, when I joined Around the Bend Nature Tours at Sarasota’s Audubon Center in Florida, during my press trip on behalf of National Geographic Kids magazine. Around the Bend Nature Tours provides nature experiences for schoolchildren and families at parks and preserves across the county, and the aim of my day with them was to join a group of children in at the Celery Fields to spot and identify various species of local birds.

Looking at feathers, bird skulls and egg shells in the curiosity box, to help with identifying bird species.

The Celery Fields are 300 acres of county-owned flood mitigation area, and have proven to be one of the premier birding hotspots on the southwest coast of Florida. They boast 220 species of bird throughout the year, across flooded fields, freshwater marsh and open water.

Sarasota Audubon launched a special initiative for schoolchildren — the Celery Fields Explorers Program — five years ago, and since then, more than 4,000 schoolchildren have joined their program of environmental education.

It was one of these such field trips that I had the privilege of joining.

We took our binoculars and bird identification charts out onto the deck and enjoyed the long-range vistas on offer. Important factors to consider were the birds’ size, colour, shape and habitat. Together we spotted the eye-catching white outline of a Great Egret, searching for snails in the marshy mud.

Great Egret

A flash of bright colour revealed itself to be the purple and blue hues of a Purple Gallinule darting across the reeds. Its yellow legs and red and yellow beak make it a fascinating and distinctive bird to watch. It proved a favourite amongst the children.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Training to become young ornithologists does not stop with learning basic bird spotting skills, however. One of the most memorable parts of my day was seeing the children investigate specific bird characteristics by looking through the box of feathers, beaks and skulls, and using their ID charts to help identify which bird species they may belong to.

Ann Cruikshank led the students in touching and feeling the items, which were passed around the circle. The physical aspect of holding these curiosities had a real impact on the children’s learning. Most of the items came from birds who had deceased naturally in the environment and been collected by staff, or they had been donated by the local wildlife hospital after an injured bird passes away; facts which were quickly pointed out to the children.

Studying the shape of the skull up against illustrations of different species of local bird

Through examining beaks and feathers, we were able to discuss what the birds may eat by considering the shapes of their bills and how noisy their feathers are (i.e. would they able to hunt effectively?). The bones and skulls also helped to determine the features that help a bird to fly: light, hollow bones; wing span; wing shape, etc.

A Limpkin, with its distinctive long bill

Catching sight of a Limpkin at the end of the activity gave us a perfect opportunity to take part in the ‘What does it mean to be a bird?‘ exercise. For this game, children become Limpkins and are challenged to discover all the difficulties that Limpkins and other birds face for their survival.

Finally, with a refreshed and renewed interest in the lives of birds, I completed my day at the Celery Fields with a look around the education center. Notice boards of bright tapestries of birds; a children’s corner including animal track identification; recordings of bird sightings and a map of the 300-acre Celery Fields all adjourned the walls and added to the sense of endearing care for the birds in the area.

After such an heart-warming and informative day, there was no way that I could leave without pledging my support and buying an Audubon Society badge!

audubon society badge

 

What is the Audubon’s society?

The National Audubon Society is a nonprofit conservation organisation that protects birds and the places and habitats they live in, now and for future generations. Since 1905 they have used science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation to protect bird species throughout the Americas.

Named after natural history artist John James Audubon, the organisation looks to fulfil his vision of a world in which people and wildlife thrive. I discovered the following information in Florida’s Kennedy Space Center‘s Nature and Technology exhibit.

Audubon Society KSC

It reads: “John James Audubon is the most famous of all American natural history artists, renowned for his adventurous nature, his artistic genius and his obsessive interest in birds. In 1820, he set off on his epic quest to depict America’s wildlife, floating down the Mississippi River with nothing but his gun, artistic materials and a young assistant.

Unable to find secure financial backing in the United States, Audubon went to Europe in 1826. There he found both subscribers and engravers for the project. Over the next twelve years, Audubon divided his time between London and America. When abroad, he supervised the engraving and coloring of the prints. In America he traveled in search of birds to paint, arriving at the east coast of Florida in 1831 to find water birds and tropical species.”

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Want to read more about birds?

Like this? Read more about my press trip to Florida

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Population monitoring and conservation: The Great Cocky Count 2012

Carrying on my, what seems to have become a continuing theme, of comparing my volunteering experiences in Australia to those I partook in whilst in South Africa,  today’s blog (and I apologise  as again times seems to  have slipped away from me and it has been a while since I last blogged) is about counting and controlling population numbers.

Last month I took part in the ‘great cocky count’ in WA. Black cockatoos are currently considered an endangered species.  In an hour-long meeting held by Bird Life Australia a week prior to the count (15 April was count night), we were told all the important things about cockatoos (that they are semi-migratory, they mate for life, give long term parental care, etc.), shown nest boxes, and given a briefing on how to tell black cockatoos apart. There are two types of black cockatoo, ‘red tail’ ones and ‘white tail’ ones, which can be distinguished by colours around their eyes, colours on their tails and wings and crest shape. We were counting white ones.

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The actual process of counting was very simple: people were stationed across Western Australia between the hour of 5.25pm and 6.25pm (around dusk, when the cockatoos return to their roost sites for the night) people at each station count the number of cockatoos as they fly into the trees (deducting any that leave again). We were all given a simple table for tallying sighting and a map and compass to jot down direction of sighting. It is important that everyone counting does it at the same time, and only counts those landing in their area, not just flying by, as this will give the most accurate population numbers.

Although during my time at the game reserves in South Africa there was no count to this scale, there was a need to monitor game numbers.

Image

During the two weeks I spent volunteering at Shamwari’s neighbouring Amakhala Reserve counting game was the task we spent most of our time doing. Amakhala is a relatively new reserve, so monitoring its numbers of game during breeding season are particularly important.

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I was there during September time, which is the lambing season for Thompson’s gazelle, water buck, and other antelope. Counts here consisted of riding around in the land rovers with a pair of binoculars and a tally sheet. People on each side of the vehicle (front, left side, right side) were responsible for their area.

Image

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