Right at the moment, across New Zealand this weekend, the Great Kereru Count is underway. Organised by the World Wildlife Fund it’s seen as a critical exercise with the role of the native wood pigeon essential to the health of our native forests.
Those taking part have been posting photos and videos online since the count began on Friday. A long-time advocate for the native wood pigeon, Kevin Prime led us on a walk into some of the most extensive native bush in Northland situated on family lands.
Kevin says, "It's a great exercise that gives us an indication of the bird numbers in the respective districts. But to me, the time that you'll actually see the multitudes of wood pigeon is in March when the totara are fruiting followed by the kahikatea. It's an ideal time to see them here in this valley where I suspect all the wood pigeon in Northland come to eat."
Because it's not an endangered species as such there are no formal research statistics available. Hence, this weekend's count is seen as essential to the future of the species and our native forests.
Kevin says, "It's the only bird that distributes the seed of the taraire in the forest because the taraire has such a large seed that no other bird can swallow it, only the wood pigeon. So this bird distributes the taraire seed everywhere."
The Great Kereru Count is an annual event run by the World Wildlife Fund where the public can post their sightings of native wood pigeon along with details and photos and videos online. As of 1.30pm this afternoon, there have been a total of 5082 observations of native wood pigeon registered across the country with 11,588 birds counted.
Kevin Prime says, "Perhaps those organising this exercise have another perspective on the research as the timing will vary from region to region. For me, the right time to do such an exercise needs to be timed with their feeding habits. If it's during the time they feed on miro berry, then you need to go to that part of the forest to sit and listen if you want to do a proper tally of them."
Kevin is a former member of the Conservation Board and has dedicated years of his life to the revitalisation and sustainability of native forest and the natural environment. He says the native wood pigeon is one of his favourite birds, "It's a beautiful programme and there's nothing more to say than that because it will provide us with an insight into the situation in each region. We've all been involved in the eradication of possums, stoats and weasels and wild goats etc. from our forests to maintain healthy native forests."
The Great Kereru count ends at midnight tonight with the key goal of maintaining the kereru population for the essential health of native forests.