Hands-on learning to boost birdlife

Hands-on learning to boost birdlife

A class of Year 5 and 6 students at Ardgowan School in Oamaru are working hard to protect their neighbouring reservoir from predators.

Students at Ardgowan School may be able to hear a full dawn chorus when they arrive for class in coming years. An ongoing project over several terms will see the Ōamaru Reservoir Reserve set with a trapline, which hopes to reduce mammalian predators and eventually restore the area to its natural state, alive with birdsong. 

DoC’s Andy Powazynski who helped set up the Ōamaru Urban Trapping Association (OUTA) is lending his experience to support learning around setting an effective trapline. Topflite has also donated 12 Bug Huts to the school, enabling further learning around biodiversity and more opportunities for the students to connect with nature.

It’s truly in our backyard. So for the kids to have a positive impact on that, I think it's an amazing thing"

Principal Ryan Fraser explains that the reservoir was the perfect location for this hands-on project, as a local resource close to the school grounds.

It’s truly in our backyard. We access it through the back fence and across one of our neighbours' paddocks, which he allows us to walk through. There's mountain bike tracks and walking tracks through the reservoir and some kids use it in their own time,” he says. “So for the kids to have a positive impact on that, I think it's an amazing thing. And it means some really cool, engaging learning is happening as we do it.”

Setting up a trapline requires a careful process, which the class of 22 students are working through at present with Andy Powazynski. To start, the class learned about local ecosystems and flora and fauna, with a focus on the potential predators that could be present in the area. They then took a 5-minute bird count in the reservoir to find a baseline for their study, so that they can see what impact the trapping has in the future.

“That's our initial data collection. And we'll do the same after the six months of trapping to see if we've made a difference to the ecosystem,” says Ryan, adding that the children are excited to see the impact this project might have.

Next steps are to put tracking tunnels down and leave them for three weeks to allow predators to get comfortable with them, then ink cards and chew cards will be added so that the students can see which predators have walked through and interacted with the tunnels.

Andy Powazynski from DoC and OUTA
Andy Powazynski from DoC is lending his trapline experience to the project.

“And then from there, when we identify a target species, that's when we'll start to build our traps and then replace the tunnels with the traps. So our hope is to be getting our traps built next term,” says Ryan.

The students will build the trap boxes themselves and place them out around the reservoir, with around 50 traps planned. These will be left for around six months, and the kids will monitor them for predators each week.

The trapping project was funded by the participatory science programme, Otago Science into Action, from Tūhura Otago Museum. Topflite’s 12 Bug Huts will be placed around the school, where they can be monitored to see if the trapping is having an impact on insects. They will also build their own organic bug habitat, which can be compared with the Topflite product to see which attracts the most resident insects and whether the species are different. 

Once the traplines and Bug Huts are up and running, the school is planning an Open Day for the community, where students can share their learnings. Community members will also be able to build traps to place in their backyards, furthering the impact on predators in Oamaru. Further plans are to explore planting projects, which will also help bring more birdlife into the area. 
For the students of Ardgowan School, this is a project that helps to make a real difference to their community and one that they will be able to appreciate and take pride in for years to come. 

Guardianship is one of Topflite’s central values. In our growing operations it means holistically caring for our land and crops, but also keeping an eye on the bigger picture: improving biodiversity and preserving New Zealand’s environment for future generations. That’s why we love to tell the stories of Good Eggs who are doing great work as kaitiaki around New Zealand.

We also support New Zealanders to nurture nature through the SOAR Initiative.

Biodiversity SOAR Initiative Trapping pests

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