The Great Kereru Count 2014 – 22nd September to 5th October

This blog was written by Mel Dash, who is currently on maternity leave from Te Papa

Kererū (New Zealand’s native wood pigeon) are making a comeback but they still need our help so Forest and Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC), Kereru Discovery and partners have organised a two week Kererū Count to get an idea about where they are living and not living, and why.

Being the Kiwi Conservation Club Officer I wanted to do my bit and whilst taking a long weekend up at Mt Ruapehu, it was the perfect opportunity to go out and do some counting.

As we headed back into Ohakune, we stopped at Mangawhero Forest, one of the many fantastic areas for walking around the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. The forest has some great examples of our native broadleaf species so I felt good about the prospect of a sighting.

Meandering through beautiful Mangawhero Forest and looking for kererū. Photo by Mel Dash

Meandering through beautiful Mangawhero Forest and looking for kererū. Photo by Mel Dash

As we started to walk, the forest sang out with the sound of korimako (bellbird), also tui and the faint calls of a possible piwakawaka (fantail) but no kererū as of yet.

The track was well used and we passed a number of people who were happy to stop and tell us about the beautiful environment in which we were in. I asked one tramper if she had seen any kererū on her walk. She said she hadn’t but the forest was definitely home to them as she had heard them flying overhead just a few minutes earlier.

We were about 10 minutes into our walk now, we saw more and more evidence of the kererū’s habitat, miro and other broadleaf natives were towering above, and providing plenty to eat for the inhabitants.

Max pointing to one of the kererū’s favourite meals, miro.  Kererū are the only birds that can swallow the fruit whole and disperse the seed over large distances. Photo by Mel Dash.

Max pointing to one of the kererū’s favourite meals, miro. Kererū are the only birds that can swallow the fruit whole and disperse the seed over large distances. Photo by Mel Dash.

How to spot miro. Photo by Mel Dash

How to spot miro. Photo by Mel Dash

We were looking in every direction in anticipation and then we heard it…the distinctive “whooshing” noise of its wings. As we followed the noise, we caught a glimpse of what we had come to see…and then it was gone.

We meandered back through the forest in the hope of maybe seeing it perched and ready for a photo opportunity but we only found ourselves back where we started, and although we couldn’t catch it on camera we were satisfied that our kererū could be counted and added to the scores of reports already made.

If you haven’t done so already, go out spotting wherever you are and report your findings here: www.kererudiscovery.org.nz. Non-sightings are just as important, so if you’ve looked for five minutes and haven’t seen one, don’t forget to report that too. Find out more about kererū and KCC here. www.kcc.org.nz

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