Rat-busting effort to make Bays a haven for birds

Eastern Bays residents are flocking together to create a sanctuary for birds and the ecosystems that support them across our waterfront suburbs. The Eastern Bays Songbird Project with the support of Ōrākei Local Board, aims to help residents make their own gardens into mini-sanctuaries for native birds threatened by introduced predators, especially rats and possums.

You may have seen the colourful Songbird trailer, which parks at strategic locations around the Eastern Bays suburbs of Õrākei, Mission Bay, Kohimārama, St Heliers and Glendowie.

Trap handouts are held every second Saturday morning, in a different location each time. Songbird volunteers demonstrate how to bait the trap (using peanut butter, not poison) and how to place it safely inside its protective tunnel to prevent children and domestic pets from accidental injury.  There are also leaflets about providing the right food trees to help native birds thrive. You can sign up on the spot to become a Songbird Project member, joining a growing group of 1487 members.

If you catch a rat you’ll be both thrilled and appalled — thrilled because you’ve chalked up your first rat kill, and appalled because you realise this vicious and filthy pest was roaming your back yard and has almost certainly killed birds and invertebrates and/or eaten their eggs. You can bury the rat (preferably) or get rid of it in the weekly red-top-bin collection. Then, before re-baiting the trap, email the Songbird Project to report your catch. 

Since the Songbird Project was established in 2018,  it has loaned out more than 2000 rat traps. Our members have caught 2104 rats, 700 possums, and lesser numbers of other pests.  Simultaneously, we’ve observed that native bird numbers are increasing.

But we realise trapping is not for everyone.  There are plenty of other ways you can volunteer, for example taking part in bird counts. As a Songbird Project member you’ll be emailed twice a year, in spring and autumn, to be invited to do a bird count in your garden and email your observations to the Songbird Project co-ordinator. You may also help by doing leaflet drops in your area, planting trees that will feed native birds, or taking part in weed-busting working bees.

Residents and EBSP team members at a Saturday morning pest trap handout.

All these activities, big and small, contribute to the aim of making both Auckland and New Zealand predator-free by 2050.

A report and illustrated map compiled by ecologist Kerry Lukies for the EBSP shows that our private gardens, public  parks and urban forest remnants are part of a confluence of EcoCorridors over 1300ha of our waterfront suburbs  and extending across the water to the  nearby islands of Rangitoto, Motutapu and Motuīhe. After many years of dedication and hard mahi, these islands are predator-free, and their native birds have started re-introducing themselves to the mainland. By “connecting the dots” of pest-free habitats, and helping to expand and enhance them, we can contribute to the maintenance of our EcoCorridor as a haven for birds and a natural taonga for all of us to enjoy.                                                                                                                                       

For more information and to download the free EcoCorridors Report specific to the Eastern Bays, see below. 

Story by Jan Power (EBSP) was published in East & Bays Courier, March 31, 2021