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More than 30 years of volunteer efforts have helped restore the dawn chorus in the Bay of Plenty. by Kate Loman-Smith

Toutouwai North Island robins have been absent from the Te Puna landscape, west of Tauranga, probably since the native forests were cleared in the 1800s. So a recent sighting of the friendly little bird at l’Anson Bush Reserve was very exciting for local conservationists.

Forest & Bird magazine

A version of this story was first published in the Winter 2022 issue of Forest & Bird magazine.

F&B Magaziner winter 2022 cover with a green mokomoko lizard

The regionally significant reserve was pasture until the late 1980s, when the land was donated to the QEII Trust by locals Takiko and Keith l’Anson. They wanted to see it developed into an area for wildlife and people to enjoy.

An intensive planting programme began, supported by many locals, including the Tauranga Branch of Forest & Bird.

The result of their efforts is an outstanding and magnificent miniature native forest that the Waikaraka Stream passes through on its way towards Tauranga Harbour.

“The reserve offers well over 20 species of birds and can potentially be a sanctuary for many more,” says local bird enthusiast and volunteer Paul Cuming.

“This is due to the increasingly mature stands of rimu, kahikatea, kānuka, and mānuka, and the pest-control efforts currently being employed there.”

Other less common bird species of note are the presence of pārere pure grey ducks and kererū.

Potential species that could be using the site but haven’t yet been seen are the cryptic pūweto spotless crake, koitareke marsh crake, and mātātā North Island fernbird,” adds Paul.

In 2018, The Friends of l’Anson Bush Reserve was formed, supported by Forest & Bird’s Tauranga Branch, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, and the QEII Trust.

A group of dedicated volunteers meet at the reserve every third Thursday of the month to undertake animal and plant pest control, but feral cats are still a threat as toutouwai spend time on the forest floor foraging for insects.

Volunteers have been reclaiming the reserve from the many invasive weeds over the last three years.

“We can literally feel the reserve beginning to thrive. The mauri of the land is returning. It is almost as if the weeds can feel that their efforts are futile. They are getting our message – you are not welcome here!” adds Kate.

The reserve is open to the public, and all are welcome. Check out the Friends of l’Anson Bush Reserve Facebook page for a video of the toutouwai and for details of upcoming conservation activities or email tauranga.branch@forestandbird.org.nz.

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