Many years helping to restore birdsong

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A passion for birdsong led Donald Lousley to spend more than 20 years helping reinvigorate the native birds in the Matukituki Valley.

Mr Lousley began his love affair with the valley as a mountain guide, including volunteer search and rescue work for the Department of Conservation (Doc).

This led to getting involved in conducting braided river bird surveys, researching the population numbers of endangered species.

Mr Lousley was then asked to help with the Matukituki Trust, formed by Derek and Gillian Crombie.

With the help of Doc, the trust had laid nearly 700 traps in the valley over the past four years.

The traps captured predators such as stoats, rats, hedgehogs and possums.

“People of my generation, we didn’t realise how precious the birds and the birdsong was – the dawn chorus.

“As New Zealanders we have to do something to keep it.”

When Mr Lousley entered the valley recently, he could actually hear birdsong, quite different from when he first went into the valley more than 20 years ago.

“When I was up the valley I was really delighted there was so much birdsong.

“There’s the yellow-crowned parakeet/kakariki, morepork [and] South Island robin,” Mr Lousley said.

He said the South Island robin had become extinct in the valley, and 11 years ago about 20 were reintroduced by Doc.

“Now there are hundreds – there are more there that we know about.

“So that’s another indicator that the work with the trust has been working.”

Using IT skills from his business fixing computers, plus his keen love of photography, Mr Lousley set up a website called Southernlight that displayed the many photos he had taken of native birds.

The site also had information about ongoing efforts to restore the indigenous ecology.

Mr Lousley acknowledged he did not make money running the site, but it was a labour of love.

He said it had visitors from across New Zealand, and he was encouraged to see people in their 20s and 30s were the most frequent visitors.

“I guess it’s become a passion, because we all love birds,” Mr Lousley said.

“I’d like to use my photography skills, and my IT skills, to make New Zealanders more aware of what we have.”