We rise at 4.30am. Our bodies are tired. We only laid our heads down at 1am, so we snap ourselves awake with cherries and chocolate and a quick cup of tea. We are going to see if harp traps set in A'Deane's Bush have caught any of the long-tailed bats we know are in the area.

Abi Quinnell and I walk past the big totara. It seems even bigger in the first light of dawn. We look into the cotton bag at the bottom of the trap. To our delight there is one tiny ball of fur tucked into a corner. Abi checks its gender. Yes! It's a female.

This is good news as it is the females we want to attach transmitters to and follow to find their maternity roosts.

The bat is transferred to a small black catch bag and tucked down Abi's shirt for the short walk back out, a smile on her face. Even though she has been doing it for years, it is still a thrill to have one of these tiny creatures so close to her skin.

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At the carpark we catch up with the rest of the team, Jono More and Craig Single, who have been checking two other traps sites, with nothing caught at them.

Abi holds the bat carefully and puts a small armband on. I write down all the details as she calls out the number "A5002", the length of the forearm and the weight.

"11.3 grams. She is such a pretty brown colour this girl."

Abi and Jono have both been working on different bat projects in NZ for a number of years. Their experienced eyes are a gift to this project, and they check her teats for evidence she has had a baby feeding recently.

A tiny transmitter, weighing only half a gram, is attached to her back with tissue glue, and then Jono holds her on the end of his hand and encourages her to take off back to her family. We watch her silhouette against the sky as she flies off into the totara. I send a karakia with her.

Later that day we use an aerial and receiver to track our pretty girl to her roost. It is an old, dead rewarewa with a couple of good looking holes that may be the actual roost.

The roost tree at dusk. Photo / The Conservation Company
The roost tree at dusk. Photo / The Conservation Company

At dusk we lie patiently underneath the tree to watch the potential roost holes and count the bats as they emerge to find insect food and water. I wriggle amongst the damp leaf litter and tree roots to get comfortable.

Mosquitos buzz in our ears and bite any exposed skin. Ruru (morepork) glide silently by, looking for moths or perhaps a juvenile bat.

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At 9.06pm two bats can be clearly seen leaving the roost. Several more follow, including our girl. By 9.30pm a total of 30 bats have tumbled out, their flitting profiles now hard to see against the darkened sky.

My heart is flying with them. I am so happy I jump up, grab Jono's arm and do a jig! This number of bats means that there is a colony of these critically endangered, precious pekapeka (long-tailed bats) living right here in A'Deane's Bush. How cool is that?

This work is funded by DoC Community Fund and WWF Community Conservation Fund, and supported by many volunteers and Biodiversity Hawke's Bay.

Kay Griffiths is Managing director of The Conservation Company and project manager for Friends of A'Deane's Bush.

Find updates to this project on Friends of A'Deane's Bush Facebook page.