Bird watching is serious business for members of Birds Bay of Plenty.

The group is affiliated to Birds New Zealand, which was established in 1939, and is part of a nationwide network of 20 similar regional groups.

Calling themselves birders, members hold bi-monthly meetings at rooms behind the Brain Watkins house on Cameron Rd, Tauranga, and regularly monitor bird species across the region.

That includes little blue penguins and grey-faced petrels nesting on and around Mauao.


Members also undertake a biannual Winter Wader Census of birds inside the shorelines of Tauranga Harbour, Matakana Island, Little Waihī beach and Ōhiwa Harbour.

This year the census count will take place on June 23 and 24.

Ornithologist and Birds Bay of Plenty regional representative Paul Cuming said this was vital work which helped foster the conservation and protection of bird species and their habitats.

Data collected was stored on a national database held by Birds New Zealand for decades and the Shore Birds Monitoring Scheme had been going for at least 25 years, he said.

This data was also provided to groups such as the Department of Conservation (DoC), Forest and Bird, private conservation consultants and developers to help make sound conservation management decisions.

Cuming has been monitoring the grey-faced petrel on Mauao since 1969.

"If Tauranga City Council did not do pest control on Mauao, petrel numbers will have reduced by half within 50 years, and in 200 years the species might be wiped out."

Members also helped monitor flocks of godwit, nesting oystercatchers and dotterels.

"We also take a kiwi conservation group on to Mauao to help us count shearwater chicks."

The 50-odd members, who range from 15 years to their 80s, include Margaret Merton, the widow of renowned local conservationist Don Merton.

Cuming said there were quite a lot of "lovely spots" to watch birds close up in the Bay of Plenty region, including the Carmichael Reserve wetlands in Bethlehem.

"These wetlands attract quite a few waterfowl and rare birds such as the sanded rail and the fernbird, which is similar to a sparrow but with a ratty tail," he said.

Cuming has trained lots of young people all over New Zealand to handle wild birds and recently the club sponsored 22 of the young members on a field trip to Stewart Island.

"There is nothing better than seeing the flabbergasted looks from our younger members when they are given the chance to hold and maybe tag a wild bird," he said.

Cuming explained that the club had permission from DoC to do so.

A growing number of young people were keen to help preserve our environment, he said.

"But many young people only know about birds from their mobile device, so joining our group is the chance for them to get out to see the real thing."

Anyone interested in joining the club can email