Monday, June 17, 2013

!!! Like This !!!

It has taken over a year, and despite all resistance and reluctance - even the crowned eagle research has been sucked into facebook...

But maybe facebook has a niche to offer. And while the blog has been an amazing window, and a great way to share the stories of life and the research - despite my efforts it hasnt been particularly interactive.  I hope the facebook page will encourage others to like, and particularly share : photos, sightings, stories, thoughts and comments

In the first few weeks I have been motivated by a 'photo a day'.  So come, like this and see what might come in the second year of this research

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ornithology Jobs

In years past I have had done plenty of online job hunting. The site that I use often to see 'whats out there' is the Ornithological Societies of North America - Jobs forum.  Although it is more focused on american jobs, a great diversity of international opportunities are available.  It also highlights particularly well on volunteer positions.

Meanwhile, though I search here less, StopDodo has a much bigger and broader set of job postings to search through for all manner of environmental jobs, vacancies, and volunteer positions.  And for the Kiwi's in the audience - or anyone who wishes to work in New Zealand - theres Conjobs, not for convicts... for conservationists.

A vocation in wildlife conservation is all too often difficult to get started in.  And speaking from my own experience - it takes a fair bit of dedication and sacrifice to get past the 'experience threshold' of actually becoming employable (for income producing jobs).  Such is the nature of the majority of wildlife research by postgraduate students; the need for many hands to assist in data collection, and the limited pool of funding to draw from.  Fortunately though, the type of work is very desirable and the chance to be working out in some fantastic wild places, and to be looking intimately into the life of some quirky, or magnificent, type of animal has its certain pleasures.

My first appropriate experience came in 2004 when offered an opportunity to volunteer for Dr. Richard Seaton, then in his second year of PhD research into a New Zealand Falcon population in commercial forestry.

With accommodation at the local Murupara Department of Conservation fieldhouse supplied.  I drew on some previous savings reserves for food and weekend transport to and from the study site.  In the first year Rich, myself and a hilarious american guy Matt had a blast over the four month season as we surveyed for falcon nests, colour ringed as many birds as we could find, and then finished the season with ten weeks of radio-tracking some adult birds.

I had so much fun that I returned the following summer, and this season we'd taken on an additional volunteer, Dave from the UK.  Rich had managed to squeeze blood out of a stone to provide not only my accommodation, but food for the season - though I did get a bit over cold cans of 'BigEats' after four months - with the occasional dietary supplement of huhu grubs. So while Matt and Rich continued with surveying, I trained and worked alongside Dave in the radiotracking study.  Over the two years I must have accumulated over 500 hours of radio-tracking experience.

Surveying techniques, learning how to trap falcons, colour-rining and fitting telemetry harnesses, and then radio tracking them were all such amazing experiences.  Spending two summers in the backward little town of Murupara and oftentimes camping in a remote forest camp, enjoying sometimes the camaraderie of the fieldteam, and oftentimes the solitude. And learning more than ever before or since about the birding, and the birdlife of the New Zealand Bush.  All remembered with great fondness.

Some published research papers from this research include:

Seaton, R., J. D. Holland, E. O. Minot and B. P. Springett (2008). "Natal dispersal of New Zealand falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae) in plantation forests." Notornis 55: 140-145.

Seaton, R., N. Hyde, J. D. Holland, E. O. Minot and B. P. Springett (2008). "Breeding Season Diet and Prey Selection of the New Zealand Falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae) in a Plantation Forest." Journal of Raptor Research 42(4): 256-264.

Seaton, R., J. D. Holland, E. O. Minot and B. P. Springett (2009). "Breeding success of New Zealand falcons (Falco novaeseelandiae) in pine plantation." New Zealand Journal of Ecology 33(1): 32-39.

Seaton, R., E. O. Minot and J. D. Holland (2010). "Nest-site selection of New Zealand falcons (Falco novaeseelandiae) in plantation forests and the implications of this to forestry management." Emu 110: 316-323.

Seaton, R., E. O. Minot and J. D. Holland (2010). "Variation in bird species abundance in a commercial pine plantation in New Zealand." NZ Journal of Forestry 54(4): 3-11.

Rich - you're doing it again
nest-watch rain or shine

new zealand falcon nest defense...

...can be an Achilles heel
fitting a radio transmitter

happy campers at the end of a long day

The NZ Falcon volunteer position provided me with a great experience, and a very enthusiastic reference for future job applications... leading to fantastic research in international research projects on raptor conservation, parrot conservation, and avifauna impact assessments.  And this year am now in a position to offer in return what I received some years back... opportunity

VOLUNTEER FIELD ASSISTANT – crowned eagle research, South Africa

University of KwaZulu-Natal


Durban, South Africa

6 weeks (27 Nov 2013 – 8 Jan 2014)

Job Type:

Job Description:
See weblink for what is expected during this period. Crowned Eagle research culminates with roped-tree climbing access to nests to ring nestlings, maintenance of camera traps, trapping and telemetry, and concentration sapping behavioural observations. Logistics: Volunteer must provide their arrival to Durban [e.g. King Shaka Intl Airport].  All basic food, accommodation, and transport are provided for duration of volunteer position; however there is no remuneration available. Research is based around the urban centres of Durban and Pietermaritzburg so some urban luxuries are afforded, dangers include a variety of social interactions, tree climbing, and adult crowned eagles nest defence, and handling of eagles. If selected for position, comprehensive health insurance is highly recommended before arrival.

To Apply:
Applications emailed to SHANE MCPHERSON (EM:; Indicate ‘Volunteer Position: YOUR NAME’ as subject line. Include a half-page statement of interest and attach a three page CV plus three references with contact information.

Applicants must be in excellent health and physically fit, be able to tolerate Durban heat and humidity, early mornings and long field days. A keen sense of situational awareness and concentration is required. Roped-tree climbing experience (ideally with rescue techniques) is required for one position. Handling of potentially dangerous wildlife sought, especially experience with raptor trapping, handling, and telemetry. Applicants must be highly self-motivated, good-humoured, and quick to adapt.  Expect to be living closely alongside 1-2 other people for the duration of the volunteer position.