Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bittern -Kaimaumau wetland concerns

[BIRDING-NZ] Bittern Kaimaumau wetland
Kevin Matthews - November 2010
Hi All,

Bittern seen flying late morning yesterday within the Kaimaumau wetlands,
Far North. This is an unusual time to see one flying and the concern is the
wetland vandal on the digger probably interrupted its breeding season. DOC
and the Northland Regional Council have been involved in bringing works to a
stop but that cannot undo damage done in these fragile environments. If it
weren't for vigilant members of the public the damage could've been far
worse. Northland has less than five percent of its wetlands left and they
can ill afford the unrelenting discretion by ignorant machine operators and
those they work for.

Cheers Kevin

Extract from Birding -NZ-

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bittern on facebook

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Conserving New Zealand’s bitterns- an eleventh hour conservation attempt

Conserving New Zealand’s bitterns- an eleventh hour conservation attempt
Peter Langlands
05 September 2010

Bitterns are an icon of our wetlands. Few birds show such a high level of adaptation to wetlands than bitterns. In fact their plumage has evolved to allow then to merge in with reed beds, a habitat that bitterns are dependent upon for their survival. Sadly it is the bittern’s specialised habitat requirements that are now putting this species at risk in many regions in New Zealand. Only Northland and Waikato have significant bittern populations remaining. Throughout the remainder of New Zealand bitterns occur only in small and fragmented populations. In some regions such as Marlborough the birds are on the edge of regional extinction. In Canterbury, where I live the population is estimated at between 30-50 birds. The NZ population may be as low as 500 birds- perhaps a maximum of 2000. Still making the bittern rarer than the kokako!
With fragmentation many other factors now come into play with bittern conservation. For example with birds living in wetlands with more edge zones the chance of predation increases, sadly there is little data to confirm this, but the increase on the harrier population is likely to impact on bitterns as are mammalian predators such as stoats and Norwegian rats. Also bitterns are highly vulnerable to collision events such as getting hit but cars and flying into power lines. For bittern the bird’s decline may be one of death by a thousand cuts. Bitterns requite large, productive wetlands- a habitat still in decline. Sadly only about 5% of our original wetlands exist, and the few surviving wetlands are under increasing threat.
For me the experience of going to a wetland and knowing that no bitterns are left would make me feel empty. Bitterns really are that one bird that symbolises a sense of wilderness with wetlands. The reality is that bitterns are the test of our commitment to conserve biodiversity. As a species they have been left to the eleventh hour to consider in active conservation plans. Yet there is hope. We have detailed information on the habitat requirements of bitterns and with some financial backing and commitment to create suitable habitat near where the surviving populations remain this species can be saved. Its future truly does rest in our hands!

Please vote for bittern - Forest and Bird - bird of year competition

Hi all bittern blog followers- If you have a moment and feel inclined please vote for the bittern in Forest and Bird's - bird of the year campaign.

Link attached below.
thanks from me and the bitterns

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ō Tū Wharekai wetlands – an important high country refuge for the nationally endangered Australasian Bittern.

Ō Tū Wharekai wetlands – an important high country refuge for the nationally endangered Australasian Bittern.

Peter Langlands


19 July 2010

The Ō Tū Wharekai wetlands, otherwise known as the Ashburton lakes, are one of three large scale wetland restoration projects undertaken by DOC in New Zealand (the other two being Awarua Bay and Whangamarino swamp.) Yet Ō Tū Wharekai is the only high country site. The wetlands in a large basin area between the Rangitata and Rakaia River catchments are one of the best examples of high country wetlands in the South Island, with a good representation of tussock, sedge and rare wetland plant communities. Amongst these diverse wetland communities, adjoining scenic high country lakes, the wetlands form the last stronghold (outside of the Mackenzie basin) for the Australasian bittern or Matuku in the central South Island high country. In the last six months birds have been sighted at Lakes Heron and Emma, in addition to the bird’s distinctive booming call, heard at the Maori Lakes. These lakes form an important network upon which this high country bittern population depends. The most recent sighting in July 2010 confirms that bitterns stay in these high country lakes throughout the year – even when most wetlands are frozen over in the region! Small inflowing creeks are likely to provide a foraging area for the birds.

The bittern is one of our rarer birds and is listed in the second highest threat ranking as being a nationally endangered bird. Bitterns once thrived in New Zealand but their numbers have rapidly declined since the 1950’s as the vast majority of New Zealand’s wetlands were drained. It is estimated that now only 750 birds remain in New Zealand (with most birds in the Northland and Waikato regions- where large wilderness wetlands remain). Now bitterns are scattered in very low numbers throughout the South Island. With only around 50 birds remaining in Canterbury. The Ashburton Lakes form one of three known important populations of bittern within the Canterbury Region, the other two being at Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) and in wetlands scattered throughout the Mackenzie Country. In addition a few birds are also found along smaller wetlands along Canterbury’s coast from Wainono Lagoon in the south to the Amberley wetlands in the North.

The bitterns are very much a bird of our wilderness wetlands preferring undisturbed and remote wetlands. They are large birds with a striking pointed bill, used for feeding on a wide range of prey items from small eels, fish to frogs and small birds. Yet most strikingly bitterns have brown and buff stripes on their breast to camouflage in amongst reed beds, and in particular- raupō (or bullrush) – a much favoured habitat of bitterns in the South Island. Bitterns are in the heron family and are the only group of birds having evolved to merge in with reed beds. From August until March bitterns have a distinctive booming call, similar to that of the endangered kakapo, which resonates eerily across our wilderness wetlands. Like the kakapo the bittern is sadly an endangered species and habitat enhancement and creation combined with predator trapping may be required to save this enigmatic bird.

Photograph caption- Bittern, or Matuku ( as they are known as in Maori culture) photographed at Ō Tū Wharekai wetlands in winter 2010 - in the Ashburton Lakes- one of few high country strongholds left for these birds (and now protected under the Arawai Käkäriki Wetland Restoration Program-DOC).

Key words –

Arawai Käkäriki Wetland Restoration Programme.

Ō Tū Wharekai (Ashburton lakes/Upper Rangitata river, Canterbury).

Australasian bittern - Botaurus poiciloptilus – Matuku


Friday, August 27, 2010

Bittern in flight- Lake Ellesmere region

Striking outline. Bitterns are now starting to boom. Any records of booming birds would be appreciated.
Peter Langlands-

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bittern foot print

Note- length of hind claw ( voice recorder is 10 cm in lenght)- so an impressive footprint. Found deep insidea raupo bed in the Lake Ellesmere region on 22 august 2010. So next time you are around any wetlands have a look for this type of print. Perhaps a useful way, at times, of monitoring the presence of bittern.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bittern on utube movie production

Bittern on utube movie production

produced by Martin Langlands for the 2010 biodiversity utube movie competition.
Thanks Martin

The Matuku is a native bird living in New Zealand's wetlands, a bird in great danger of extinction indicative of the poor state and destruction of our once pristine wetland ecologies - However there is hope , all people's of Aotearoa need to act. Images are by Peter langlands and original music-video by Martin Langlands

Talk about conservation of Bittern in Canterbury

Hello fellow bitterners I will be giving a talk on 27 September at 7.30 pm to the Canterbury Branch of the Ornithological Society . The talk will be held at the Department of conservation's Maahanui Office- Sockburn. For more information contact Jan Walker- Regional represenative- Jan Walker


Bittern image available- to help fund further bittern work

A rare image of this nationally endangered bird in flight. taken by Peter Langlands in 2010. Photo available at full file size - suitable to poster size. A striking image of the Australasian bittern or matuku. All funds from sale of image will go into doing further research to assist with the conservation of this species.
Image supplied on disk with a gift card of the image for $10- if interested please contact me-

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fifth bittern for year sighted today !

Yeah- getting confident at finding them now- photos being worked on. Lake Ellesmere Region- Canterbury's stronghold !

Bittern flying over a frozen lake

It is quite remarkable that bittern over winter on the Ashburton Lakes- tough birds

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bittern close to extinction in Tasmania - IUCN

Bittern in Australia- conservation status changes

1988 – Lower Risk/least concern

2008 - Endangered

In the space of twenty years awareness of the birds conservation status has changed markedly !

Proposal to place bittern one rank up in conservation status in NSW


Proposal to list bittern as an endangered species - Threatened species Conservation Act- NSW

Hello fellow bitterners- more information on the state of the bittern in NSW- Australia

NSW Scientific Committee - preliminary determination
The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Preliminary Determination to support a proposal to list the Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus Wagler 1827 as an ENDANGERED SPECIES in Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Act, and as a consequence, to omit reference to the Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus Wagler 1827 from Part 1 of Schedule 2 (Vulnerable species) of the Act. Listing of Endangered species is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Injured bittern recovery

The (Sweetwater) bird has been treated at the Whangarei Bird Rescue Centre and will hopefully be released back into the wild today.
Thanks Robert.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bittern's hind claw


Sweetwater bittern found

On it's way to the Whangarei bird rescue centre. thanks Kevin for finding the bird and to Lester at DOC ( Kaitaia) for helping with rescue co-ordination.
Fingers crossed. Keep you all posted.
A memorable day for this bitterner !!!

one of two bitterns sighted today- Lake Ellesmere

First time in over twenty years I have sighted two birds in one day !!! Best pix shown

Thursday, July 1, 2010

injured bittern- Sweetwater- Northland

Bird photographed by Kevin - with a broken wing several days ago- possible hit by car. Hopefully DOC staff will be able to find this bird for treatment. It appears quite spritely despite the broken wing- sad image but there is hope. If anyone has any records of injured or killed bitterns please email to me-
for a paper I am working on at present.

Kind regards fellow bitterners.

Thank you Kevin for making image available.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bittern in flight

Hi all- a new photo taken near Lake Ellesmere.

Bittern recovery stratgies in NSW

Hi all- the following link lists actions to help conserve NSW's remaining bittern populations. Clearly some Trans- Tasman co-operation will be a good approach for the conservation of bitterns

Concern increasing about Bittern population in Australia

HI all- concern is increasing now about just how small the bittern population is in Australia. recent surveys suggest a minimum of 200 birds and for the areas monitored an upper population estimate of 600 birds. The significance of the NZ population is increasing.
Check out the following link which gives an indication of the recent decline of bittern numbers in Australia

Note- data suggest that numbers have declined since this survey was under taken, over the last two years.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coromandel wetlands

Coromandel wetlands

Bitterns on the Coromandel

Recently while up on the Coromandel I was quite impressed by the quality of wetland habitats on the upper reaches on the inlets on the eastern side . Yet it appears that many wetlands areas have been drained in the last five years.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bittern chicks small and vulnerable

Clearly a big knowledge gap is on the breeding biology of bitterns in NZ. With bittern chicks being so small and often spread out from the nest basin I wonder just what the predation impact is on bittern chicks from what appears to be an increasing harrier population. Clearly this photograph demonstrates that human predation was also a problem in the past !!! If anyone has any recent reports (last three years )of breeding bittern I am certainly keen to receive them-

Friday, May 28, 2010

Auckland bittern summary

Hi all- I will put up a summary of information on the status of bittern in the Auckland region soon.

Always keen on any sightings- hope to keep the national bittern database going.

Bittern are to our wetlands what kakapo are to our forests- Imagine the time when bittern and kakapo boomed side by side- in the not too distant past.

Bittern in flight

Another photo from Te Waihora region. Cool birds. Great weather for a bittern at moment.

Keen for any recent sightings.
Please email to me :

Kind regards

Bittern still alive and booming in O Tu Wharekai

"Bittern booming at Maori Lakes in April - on automatic recorder - YeeeHaaa!"
Comment from Colin O'Donnell. Thanks Stuart for putting out the automatic recorders.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Booming bittern finally filmed

OK- the Eurasian bittern- but still interesting footage. Quite a different booming call from the Australasian bittern-
Thanks George for link.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bittern sighted just north of Whangarei

Thanks for the photo June. This really shows that bitterns like diverse habitats- eco-tones. They certainly stand out in green "reed beds". Bird sighted a few days ago.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bittern talks and a few comments

I will be giving a presentation about bitterns to South Auckland OSNZ on 11 May and at ECan on 21 May- will post details tomorrow.

Hopefully no bitterns got shot during the opening of the duck-shooting season over the weekend.

Sadly I received a report of a bittern shot last year by duck shooters in the Northland Region.

I am keen to spotlight locations of high importance to bittern and to increase awareness of the birds' plight.

The drought in Northland appears to have concentrated bitterns and good numbers of birds have been sighted up there in the last month or so.

Keep an eye out as bitterns can turn up anywhere at this time of year.

Kind regards

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bittern photo available as postcard

Bittern postcard available- The image of a bittern in flight is available as a 6x 4 print on a card with envelope- available for $3 each. Minimum order is three. Plus $1.00 postage.If interested please email me your address and I will post out. all funds go towards researching bittern conservation in NZ.Email-

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Extinct bittern !!!!

The NZ little bittern is considered extinct- a reminder of how vulnerable our cryptic wetland birds are to processes that have affected and caused extinction amongst our forest birds.
specimen photographed on display at the Otago Museum.

Bittern talk given in Otago

Hi fellow bitterners- gave a talk on bittern conservation to 25 members of the Otago OSNZ last Wednesday. It is good to hear that bitterns have been heard booming from the Waihola/Sinclair wetland area over the 2009-2010 breeding season. Thanks for the report Graeme.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shane McPherson bittern photo

Taken at Lake Humuhumu . Possibly a young bird due to dark , fresh plumage ?
Thanks Shane

Bittern sightings rolling in

Thanks all for bittern sightings. The latest sighting comes from Ross who sighted a bird at Moana- Lake Brunner.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Not so typical bittern habitat

On Monday morning Lisa from Rolleston sighted a bittern on this road edge near Lincoln. The bird froze when sighted. The rank broom on the edge of the road perhaps was a substitute for reeds. I went out the following morning but had no luck in finding the bird. Unusual habitat for a bittern , but only 15 kilometres away from the bird's strong hold in Canterbury, on the western side of Lake Ellesmere. So keep an eye out as bitterns turn up in some unusual locations in the Autumn.

Typical bittern habitat

Bitterns are a key species marking out wetlands of high bio-diversity- so should be celebrated in 2010 - the international year of bio-diversity. The photo shows typical bittern habitat with a range of wetland vegetation and shallow feeding edges.

Bittern blog- 2010

Thank you to everyone who submitted bittern records last year. DOC is now working on an analysis of the records gathered- almost 4000 in all.

The blog will now operate as an informal discussion on bitterns in NZ.

Comments can be made on the blog. If anyone has any photos or images they want on the blog please email me -

Happy bitterning

Kind regards
Peter Langlands

Peter Langlands
Outdoor/ environmental writing and photography
B.Sc (Zoology) Diploma of Science (Aquatic Ecology)

H: 64 3 338 5373
M: 0274 501 916

P.O.Box 2819
Christchurch Mail Centre
New Zealand