Anti-bird measures to protect equipment

Lauder Niwa atmospheric technician Michael Kotkamp displays a warning decoy and some of the...
Lauder Niwa atmospheric technician Michael Kotkamp displays a warning decoy and some of the spikes installed to scare birds away from instruments at the Lauder station. The campaign is keeping most of the birds away, but defensive or amorous bird encounters are still recorded from time to time on the station’s rooftop cameras. PHOTO: PAM JONES
Romantic interludes are all very well.

But a series of avian encounters has forced scientists at Niwa's atmospheric research station at Lauder to employ a No8 wire approach to stop birds having "inappropriate" relations on their rooftop equipment.

The sophisticated instruments - which measure things such as cloud cover, solar radiation and atmospheric composition - were a magnet to birds such as magpies and sparrows, which perched on the edges of instruments and eyed their reflections in rooftop domes, Niwa atmospheric technician Michael Kotkamp said.

The birds thought their own reflections were other birds, and then, "depending on whether they like the look of that bird or not", a series of "dominant" or "romantic" encounters would ensue, Mr Kotkamp said.

"They try and assert their dominance over it and try and mount the image of themselves."

The resultant "muck" left behind by the birds destroyed valuable scientific data, as it covered the shields of sky cameras and the input windows of other instruments, Mr Kotkamp said.

"Sometimes we lose a whole day's worth of data, or if they leave muck behind on a Friday, it destroys the whole weekend's data before we get back on Monday and clean it up."

Spikes, decoys and bird repellent are now in place.

It had "mostly" deterred the birds, but the occasional magpie or sparrow was still seen by the sky camera, and bird droppings were sometimes still left behind. Magpies were the worst offenders, Mr Kotkamp said.

"They're reasonably intelligent and I think they just get bored."

Niwa staff had also blocked up most of the nearby places birds could nest, although they were "stubborn", and some nests were still being found, Mr Kotkamp said.

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