Volunteering Makes You A Fun Guy

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Once a month I enjoy giving up some time to do volunteer work in the Waitakere Ranges for Ark in the Park. The Ark is a large area of the Waitakere Ranges that is under a pest protection plan that involves the use of traps, poison bait, monitoring, reintroduction of native birds and much, much more. My volunteer work involves a four hour hike through bush baiting stoat, rat and possum traps with fresh rabbit and occasionally scraping off the remains of an unlucky pest species that has come into contact with the blunt end of a DoC 250 trap (aptly named ‘the potato masher’). I also volunteer some extra time to help with the pitfall trap studies which involve analysing the invertebrates that are captured in the pitfalls. I particularly enjoy this as it is related to my entomology interests and you get to see some of the unusual fauna that you might not notice on a walk such as kauri snails, peripatus and Scolopendridae. Unexpectedly, the work I have done analysing pitfall traps assisted me in getting casual employment with Auckland Council during my Masters. Volunteering your time can often lead to unexpected connections, job opportunities and new skills.

 

However, I didn’t set out to volunteer with the intention of getting a job or making new contacts. I started back in high school as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award and continued with it as it gets me out in the bush (and, as my track is just by Anawhata, I combine it with a surf at Piha for maximum outdoor time). The benefits of doing this are many. You are forced to go out of reception and get to enjoy a rare break from emails, texts, messenger, facebook and phone calls. This is a rare opportunity in today’s society where you can’t get a moment to yourself without your phone buzzing. Another benefit is you get to see some of the rare birds that are flourishing in the Ark such as pōpokotea, toutouwai, mātātā and kokako. None of which would have been released here without the help of conservation volunteers. My personal favourite, however, is the diverse and vibrant array of fungi that appear along the way, making for a stroll that is more colourful than a Friday night on K Road. I will leave you with a menagerie of colourful fungi photos that I have had the pleasure of taking on my walks.

 

All photos are by Neil Birrell and shared under CC-BY.


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