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Khandallah artist and ‘bird nerd’ keeps native treasures safe

Dec 13th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest News, News

AN INSPIRATION: One of Mr Stoddard’s prints

EVERY artist needs a muse – and illustrator Tony Stoddard is using his art to keep his beautiful muses alive. 

Mr Stoddard, a digital artist, is selling his illustrations of New Zealand native birds whose Khandallah Park habitat is under threat from introduced predators.

All of the proceeds are going towards predator control in the park to protect the birds from pests, such as possums, rats and stoats.

“The birds bring us so much joy,” says Mr Stoddard, whose nearby home is often visited by tui, bellbird, kakariki and kereru.

“All the money goes to them. I’m giving them payback and recognition for the inspiration they bring.”

Mr Stoddard, a former children’s book illustrator, has placed his prints on Trademe and he and wife Amber have been stocking up on traps with the money raised.

He says there are just 26 predator traps in the 200 hectare Khandallah Park, which he describes as a “treasure” for Wellington.

While the Regional Council’s bait lines have been effective in controlling possums in the park, birds are still at risk from other predators, which prey on their eggs and young.

“Kereru only lay one egg [in a breeding season], so they are very vulnerable to rats,” says Mr Stoddard.

BIRD NERDS: Mr Stoddard and son Jesse, in front of their bird feeder

“The kakariki nest underground and all their chicks get eaten. There are only two kakariki in the park, so once they’re gone, there’s nothing to replace them.”

The traps they have bought and have been donated to them by the Greater Wellington Regional Council will help control rats, stoats, weasels and hedgehogs.

“People often frown at us trapping hedgehogs. But they eat the native snails,” says Mr Stoddard.

He and Amber have started up a volunteer group called Human + Nature, encouraging locals to help with laying, checking and re-setting the traps.

Seven people have joined far, and he is hoping more volunteers will sign up.

“It doesn’t cost people much, apart from their time.

“Plus, they’ll get fit – they’ll need to climb up waterfalls and through dense bush.”

Mr Stoddard also hopes to use the proceeds from his art to make road signs warning motorists to be mindful of kereru.

He says many of the native wood pigeons are killed from striking car windows.

“The vets at Wellington Zoo said the injuries they get from car strikes are horrific,” he says.

“Kereru mate for life, so once one bird goes, that’s it.”

Mr Stoddard says he has learned a lot about native birds since his family moved to Khandallah, and loves studying the birds that visit his garden.

“When we lived in Miramar, I saw only one tui. Now our sycamore tree gets about 40 tui at one time,” says Mr Stoddard, a self-confessed “bird nerd”.

He has built a bird feeder with help from son Jesse (5), who has inherited his father’s love of nature.

“He loves coming out with us when we check on the traps – especially when we pull out a giant big flat rat.”

FEATHERED FRIENDS: Mr Stoddard’s garden is often visited by Tui

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is a Whitireia journalism student, most passionate about the arts and social justice issues. Sometimes, she even combines the two.
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