The Scientist leading us through the forest stops suddenly. This is where we'll lay our trap. He sends each of us in a different direction, then starts setting up his equipment. One by one our head lamps wink out, until I'm standing there in the astonishing darkness of a forest at night. On the bank across the river I can see tiny points of pale blue light: glow worms glittering like a false night sky. If I look way up, I can see a little patch of real stars. I lucked out; I got a good night, calm and clear.
In fact, its amazing that I'm here at all. I was so blase about it when I got the email asking if I wanted to participate in the kiwi survey. Somewhere deep down I knew that I wanted nothing more than to chase down kiwi in the native forest of Karori Sanctuary. But life had gotten so.. busy. And do you know how hard it is to get home on public transit at one in the morning? But one by one the stars aligned. I'm only rostered on for one day a week at my vet clinic most of this month. And then there's the remarkable fact that I asked to borrow a friend's car last week and he decided I could just hang onto it indefinitely.
So there I was, standing perfectly still in the dark, clutching my net at the ready, ears straining for any sign of an approaching kiwi, even though I hardly knew what such a thing might sound like. The Scientist started up his recording of kiwi mating calls, the sound ringing in my ear and then back to silence. Actually, not silence. The nearby river was babbling away, playing tricks on my ears. Every tiny sound was a potential kiwi approaching my little spot of forest. And then there was the ringing in my ears. We live in a world so saturated with noises; how long had I been walking around with this ringing in my ears? There was no way to know for certain.
After what felt like ages, I saw the flood of light as the Scientist turned his head lamp back on. No luck this time. We set our nets down and broke out our energy bars. Time for a break. The Scientist explained that this was pretty average results for one of these missions. This was our second 'trap' of the evening, and no luck yet. In fact the closest we'd gotten was when we were first setting out. Someone spotted (or heard?) a kiwi and the Scientist ordered us to spread out, creeping through the forest to close in on it. One of our team actually got a net over it, but it was up against a steep ridge, and she couldn't get the net flat, and the bird just ducked underneath and made a run for it. The Scientist gave chase, but as he explained, when they're headed uphill through the forest like that they can easily outrun a human.
Then, as we're all busy with our snacks and our water bottles, we hear a kiwi calling, and its close. Everyone's picked up a net and in a few seconds, and we've all scrambled back into position. And there we all are, waiting in the dark once more.
To be continued
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