One for the birds

Design student Harvey Penfold is helping gather data about birds in North East Valley, Dunedin.

The Valley Project, North East Valley's community organisation, is spearheading a long-term project to make North East Valley an unfenced ecosanctuary, encouraging more native birds to visit and live there. North East Valley residents will be involved in gathering baseline information about which native birds come there and what they eat. This will raise the residents' interest in and appreciation of the birds, provide baseline data about the number and types of birds against which subsequent efforts can be measured, and inform decisions about what food should be offered in future to attract which birds. This research is being undertaken with University of Otago scientists, sponsorship from Mitre 10, and support from the Orokonui Ecosanctuary to run the experiments.

Harvey Penfold, studying Product Design at Otago Polytechnic, got involved because the Orokonui Ecosanctuary needed help designing a bird feeder. They needed a bird feeder that could:

  • Be installed in different properties on a sturdy steel waratah;
  • Could cope with the weight of a heavy bird such as kaka as well as small bellbirds;
  • Could offer food for both nectar-loving birds and seed-eating birds.

With help from our EPICentre technicians, Harvey used his design skills and our 3D printer to develop a platform for birds to use.  A seed feeder will hang off the platform, and a nectar feeder hang above it, also attached to the waratah. A motion sensor will trigger a camera nearby on another waratah to record bird visits to the feeder.  Harvey also gave advice to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary about mounting the camera. 

15 of the platforms have been provided to Orokonui Ecosanctuary, and they will be installed on about 75 properties in North East Valley, Opoho and Pine Hill. If you live in the area and are interested in being involved, please contact the Valley Project or Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

Harvey's project has won him first prize in the 2017 Audacious Business Challenge awards for students of Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago. Lecturer Andrew Wallace is pleased to see Harvey is already putting his design skills to work on a real world project which will have environmental impact. Harvey is conscious that his work is a small part of a very big project - "I just designed stuff" - but he's pleased to have been involved:

"It's been pretty good, good to see something you've made being used."

September 2017