What's On at Zealandia


Outstanding volunteer Lynn Freeman
Louise Slocombe
/ Categories: In the Valley, Volunteering

Outstanding volunteer Lynn Freeman

Lynn Freeman is a familiar voice to many New Zealanders as a presenter on Radio New Zealand – her shows include Standing Room Only and filling in on Nine to Noon. When she’s not hard at work in the Radio New Zealand studios, she can often be found in ZEALANDIA, which she describes as her “happy place”, a place where she can get away from the stresses of work, take a walk and listen to the birds.

Lynn has been a volunteer at ZEALANDIA for many years, carrying out a number of roles – in fact, this year she won a ZEALANDIA Outstanding Volunteer award for her longstanding commitment and support for ZEALANDIA.

Before she started volunteering here, Lynn was a regular visitor, walking around the valley to keep fit. Over time she found that she was walking more slowly and spending more time watching the birds. Then she got involved in volunteering – initially she helped to feed the kākā, and also assisted on night tours. Other activities she has been involved in include taking part in research projects such as a kākā census and kiwi nest monitoring, and feeding the takahē.

Currently Lynn monitors kākā nest boxes, something she has been doing for around seven years. This involves checking up on the boxes regularly during the nesting season. Once the eggs are laid, the nest box monitors wait in an unobtrusive spot – often for a considerable length of time - for the mother to leave the nest box in search of food, and they then “dash to the box”, take photos of what’s inside, note any problems and retrieve any dead chicks or broken eggs, all before the mother returns. The information is passed to the teams banding the birds so they can band the fledglings at the right time, and is also used to build up knowledge about kākā.

Because she has been monitoring the same boxes for some time, Lynn has gotten to know the birds who nest there. She thinks it’s possible that some of the birds at least, may now know her. She is particularly drawn to kākā because of their “big personalities”, and because they are “smart, beautiful” birds. Lynn was the first person to video a fledgling kākā as it left the nest to explore the outside world – “moments like that are great”, she says.

Through spending time in the valley, Lynn got into photography which is now “a very big thing” for her - she is a member of the ‘Sanctuary Storytellers’, a group of writers and photographers who share the stories of ZEALANDIA on social and other media. “There is no better place than ZEALANDIA for honing your skills, it’s a photographer’s heaven,” Lynn says, describing how she started off with tuatara and then moved on to faster-moving wildlife. Her current ambition is to get a shot of a riroriro (grey warbler) that she is happy with. [See some of Lynn's favourite photos in the gallery below.]

For Lynn, volunteering at ZEALANDIA is “never onerous”. There’s the “sheer pleasure of getting to know birds”, and she has also made many friends through volunteering  – “it’s a great place to meet like-minded people” she says.

I ask Lynn about her best moments as a volunteer at ZEALANDIA, and she reels off a long list of highlights, including holding a baby kiwi when she took part in the kiwi research project, having the takahē “standing on my feet, and following me around like chickens”, holding kākā chicks when they are being banded, seeing how visitors on night tours respond when they see a kiwi, and seeing two “impossibly cute” baby ruru (morepork). She is also excited about having recently seen (and photographed) Orbell, one of the new takahē pair who are just starting to be seen around ZEALANDIA. She loves the fact that ZEALANDIA has become so much a part of Wellington, and has made such a huge difference to the birdlife of the city.

Story by Louise Slocombe
Photo of Lynn by Judi Lapsley Miller
Wildlife photos by Lynn Freeman


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