ATYA student chooses conservation career

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The Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador programme helped wildlife photographer, bird lover and now conservation worker Bradley Shields find his career path in conservation.

Bradley was brought up in Tākaka so there were family trips to Abel Tasman National Park, and he became involved in the Project Janszoon Education Programme through Golden Bay High School.

Bradley went on to be an Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador (ATYA), spending time in the park with other ATYA students.

I have always had an interest in animals, especially birds. I recently found a photo book I made when I was 3 or 4 years old, of birds and their eggs, so obviously the interest was there then,” says Bradley.

A family trip to Australia in 2016 sparked a deeper appreciation for the natural world.

“I became forever hooked on the conservation of native species, and birds. I have spent countless hours looking for birds and waiting for the right photo opportunity. By doing this I have managed to see and hear over 180 species of bird and taken more than 80,000 images.”

During his time with Project Janszoon, Bradley spent much time in the park with his camera, and sharpened his photography skills as well as learn‑ ing about bird science and identification. His image of a highly secretive pūweto/spotless crake, which had not been recorded in the park before made national headlines.

Bradley says his involvement with Project Janszoon and time as an Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador was a great way of expanding his knowledge of birds and he started seriously getting into photography about five years ago, using increasingly sophisticated gear to get the shots he wanted. He says that learning identification skills and bird science was what really helped him choose a career in conservation.

“It soon became self‑perpetuating, and I liked doing my own thing.” After leaving school, Bradley secured a role as a Field Worker for ZIP (Zero Invasive Predators) in Franz Josef, South Westland. Bradley says that amongst the highlights of his connection with Project Janszoon was a a trip to photograph kākāpō and other native birds on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou, a trip that was facilitated through his connection with Project Janszoon ornithologist Ron Moorhouse. He also had an unforgettable experience photographing southern New  Zealand dotterel at Awarua Bay near Bluff. 

“Laying right in a middle of a flock of 48 (one third of the global population) of these incredibly rare birds as they inspected me was an experience I will never forget.”

“Project Janszoon gave me a great opportunity to experience the national park on my doorstep and get to know the importance of conservation for our native birds. It really helped me develop my knowledge for my chosen career path.

This story features in Project Janszoon’s Annual Report 2021-22. You can read the full report here

You can see Bradley’s work on Instagram  @bradley_birdsnz

man with camera lying on beach taking photos of birds
Bradley Shields in action. Image: Guy McDonald

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