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August 2011

Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust News

Recognition by the local community that Omaha Spit is a special habitat for shorebirds and deserving of protection is evident in the increasing number of ‘Friends of Omaha Shorebirds’, donations received from individuals and the support of local community organisations Omaha Beach Community Inc. and Omaha Beach Residents Society.

 

Nesting time

Visitors to Omaha Spit will notice many NZ dotterels now displaying their russet breeding plumage. Breeding occurs from August to February. Soon nests will be formed as small depressions in the sand. Nesting areas are marked off with tape because the eggs are so well camouflaged that it would be easy to tread on them. Disturbance is a major cause of breeding failure. Brochures are in place at the entrances to the Reserve to raise visitor awareness of the need to keep below the high tide mark, move away when birds show signs of distress and to keep dogs out of the Reserve.

In spite of intensive predator trapping last season, only five chicks fledged and of these three survived. Considering that there are at least fifteen NZ dotterel breeding pairs on the Spit, the breeding rate is much less than it should be.

 

Trapping programme

The single most important way to improve breeding rates is by protecting the breeding adults and their eggs and chicks from predators. Currently this is best achieved by a line of traps across the buffer zone between the subdivision and the nesting areas. Last season OSPT purchased additional traps and the number of rats, hedgehogs, weasels and stoats caught increased. However, pests do get past the trap lines. Recently in broad daylight a large rat was seen scampering across the dunes by representatives of Auckland Council and OSPT.

From July to March a team of volunteers is rostered to check traps on a daily basis. Marie Ward (m.ward@auckland.ac.nz) would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in joining the trapping team. You might like to take part one day a week or fortnight. It takes about 30 minutes to check all the traps, and is a pleasant way to get some exercise.

 

Pest proof fence

It is about to happen! $136,500 has been raised from individual donors, private trusts, banks, local resident groups and large funders. Auckland Council will soon select one of three tenders to construct a purpose designed pest proof fence across the Spit. The most suitable line for the fence will be determined in consultation with the successful tenderer, Auckland Council and OSPT. Two pedestrian gates, one vehicle gate and information signs will be installed. Auckland Council is about to conduct a consultative process in support of an application for resource consent. Hopefully the fence, similar to nearby Tawharanui Open Sanctuary, will be in place by Christmas.

 

 

Whangateau harbour

As well as NZ dotterels, many other shorebirds frequent the spit. Very noisy variable oystercatchers are also breeding on the spit. In spring and summer a large group of godwits roosts at high tide. At the end of summer as many as 300 little banded dotterels gather. Omaha Spit occasionally is visited by our most endangered bird, the NZ fairy tern.

There are so many shorebirds at Omaha because of the proximity to Whangateau Harbour, and its abundant food supply. If we wish to protect our shorebirds, it is important to be vigilant about activities that might threaten their habitat. It would be appreciated if fishermen on the Spit do not leave line or bait around. Bait attracts rats. Recently several birds have been injured by becoming entangled in fishing line.

 

 

Omaha Spit on TV

Tune in to Prime TV 8:45 pm Sunday 14 August to view the second episode, ‘The Crowded Coast’, of Craig Potton’s new series ‘Wild Coasts’, in which Omaha Spit and the activities of OSPT feature.

Thank you

Your support by donation, with materials or skilled work, as trapping monitors and with bird monitoring is appreciated. Much has been achieved in a short time, and the pest proof fence is about to become a reality. Once the fence is built, the special habitat that is North Omaha Reserve will be better protected and appreciated.

 

For more information and details of how you can help visit www.omahashorebirds.co.nz

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