Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust News

Shorebirds on Omaha Spit

We are now at the end of the breeding season for the Northern New Zealand dotterel and the variable oystercatcher (VOC) at Omaha Spit. Those that regularly visit the spit will notice that the number of dotterels grouped together at high tide has increased dramatically in the last few weeks. During the breeding season from late July until early January we have 10 - 15 breeding pairs of NZ dotterels at Omaha, and a few non-breeding birds as well, making the overall population less than 40. From late January to March the NZ dotterel numbers increase as those that have bred on the sandy beaches and bayGodwitss nearby return to Omaha for the winter. Over 100 dotterels have been counted in the annual March survey of the flock at Omaha for the past two years.

 

Late summer is one of my favourite times of the year at Omaha as many other shorebirds return to the spit in large numbers to winter over. Many of you will be very familiar with the very large group of godwits that roost huddled together at every high tide.  The godwits are Arctic-migrants that fly non-stop to New Zealand from their breeding sites to spend the summer getting fat in the food-rich Whangateau harbour. Although the godwits do not breed in New Zealand, they are considered to be indigenous (= native) in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy (Anon. 2000). Other Arctic migrants can sometimes be seen on the outskirts of the godwit group, such as Turnstones and Red knots.

Banded dotterel and NZ dotterel

The banded dotterels are another large group of birds that arrives at Omaha spit in the late summer. These dotterels do not breed at Omaha, but flock together on the spit, usually mixed in amongst the NZ dotterels. But unlike the NZ dotterels, the bandies are quite shy and will frequently all fly off when humans walk by. Last year we estimated that there were over 300 banded dotterels in the group. Towards the end of autumn the banded dotterel develop two broad bands across its chest, one black, the other a rich chestnut.

Wrybill

 

 

 

 

 

This year we have also noticed a few wrybills at Omaha, with 10 on the beach near the southern groyne in December. They camouflage well with the grey stones on the beach in that area and are initially hard to spot, but they are so cute once you do see them with their crooked bills that curve off to the right. Wrybills currently breed only on braided rivers of the South Island, and sadly their numbers are threatened with the loss and degradation of habitat. A group of about 50 pied stilts roost on the spit at high tide. Like the banded dotterels, they are rather shy and will fly off readily if humans are nearby. White fronted terns can also sometimes be found roosting on the rocks at the end of the spit.

Marie Ward

White fronted terns

 

Pest proof fence

Resource Consent to build a pest proof fence across the Spit has been granted.

Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust is delighted with the decision. It is hoped construction will start in June, depending on building consents and contracts.

The 400 metre long fence will run from the mean high tide mark on the Whangateau Harbour side, across the Spit to the first groyne. Two sets of double gates will be erected, allowing continued easy pedestrian access along the beach and through the subdivision.


The 1.8 metre high fence, with a cap along the top and skirt underground, will be a modern version of the Tawharanui pest proof fence. Its objective will be to keep shorebirds, including the threatened New Zealand dotterel and the variable oystercatcher, safe from predators such as rats, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs and cats.

The project will cost about $150,000 and is being funded by the Trust, which was established in December 2009. The local community and funding organisations have contributed towards the cost.  “The fence will emphasise that the spit is a special place and we hope this, in turn, will encourage more people to take care of it,” says Trust chair David Stone.

In his decision on the Resource Consent, Commissioner Ian Munro said visual and construction-related effects associated with the fence had been appropriately avoided, remedied or mitigated, and were overall outweighed by the benefits that would eventuate. As the Commissioner states, the fence will reflect the long term commitment to enhance the safety and integrity of an internationally significant area of habitat, and will promote the sustainable management of a sensitive area and its fauna.

David Stone

 

 PingaoRevegetation of Omaha SpitSpinifex

In 2011 Auckland Council undertook a vegetation survey of Omaha Spit. Council has made available funds this year to implement recommendations of the survey for weed control and restoration planting.

Eco-sourced indigenous sand-binding species (spinifex and pingao) will be planted on the foredunes in autumn and winter. The local community and regional volunteer groups will be advised of planting days.

There may be opportunity also to plant small groups of indigenous species in the backdunes.

Jill Stone

 

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

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