Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust News

Autumn - Winter 2022

As winter takes hold the number of human visitors to the Northern Spit has reduced. Trust volunteers have been continuing to maintain and check the predator traps which continue to catch mice and the occasional rat.

Many birds have temporarily migrated to warmer climates, but there are still many Oystercatchers resident and visible on the beaches during low tide.

Late Autumn - Omaha Spit

Spring 2021

At low tide the sand flats of the Whangateau Harbour provide an abundant food source for many hundreds of shorebirds. Twice a day, as tides cover the mudflats, the shorebirds find a safe roosting site on Omaha Spit. They gather in flocks on the spit and use the few hours over the high tide to catch up on sleep.

By roosting together, the birds are quickly alerted to any danger and are then able to lift off as one.

Over the summer our godwits become pretty tolerant of people walking slowly past on the wet sand when they are roosting on the spit and quickly settle down again to sleep.

Please be mindful of all the birds on Omaha Spit over the high tide and show them some love by not disturbing them.

Sleeping godwits and NZ dotterels at high tide, Nov. 2021 - Omaha Spit. Photo: Marie Ward

The oldest known godwit from our Omaha flock, colour banded as an adult in Yalu Jiang in 2002. Photo: Marie Ward

Currently we have around 500 godwits on Omaha Spit at high tide. These same birds return to Omaha in September every year after breeding in Alaska. We know this because a few of our birds have coloured flags on their legs which means we can positively identify them. Our oldest bird in the Godwit flock has orange over green flags on her left leg. These flags were placed on her legs in Yalu Jiang as an adult on her first migration north to breed in 2002.

It is such a relief to see her return safely to Omaha in September each year.

A few weeks after the adult Godwits return to New Zealand in September or October, the first of the juvenile Godwits arrive. These stand out in the flock as all their feathers have grown at the same time due to the chicks replacing their down with feathers.

This gives them a speckled appearance, quite different to the other adult birds.

Amazingly the juvenile Godwits find their way south to New Zealand several weeks after their parents have already migrated south.

How they know where they are headed is one of those remarkable feats of nature that we have no explanation for. In early November we had 8 juvenile Godwits with our Omaha flock.

If you look closely they will stand out with their speckled feathers, they often also have a slight burnt orange colouration around the top of their beaks. This staining is from the tannins in the Alaskan tundra as they feed.

A juvenile godwit, newly arrived from Alaska. Note the tannin staining around the top of the bill from feeding in the Alaskan tundra. Photo: Marie Ward

Great to see local businesses supporting the Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust.

Many thanks to Scott, Jared and Mike Bigwood of Bigwood Builders for suppling and cutting the timber for the new chick shelters for the OSPT.

I am sure the chicks will make good use of them this summer!

Chick shelter in use. Photo: Marie Ward

Autumn 2015

A record breeding season for NZ dotterel chicks at Omaha with at least 8 and as many as 13 chicks fledged! The success of the 2014/15 NZ dotterel breeding season has shown the value of the pest proof fence and the on-going work of volunteer trapping and monitoring activities on Omaha Spit. Predator trapping had been taking place for several years prior to the installation of the pest proof fence and trapping continues on both sides of the fence.

It is encouraging to the Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust volunteers to be making such a useful contribution to the survival of the NZ dotterel population. The dotterels share the Omaha Spit with a breeding population of variable oyster-catchers which also benefit from the predator free environment.

Photo: Richard Goodenough

Photo: Richard Goodenough

A number of other shorebirds rest at high tide on the spit. Hundreds of bar-tailed godwits can be seen during summer and spring. Many of the godwits have now left on their long journey back to Alaska to breed. A very large number of little banded dotterels are now present at high tide. Also seen on the spit this year have been large flocks of white-fronted terns, pied stilts and southern pied oyster-catchers.

Despite this season's success, predators, storm damage and human activity caused the loss of many eggs and chicks. Predators such as rodents, hedgehogs, stoats and weasels have been almost eliminated inside the Sanctuary, but there are still occasional incursions along the estuary.

Camera surveillance has shown that aerial predators (black-backed gulls and harriers) are still a major threat and work is continuing to overcome this problem.

People walking in and around nesting areas remains a concern. There are tape fences erected around nesting areas and visitors are asked to stay outside them. Any intrusion on the shoreline may endanger young chicks and often nests are located outside the taped areas.

Photo: Richard Goodenough

Thank you to local residents who have been helpful in providing guidance to summer visitors and reminding them that camping and dogs are not permitted. This applies to the whole of North Omaha Reserve, both inside and outside the pest proof fence. Everyone is encouraged to read the informative panels at the entrances to the Sanctuary and to learn more about our endangered species and the importance of the Sanctuary so that we may continue to provide a safe and secure haven for all of our shorebirds

If you would like to join the team of trappers and monitors please email the Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust at: