Winter is over, the days are lengthening, and the Northern Hemisphere migrants are starting to arrive.
The beach is a dynamic place and winter storms have helped reshape it. At the northern end the creek has eaten into the bank by Dacre’s Cottage and removed areas that Variable Oystercatchers have bred in, but a new spit has started to form at its mouth. New shell deposits are forming offshore as the beach continues to encroach seawards. A late winter storm removed a lot of sand from the beach between the two creeks and has degraded nesting habitat for New Zealand Dotterel by increasing the likelihood of nests being swept away during summer storms.The dotterels lay eggs just above the high tide mark and their nests are vulnerable to storms, particularly when the beach profile has been lowered. In the past two breeding seasons we have managed to produce only two dotterel chicks from the Okura shell spit (at the bottom of the Okura River Road), Karepiro Beach, and the cheniers at Stillwater. While predation by dogs has been implicated in the failure of some nests, most were destroyed over the Christmas and New Year period by king tides coinciding with summer storms. Unfortunately, the replacement nests were also washed away three weeks later when another storm arrived. For the first time in twelve years there were no oystercatcher chicks raised at any of the three sites during the 2018/19 breeding season. In the longer term we are going to remove weed cover on the dunes and cheniers to try and encourage the dotterels and oystercatchers to nest higher up. At present there is too much vegetation for the birds to have a 360 degree view, so they won’t nest there.
Exciting developments with regard to Karepiro include working on a proposal to council to create a scientific reserve (see draft proposal) which would include managing the 30 000 visitors each year – possibly using boardwalks to keep people off the southern part of the beach at high tide and to minimise damage to the dunes – and providing a viewing hide and educational material. We are also working with the developers to restore the wetlands behind the beach to increase biodiversity and provide habitat for rarer birds and inanga (whitebait) breeding sites. Pest control continues on a regular basis, which included poison pulsing during late winter prior to shorebird breeding. To date 132 mice, 3 Norway rats, 9 ship rats, 2 stoats and 7 weasels have been caught this year.
Return of the Godwits