Bird news from the Beach

Bird News from the Beach By Bernard Micheux

It’s definitely the time for changing of the guards down at Karepiro Beach with the winter migrant South Island Pied Oystercatchers down to 26 birds from a winter high of 325. There has been a steady decline since September as birds started leaving to breed on the braided rivers of Hawke’s Bay and the east coast of the South Island. The winter flocks of Pied Stilts have dispersed too as the birds start their breeding season, and the good news is that the resident pair at the back of the beach have hatched two small chicks. The Variable Oyster Catcher winter flock is dwindling as they pair up and start to return to their breeding sites. There are six pairs between Stillwater and the Okura shell bank, although there are no signs of breeding yet.
The godwits are back with 26 birds roosting on the beach and feeding in the estuary in September and 81 in early October. The flock will probably increase over the coming month as more birds return from their northern breeding grounds. Over the past few years the godwit flock has numbered between 120 and 190 birds. There is no sign of NZ Dotterels breeding yet, although pairs are forming and their plumage is getting deeper orange, particularly the males, which indicates breeding is not far away. There appear to be three pairs at Stillwater and single pairs at Karepiro Beach and the Okura shellbank. After two successful breeding seasons in 2015 and 2016, last year was a disaster for the Okura birds whose nests got washed out twice as king tides coincided with northeasterly storms. Traps have been set on the shellbank as a precaution due to the lack of trapping in the Reserve. If you ride horses can you please keep off the shell and ride your horse towards the mid-tide mark because young dotterel and Variable Oystercatcher chicks use the beach and will ‘freeze’ when startled. There has been at least one case when Oystercatcher chicks have been lost in this way. The sad news is that the long-term resident Variable Oystercatcher male (which was banded and has bred on the shellbank for at least 10 years) is missing this year, presumed dead.

Skip to toolbar