Changing seasons

Winter godwit flock in the foreground with pied oystercatchers and variable oystercatchers (larger, mainly black) in the background

Some days you can almost feel spring in the air – and then the next squall comes over to remind us that winter is still with us. The pied oystercatchers certainly think that spring is here as many of our winter flock have departed for their breeding grounds on the braided rivers of the South Island (or Hawke’s Bay). There are reports that breeding is starting early down south.

The torea/variable oystercatchers are just starting to form pairs ready for the coming breeding season, but a large flock of 28 birds is still present at Karepiro. As the days lengthen and the hormones kick in these winter flocks start to break up as the birds become territorial and aggressive, and won’t tolerate any other variable oystercatchers (or anything else seemingly). Once they have established territories and laid eggs they will make their presence felt with loud cries, drooping wing displays and so on if you get too close to their nest, so move away and let the incubating bird return to the eggs.

Variable oystercatcher nest found just above the high tide line

There was a flock of up to 30 kuaka/godwits at Karepiro this winter. The photo shows 24 of them. These are last season’s young who hadn’t quite made it to breeding condition by March, so they didn’t head off to Alaska and spent the winter here instead.

A pair of rare pateke/brown teal have taken up a territory by the lagoon at Weiti and will hopefully breed again this year. There has been a guy with dreads that insists on letting his dog run free around the cheniers. Please report all instances of dogs to Auckland Council on 09 301 0101 or send me a text (027 4205313). The spoonbill visitors are increasing too – I counted 8 at the Weiti lagoon just before lockdown.

Let’s hope we can all get out and enjoy nature soon, but in the meanwhile keep safe and well while we wait for alert levels to fall.

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