There was a great turnout for the planting day on Sunday the 7th August and despite the dire weather predictions the rain held off and much was achieved without getting soaked. Apart from the planting it was decided to incorporate a working bee out on the last chenier to repair the fencing, which had taken a real battering over the winter, and to extend the fenced area towards the river to give the NZ dotterels and variable oystercatchers a bit more space to breed in. The breeding success of these shore birds at this site has been very poor in recent years and we’ve been thinking of ways to improve the habitat for them.
There are a number of possible reasons for this failure – disturbance by people is one possibility – but the most likely cause is the destruction of nests by the tide. Dotterels in particular, but also oystercatchers, will insist of laying their eggs JUST above the mean high tide mark, which makes them vulnerable during big high tides or when north easterly storms blow in.
So one of our aims was to extend the breeding enclosure towards the river as the chenier is slightly higher at this point and might provide more protection from the tide – that’s if we can persuade the dotterels to use it! Extending the fenced area also gives the birds more protection from disturbance as they have a larger enclosure. It may not stop them laying their eggs close to the new fence line but we can but try. Many thanks to Falloons at Dairy Flat for lending us a waratah-rammer-inner that made the job so much easier.
Our other strategy was to raise the height of the chenier. Importing sand and shell is one way of doing so, but in such a dynamic environment this is likely to be ineffectual. Vegetating the foredune with native sand grasses (Spinifex and pingao) is another option as they stabilise the sand causing it to build up and steepen the leading edge of the chenier. The higher the chenier the more protected the nest sites are. The dotterels also like to get in amongst the grasses and they provide shelter for any chicks to hide in too. We looked at sourcing seedlings but blow me down Spinefex has started to recolonise the chenier naturally. I’m afraid the bunnies will have to go as they like to eat these grasses, especially the pingao, so hopefully Council can carry out some rabbit control soon. Watch this space!
The pateke are back. Last year an unusual trio of two females and a single male raised two broods of youngsters, but this year it seems the banded female and the unbanded male have formed the usual monogamous pairing and we look forward to more pateke ducklings this year