August 2011

05/08/2011

Recognition by the local community that Omaha Spit is a special habitat for shorebirds and deserving of protection is evident in the increasing number of 'Friends of Omaha Shorebirds', donations received from individuals and the support of local community organisations Omaha Beach Community Inc. and Omaha Beach Residents Society.

Nesting time

Visitors to Omaha Spit will notice many NZ dotterels now displaying their russet breeding plumage. Breeding occurs from August to February. Soon nests will be formed as small depressions in the sand. Nesting areas are marked off with tape because the eggs are so well camouflaged that it would be easy to tread on them. Disturbance is a major cause of breeding failure. Brochures are in place at the entrances to the Reserve to raise visitor awareness of the need to keep below the high tide mark, move away when birds show signs of distress and to keep dogs out of the Reserve.
In spite of intensive predator trapping last season, only five chicks fledged and of these three survived. Considering that there are at least fifteen NZ dotterel breeding pairs on the Spit, the breeding rate is much less than it should be.

Trapping programme

The single most important way to improve breeding rates is by protecting the breeding adults and their eggs and chicks from predators. Currently this is best achieved by a line of traps across the buffer zone between the subdivision and the nesting areas. Last season OSPT purchased additional traps and the number of rats, hedgehogs, weasels and stoats caught increased. However, pests do get past the trap lines. Recently in broad daylight a large rat was seen scampering across the dunes by representatives of Auckland Council and OSPT.

From July to March a team of volunteers is rostered to check traps on a daily basis. Marie Ward (m.ward@auckland.ac.nz) would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in joining the trapping team. You might like to take part one day a week or fortnight. It takes about 30 minutes to check all the traps, and is a pleasant way to get some exercise.

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