Christmas 2014

Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust News

Spring time at the North Omaha Reserve Shorebird Sanctuary

Visitors to the reserve at high tide may see resting on the beach a large flock of bar-tailed godwits, estimated by the Trust monitors to number 600. About 40 mostly young non-breeding godwits spent the winter at Omaha and were joined in September by young birds and parents returning from their breeding grounds in Alaska after an incredible 11,000 km, non-stop flight. In March they will depart for the return to Alaska with feeding stops Asia and Siberia.

Now in November the breeding season for Omaha’s resident birds is in full swing. A recent count by Trust monitors identified 56 NZ dotterels and 60 variable oystercatchers but there is nesting space for only perhaps 12 pairs of each species. The rest of the birds are young or non-breeding individuals. The nests consist of a scrape or slight depression in the sand and the birds lay a clutch of 3 eggs beginning in mid-September. Incubation take 4 to 5 weeks, with the female and male taking turns sitting and guarding the eggs while the other feeds. Depending on the tides, the female sits during the day and the male at night.

When the eggs hatch the parents show the chicks where to find food and guard them until they fledge after a further 5 weeks. During this time the eggs and chicks are extremely vulnerable to disturbance and predation. Visitors are requested to stay outside the tape fences which mark the nesting areas and keep clear of any birds showing signs of distress.

Last year many of the early nests were destroyed by a large storm and high tide. This year, although there were storms over the winter, the spring has been kinder. However the monitors are concerned that 5 of the nests have lost their eggs due to predation. Intensive trapping and the pest-proof fence should have eliminated the usual predators such as stoats, rats and hedgehogs. Black-back gulls are suspected and they are present in large numbers around Omaha. Please do not encourage the gulls by feeding them fishing waste! Residents and holiday makers are also reminded that dogs and cats are banned from the Reserve. Please prevent pets from wandering free and keep them inside at night.

Recently the Trust held a refresher course for our team of predator trappers. The course was conducted by Maurice Puckett, the Auckland Council Ranger based at Tawharanui, who brought with him a sack of frozen rats, stoats and other animals for us to practice identification. He also provided advice on ways to improve our tracking and baiting techniques based on his long experience. Thank you Maurice for your help and support.

Stoat trapped outside pest-proof fence, 26 October 2014  Trappers training with Maurice Puckett, 8 November 2014


Planting at North Omaha Reserve

In 2011 Auckland Council produced a timely guideline for restoration planting on North Omaha Reserve. In 2012 and 2014 Trust volunteers concentrated on planting sand binding native spinifex and pingao on fore dune slopes inside the Sanctuary. Although perhaps not apparent to most visitors to the spit, those plants have helped arrest dune erosion in the severe storms of recent times.

In 2013 the kikuyu “paddock” alongside walkway1 leading to the western gate to the Sanctuary was mown and sprayed.   With the support of the local community, the area was planted with native shrubs specified by Council including flax, coprosma, houpara, karo and manuka. These plants attract native birds as they provide a good food source. Manuka is an important habitat for lizards, in particular the rare green gecko which was recorded as being present on the spit in earlier times.

Do have a look at the healthy growth of these plants, some of which are now coming into flower. Of concern however is that it appears some plants were removed and the tops of others seem to have been broken off. If you are aware of such vandalism continuing, please report to the Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust, email

For more information and details of how you can help visit