Category Archives: Friends of Onoke Spit

Dotterels and Pests

The resilient banded dotterels are nesting on Onoke Spit at present and Dougal has been checking the traps regularly. These birds use camouflage as there protection but predators such as rats have a very good sense of smell so they can find eggs and newly fledged chicks very easily. A dead rat means more live dotterels for us to enjoy.

IMG_0015 rat
One dead rat!
The art of camouflage
IMG_0021dott nest

The Footbridge is Finished!

The job was completed last Thursday so now we have walking access across the stream by the Kiriwai lagoon.
Its been a long time coming but worth it to keep our feet dry.
Many thanks to Noel Parker for driving in the posts, to Ron Allan our master builder and to Dougal and Kevin our volunteer labourers. Thanks also to Alan Arnold for some tidying up work around the ends.

Posts in.
First span on.
Master builder Ron at work!
Looking good!
Ron and Kevin testing it out.

Weeding on Onoke Spit

Last Saturday we made the most of a windless day and shot down to pull out a patch of pink senecio or holly-leaved senecio. While this is a very pretty pink daisy like flower it is a foreign garden escapee and we don’t want it to get established on the Spit. It is relatively easy to pull out mainly because it is growing in sand and has a long tap root, but after about an hours work we were ready to load up the trailer and head home for a cuppa!
We will go back and pull some more soon before it sets it’s seed. Thanks for your help Sara Uruski.


Planting Day at Onoke Spit

On Friday June 27 we finally planted another 750 plants at the start of Onoke Spit.
Many thanks to all who turned up to help. Special mention must go to the year 5 & 6 Kahutara School children, Palliser Estate workers and of course all DoC personnel.
The weather was kind to us and the Lake stayed open so the plants were planted in just 2 hours – well done team a truly great effort.
The site is really beginning to look good now that we are four years on with our planting programme. Eventually we hope to change what was a sea of gorse into a more attractive area covered in native plants.
Hope you are able to go and visit sometime soon and admire the work and efforts so far. We’re not finished yet and hope to continue planting for a few more years yet!

Time to get planting

It’s that time of year again. We’ll be planting at Onoke Spit on Friday May 16 starting at 10 am.
Everyone is welcome to come and assist our local Kahutara School friends with this years planting.
This will be our fourth year of planting on the Spit and so far we’ve been pretty pleased with the survival rates of the plants given that this is such a challenging site. Conditions are favourable again as we have had enough rain and hopefully the plants will get established over the winter and be ready to grow when spring arrives.
Without frosts to worry about on Onoke Spit plants need just moisture and not too much wind to get established. Summer, when its hot and dry, is the most challenging time.
In fact even here at Te Rakau we have always found late autumn the best time to plant out as generally there is less wind in the winter and rain can be almost guaranteed. I have a number of small native plants in pots ready to be planted around our property to supply more food for our birds.

Planting Day & Pest Control Update

The traps have been reset along Onoke Spit to continue to control the various mammal pests that prey on our nesting birds. When we checked the traps on Sunday we had caught 3 hedgehogs and 1 feral cat. This is a good result and should make a difference for the birds next nesting season. Fresh bait nearly always brings a good result.

Planting Day 2014 will be held on Friday May 16. I will post more details closer to the date but in the mean time put this date on your calendars and come and help us put some more native plants in the ground.

Penguin Boxes

On Sunday Dougal and I put six Penguin boxes between Onoke Spit and the Wharepapa River. You can see what they look like below.

The initiative to encourage the Little Blue Penguin to nest in these boxes is being driven by Clive Paton from Ata Rangi Vineyard. Many of our senior locals tell us that they used to see these delightful little birds ashore much more than today, so by providing suitable nesting boxes we hope to give the population a boost.

Of course we will also need to continue to control the relevant pests and continue to educate visitors about keeping dogs under control during nesting time, which for Little Blue Penguin can be from July – December.

We would appreciate knowing of any sitings in the area in the future.



Caspian Terns leave Onoke Spit

Sadly the Caspian Terns have given up on breeding for this summer and left the Spit.
I believe that the main reason that breeding has not been successful this year is because of the windy and changeable weather we have had this summer. These conditions would make it very difficult for the parent birds to get out and fish for their chicks and mates. Also the strong winds can blow loose sand around and bury the eggs. Last weekend we had a massive southerly swell and the waves were breaking right up into the middle of the Spit – not the best for any nesting birds in exposed sites.
One consolation is that Caspian Terns are long-lived birds and so successful breeding each year is not quite so necessary.
Dougal and I are of course very disappointed, but will continue our vigilant pest control and look forward positively to next breeding season.

Could be bad news for the Caspian Tern Chicks

We visited the Spit yesterday afternoon and were very sad that the Caspian Terns had once again moved from their nesting site. There were about sixteen birds further east towards the Lake Ferry end of the Spit and we only sited one chick. We are hopeful that some of the other chicks are still alive and maybe being covered by a parent. However the weather has been most unsettled over the last few days with strong southerlies on Friday evening and Saturday morning with huge swells. Then we had very strong northerly winds on Sunday afternoon. These sorts of conditions make it very difficult for the parents to go fishing for their babies. Lets just hope that the weather settles down and the birds can have one more go at rearing some chicks.

Caspian Chicks

On Friday Jan 10 Dougal visited the Caspian Tern colony after checking the traps on Onoke Spit and was pleased to discover that a few chicks have hatched. He reckons that he saw at least 6-10 so hopefully there will be more to follow. The Caspian Terns are sitting on the second site for the season so are a bit behind schedule from last year. We will keep you posted and will also try and get some pictures up on the website.