The birds are getting very active here at Te Rakau with warmer weather and longer days stimulating breeding behaviour. I heard my first shining cuckoo call on Friday September 30 so the little grey warblers will be exceptionally busy if they end up rearing cuckoo chicks that are much bigger than themselves. In fact these industrious little birds have probably already reared a clutch of their own chicks before the cuckoos invade their nests as a safety mechanism to ensure their own future.
On Onoke Spit the Caspian Terns are starting to group up and begin the ritual of fishing for their mates – a kind of bird foreplay! We are keeping a much closer watch on their nesting site and have upped the number of traps along the spit to give them a better chance of rearing chicks successfully this year. Let’s hope that humans and their dogs play their part too and leave the birds in peace for the breeding season which can go well into January.
Caspian Terns and chick
The banded dotterels have had a wonderful breeding season with many nests and chicks sighted over this summer. It is always a wonderful sight to witness how these small but extremely resilient birds hunker down in windy weather and rear their young in this very wild environment. Their camouflaged eggs are amazing and thanks to the respectful public there appears to be little vehicular damage to their nesting area.
Banded dotterel on a nest
However the news is not so good for the Caspian terns. After a very settled period just before and over Xmas we saw about 10 birds sitting on eggs. However late in their gestation we had a very strong northerly wind and the birds abandoned their eggs. It was very disappointing, but an ongoing challenge in this environment.
Let’s hope 2016 is a better year for these magnificent birds.
Caspian tern in flight
Last weekend we hosted John and Gail Cheyne from Lake Hatuma in Central Hawks Bay. John is and ex NZ Wild Life officer and extremely knowledgeable about our matuku. He and his wife Gail are the official recorders of bittern populations in the Wairarapa Moana. On Sunday evening they heard 3 booming males around the Pounui Lagoons and just to add more excitement, early the next morning John heard the 3 males again plus a female response call. We are very pleased because there appears to be 1 more booming male than when the survey was completed a couple of years ago. It would appear that the predator control work around this important wetland area is making a difference. Let’s hope the birds breed successfully again this year.
Trying to hide
Just caught a fish!
We are very thrilled to have these new signs at our local sites as part of the wider promotion of Wairarapa Moana.
Entrance to Onoke Spit
This sign at the western End of Onoke Spit features the Caspian Tern who have begun their breeding behaviour. Last Sunday Dougal and I saw 21 birds congregated together at the end of the spit beginning their breeding rituals. As the pairs bond they go off to find fish to bring to their mates. We saw some of this behaviour just starting. It will probably be another month before eggs are laid but it is important that the birds are not disturbed during this important time. The “closed area” signs are up and so far vehicles seem to be keeping away.
Pounui Wetlands sign
The main bird featured on the sign overlooking Lake Onoke and at the entrance to the Pounui wetlands is a Grey Teal. These delightful little ducks are a joy to watch at this time of year. We have recently erected some nesting boxes around our big pond at Te Rakau specifically for Grey Teal. We are hoping that they will use the boxes so that we can help to increase the population of this charming native duck.
The banded dotterels are in full breeding plumage and some are even beginning to sit on eggs. Dougal and I visited Onoke Spit today and saw many of these delightful little birds in pairs spread out on the Spit. Let’s hope they’re not too early with their breeding behaviour as a late winter/spring storm could still be a possibility.
Pair of banded dotterels
We also saw four Caspian terns and plenty of black backed gulls enjoying the sunshine.
Caspian tern in flight
We had another really successful planting day last Friday June 26. A beautiful day and a fantastic turnout of volunteers for the end of Volunteer Week. About 30 children from Kahutara School and adult volunteers from Palliser Estate Wines, Greytown Lions, Rabobank and South Wairarapa Biodiversity helped other Friends of Onoke Spit, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Department of Conservation staff plant another 500 plants in the area that had been destroyed by fire. DoC put on a barbeque for everyone after about two hours of solid work. The species planted are flax, cabbage trees, coastal daisy and taupata, all hardy natives that should survive the challenging conditions.
The area looks really good now – full of hope and so much better than the burnt black landscape of before.
We have put almost 2000 plants in the area since the fire earlier this year. Many thanks to all those that helped – a great effort.
These pictures below show you the fruits of our efforts.
New planting at Onoke Spit – June 2015
It was a beautiful, still but sunny day on Sunday when we started to replant after the fire at the western end of Onoke Spit.
A team of 20 volunteers and DoC staff took only 2 hours to put about 500 plants in the ground as well as putting Combi Guard protectors around them.
Many thanks to all those who came and helped. Let’s hope the coming seasons are kind to us and allow these plants to get established in this very challenging site.
Don’t worry if you missed this day, we have another scheduled for Friday June 19 at 10 am. Kahutara School and Palliser Estate employees will be joining us.
We’ve ordered up a similar day from the weatherman – here’s hoping!
Some more pictures to enjoy.
Planting and fire damage
Tony Silberry and DoC staff giving instructions
Saturday was a special day to go bird watching. Not only was it world E-Bird day – E Bird is a world wide birdwatching website hosted by Cornell University in USA – the weather was still and warm and Onoke Spit was full of birds.
The banded dotterels were gathered together in big numbers.
There were at least 250 white fronted terns.
It was also very exciting to see a number of Caspian Terns – about 40 and some beautiful little black fronted terns visiting from the South Island.
Enjoy these other pictures.
One mature and a juvenile black fronted tern
Black fronted tern stretching his wings in the sunshine
One Caspian tern amongst the smaller white fronted terns
We are well on the way to replanting the area that was ravaged by the fire.
The FOOS committee met recently and agreed to spend $4000 on plants and protectors which will put another 1000 plants in the ground. DoC and Palliser Estate Wines have also come up with enough funding to double the Friends contribution. This means that planting will soon get under way.
Our “official” planting day will be Friday June 19 starting at 10 am. The more people there the quicker we can get the plants in the ground. Once again students from Kahutara School will come and help us. Its so important to include children in community projects like this as they are the ones who will carry on the work into the future.
Here is a picture Dougal took recently – the calm before the storm!
No wind today
Also we wish the birds well for the duck shooting season. Here are 3 wise black shags discussing their tactics.
The 3 wise shags