The Ashley estuary is an internationally important wetland that hosts migratory national and international (e.g. bar-tailed godwit) species as well as permanent residents. Over 90 species of birds have been recorded. A Birds New Zealand 5 December 2018 survey in the estuary counted 348 birds including 320 waders, not including black-backed gulls that could have numbered in the hundreds. Only Lake Ellesmere had a higher count of wader species in Canterbury, but due to the large size and difficult access to that lake, ornithologists wanting to see a range of bird species always go first to the Ashley estuary. The estuary is also an important food source for braided river birds such as wrybill, black-fronted tern, black-billed gull and banded dotterel that breed higher up the Ashley River.
Ground predators (ferrets, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, rats and feral cats) are the main threat to the birds – especially when nesting or at their juvenile stage. The trapping group (currently 9 members) was set up by BRaid to help extend the trapping programme that we run further downriver.
The estuary trapping group maintains 139 traps around the margins of the estuary. Most of these traps are DOC 200s, which can catch and humanely kill most predators except feral cats. An additional 16 traps specifically to kill feral cats have been sited away from houses so that pets are not targeted.
Since trapping began in July 2018 to late July 2019 a total of 290 predators have been caught.