One of the first indications of an imminent nesting season is the arrival of wrybills at the estuary – destined for not only the Ashley River, but other rivers to the south. This year they were first noted on 19 August and have occurred in flocks of up to 31. Amongst them have been 7 birds that we have banded up the river in the past – last year, the season before, or in the case of BWBW – quite a few years ago. Some of these have been seen several times, one (KOWY) was there for about a month.
We have counted only about 7 wrybills along the river so far, these have been in the usual nesting areas off Groyne 2 and Smarts. Nests have yet to be found.
Banded dotterel have been slow to arrive at the estuary and along the river. But on 11 September there were 8 in the area where they nested last year in the estuary east of the Kings Ave entrance and 5 at the Smarts area along the river. One of our new members has found 2 BD nests in the river up near the gorge.
Black-fronted terns won’t be nesting until early to mid-October, but they have been gathering in places along the river and where the river meets the estuary. A week ago, there were about 70 off the Swamp Road river entrance.
For several weeks black-billed gulls have been gathering, sometimes in numbers of around 500 – 600, just downstream from the Cones Road bridge. They don’t appear to be nesting as yet, and could well move on to somewhere new.
Preparations for the nesting season have included weed clearing, river entrance blocking and a rat detection dog effort against Norway rats.
Using funds provided by the Waimakariri Zone Committee and ARRG, in July we cleared 27ha of weeds using the tractor mounted ripper made and owned by Cresslands Contracting. Our first targets were high islands which had been nested on before, then other weedy islands, but also areas of quite thick weed – mainly lupin. The machine worked well on flat areas with lupin, but not so well where there were small gorse plants or where the ground was uneven. There was a significant flood on 23 July (394 cumecs at the gorge) which covered most of the fairway and also cleared a lot of weeds – weeds will not be an impediment to nesting this season. This flow was enough to change the layout of the river, with fewer braids and less shallow feeding habitat remaining, perhaps this will cause a reduction in bird numbers. Smaller floods will hopefully improve the habitat during the nesting season, but they may also wash away nests.
In the first few days of September most of the access points to the river were blocked off – in a very satisfactory joint venture between ARRG and the ECan Parks section (top image). We scout out locations to be blocked (this year with an ECan ranger) ECan provide and transport new blocks – and organize and pay for a digger to install them, and we supervise the installation. They will remain in place until February next year. This year 17 new blocks were needed (top image). In a few places banks were steepened up to deter 4wds. There are still many places where motorbikes can get out on the river.
The annual report is almost complete.
To mark the 100th birthday of Forest and Bird, Bird of the Year is this year Bird of the Century. The black-fronted tern is a candidate, and the photograph they are using is of a bird from the Ashley. Please vote BFT.
Our annual bird count is on 18 November this year.
At the estuary –
- Eleanor Gunby is carrying on with her MSc thesis work – with further funding provided by the Waimakairiri Zone Committee through ARRG.
- This season there seems to be even more human disturbance. The Waimakariri District Council is reviewing the Northern Pegasus Bay Bylaw and will be asking for public submissions, probably from mid October to mid November. We would like to tighten rules around dogs and vehicle access.
- As a result of ARRG advocacy, ECan is going to be doing some work on the Southern Black-backed Gull nests at the estuary. Along the spit, and probably along the western margin of the estuary, eggs will be broken and nests destroyed. Last season SBBG were responsible (along with disturbance) for the inability of BD to nest along the spit, and for the destruction of a white-fronted tern colony.
- Bev Alexander is giving a talk on estuary birds for the Waimakariri Biodiversity Trust at the Waikuku Beach hall from 7pm on 13 September.