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Good egg looking out for vulnerable birds

A Variable Oyster Catcher with its chick at Lake Onoke. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Beach driving along the Onoke Spit near the nesting spots of endangered birds has one resident concerned.

Onoke Spit is the southernmost part of Wairarapa Moana and lies at the foot of Lake Onoke where the Ruamahanga River enters the ocean at the head of Palliser Bay.

For more than 10 years, resident Dougal MacKenzie has helped care for the coastal environment through the Friends of Onoke Spit environmental group.

“We help with trapping and regenerative planting,” he said.

His most pressing concern though is the risk posed by recreational 4×4 vehicles, including two-wheeled motorbikes, four-wheelers, side-by-sides and even tractors.

“[Some] seem to think Onoke Spit is an open playground for them to explore and abuse.

“There’s been a steady build-up of people coming down with bikes of all kinds. It’s a very vulnerable time for the birds and the plants.”

These kinds of recreational activities damage delicate ground cover and threaten ground-nesting coastal birds like the Variable Oyster Catcher, he said.

The Onoke Spit is home to about 15-20 pairs of Caspian Terns and Banded Dotterels, both of which are considered threatened native species.

“[Caspian Terns] nest as a group and take a while to establish a nesting site. If there’s any human interference, they get up, move on and have to start all over again.

“We try and stop people going through the nesting site with Department of Conservation signs.”

He said many people ignored these though and just went around them.

Dotterels which nest individually were also vulnerable being so small and well camouflaged.

The birds were also vulnerable to unleashed dogs, he said.

“We respect people want to have a holiday experience, but they’ve got to think about where they are,” MacKenzie said.

He asked for people to avoid nesting sites by respecting the signs or sticking to certain routes.

“There’s a central track down the middle of the spit people should stick to.”

Beach vehicles should also travel below the high tide mark and others should avoid the lake area as it tended to be where the birds feed.

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