First day of spring should be savoured

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 01/09/2012
Baby duck
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Saviour: Craig Shepherd, of Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust, with an orphaned duckling.

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Spring has sprung, if the weather in the capital is anything to go by.

Today marks the first official day of spring, but the past few days have been warm, calm and sunny, and Wellingtonians are being advised to make the most of another fine day.

"Tell everyone to get their barbecues out, or pack a picnic basket," MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said.

"Saturday is the kind of fine day you'll want to grab with both hands and say ‘it's mine'.

"We never can completely say, ‘We're into spring, hooray, that's it'. We have to keep half an eye out for colder southerlies."

This weekend should be fine over most of the country, with increasing cloud on Sunday and rain moving in on Sunday night or Monday.

Wet and windy weather is expected to affect much of the country early next week. "It will be raincoats for back to work on Monday."

Spring typically brings weather systems moving across the country from west to east, with fine spells as well as blustery conditions and cooler periods.

An El Nino weather system was still developing in the Pacific and was likely to dictate the summer's weather, Mr Corbett said. The system was characterised by strong and frequent westerlies, which often led to droughts in the east and wetter weather in the west.

"It's not quite here, but it's showing signs. We're on the verge of El Nino."

WeatherWatch head weather analyst Philip Duncan called an early start to spring about two months ago.

"Since July, daffodils have been up, lambs and calves have been born and buds are coming into bloom. Even if we didn't have an early start to spring, the spring-like weather would have arrived in mid to late August anyway - as it usually does."

MILD WINTER BAD NEWS FOR DUCKS

More orphaned ducklings are needing to be rescued after a mild winter led to an early start to the breeding season.

Craig Shepherd, who runs the Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust, received 36 orphan ducks in August, compared with 10 in August, 2011.

The milder weather kick-started breeding much earlier than usual, he said.

Many of the ducklings were orphaned after their mothers were hit by cars, he said. "Because the season started early, it's still quite dark during peak traffic from about 7am, whereas if it was a month later after daylight saving, maybe they'd be a little more visible."

Ducklings are delivered to Mr Shepherd from throughout the Wellington region. His small rehabilitation centre at his home in Ohariu Valley helps the birds from infancy to maturity. He sets them free when they are about three months old.

He has cared for 120 birds since the start of this year, compared with 80 to the same time last year.

Mr Shepherd, who also runs Harbourside City Security, became involved in bird rehabilitation about 10 years ago when he found an injured duckling.

Most are released around the Wellington region, he has held on to several swans, paradise ducks, and geese, and breeds from pakete - or brown teal - in an effort to remove them from the critically endangered list.

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Contact Sophie Speer
Email: sophie.speer@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @sophie_speer

- The Dominion Post

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