Watch for rare birds

20:44, Jan 15 2014
Claudia Mischler
Driving deaths: Ornithological Society volunteer Claudia Mischler with the bodies of some young endangered black-billed gulls killed by cars driving by the Wairau River.

Endangered black-billed gulls have been killed on the banks of the Wairau River, near Blenheim, and birders are pointing the finger at motorists.

Ornithological Society volunteer Claudia Mischler said she found several bodies of young gulls by the Selmes Rd entrance to the river this week.

The birds were clearly killed by a four-wheel-drive vehicle, she said.

"The chicks are huge. Some have fledged and the rest are close, so it's a real shame for them to be killed after their parents have invested so much energy into them."

Birdwatchers did not want to stop people using the river, but encouraged them to look out for the birds. The black-billed gulls were one of two endangered species nesting on the banks of the Wairau River. The gulls and the black-fronted terns breed in braided riverbeds in Marlborough and Canterbury.

Last month, Environment Canterbury (ECan) sent a warning letter to the owner of a vehicle seen driving across the Ashley River bed, near Rangiora, allegedly disturbing black-fronted terns. A member of the public took a photo of the 4WD and reported it to ECan.

Disturbing protected birds and destroying nests is an offence under the Wildlife Act 1953, and can result in imprisonment or a fine of $100,000.

Miss Mischler and Save the Wairau member Dianne John put signs up last month to warn people of the birds nesting. The nests are hard to see on the river banks, and the birds are at risk of being hurt by dogs.


The Marlborough Express