Lale Alexandrina briar targeted by volunteers

PETER SHUTT
Last updated 14:39 24/02/2014
grebe
SUPPLIED/ Chris Rickard
TALKING POINT: The bird that attracts attention at lakes Alexandrina and McGregor - the crested grebe.

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Peter Shutt

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Last weekend saw the Lake Alexandrina Conservation Trust volunteers continue the briar spraying programme around much of Lake Alexandrina shoreline.

It is great to see they are making a very real impact on the Briar infestation and consequently on improving angler access to the lake.

But it was not all work. On Sunday they carried out a survey of the highly protected Crested Grebe populations on Lake Alexandrina and Lake McGregor. In total they counted 134 adult birds and 23 juveniles.

Mary Wallace, the spokesperson for the group, says that on one part of the Lake they noted two parent birds with three chicks.

"This was an unusual sight. It is rare to see three chicks survive to complete the family."

Over time this conservation group has developed a "family" atmosphere and Mary says it is good to have some young people getting involved.

Crested Grebe hold a special place in the heart of many who watch them at play, and I was reminded of that when I recently saw a photograph taken by Leigh Barrie of chicks cadging a ride on a parents back.

Leigh Barrie took a photo similar to the one above and says the birds had been sitting on a nest at the outlet bridge, then on January 10 they spent about 4 hours in the afternoon with the chicks off the nest.

The parent Grebes took turns with them on their backs, pushing them off and getting them back on, then one (presumably the adult male) would zip out under the bridge and bring back a fish.

"They used the fish to lure the chicks into the water as if to teach them to swim," she says.

"There were lots of people about, so they didn't take the chicks past the bridge, but by morning they were all gone."

Some days later she noted a pair near the bridge area, but no sign of any chicks. However, she says about 10 days later two chicks were seen further down the creek - as though the parents had put them down there while they went off.

Alas, she has not seen them since.

Predator trapping is important to the survival of endangered species and the effort by Tim Currie in trapping two ferrets, 12 stoats, and 10 hedgehogs is to be applauded.

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But not to be outdone, some swans have been putting on a show at the Rangitata River mouth.

It's reported that five signets were left at a very young age, 3-4 months ago with no adult birds in sight.

These birds are now all but flying but have been exhibiting amazing techniques to survive amongst all the anglers etc. It's said they had been seen to hold onto snags at full tide and sleep until anglers leave in the evening.

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They have been seen to be asleep as they float mid stream from early morning to evening, going up and down with the flow, but waking up as they touch the swift current at the top of the river-mouth before swimming to the top of the lagoon to repeat the trip.

But their funniest activity is when they paddle with one leg, with the other leg elevated out of the water (sticking in the air).

I'm told their activities have seen them become the invited guest of all anglers and admired by all.

Which brings me to the point: "There is much to be enjoyed on the river - the arteries of the land and home to the fish and fowl and invertebrates that rely upon uncontaminated water for survival.

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A good friend tells me that nothing is happening at Lake Benmore, but photographs I have received of good catches indicate that some anglers are doing a "McConnochie."

It's a term I coined after years of watching a former fly casting expert catch fish but seldom admit to it. Neither did he readily reveal the fly he used, so observers were often fooled into thinking he wasn't catching much.

Bob McConnochie has long since left this earth but his canny attitude lives on.

Indeed, it would be fair to say that photographs received this past week from several inland waters offer a clear indication that trout fishing is much appreciated by both adult and junior anglers. One angler has revealed that he caught a good size salmon in a most unusual way ... but for the moment my lips are sealed.

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Salmon catches have improved in Canterbury rivers, but few can compete with the catches that have been made at the Orari rivermouth.

It is not an everyday thing but occasionally the numbers have been quite high.

Fish size throughout the region isn't breaking any records that the seasons catch shows the salmon to be in good condition.

It's far too late for you to enter the annual Rakaia River Salmon Fishing competition, but that is the attraction next weekend. Your advantage could be elsewhere because with about 800 anglers fishing the Rakaia is very likely more space for you on your favourite salmon river.

Tight lines!

- The Timaru Herald

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