Dotterel slowly returning to Port Waikato foreshore

Conservationists are hailing a dotterel protection programme at Port Waikato a success, after a few of the endangered shorebird species have reappeared in the dunes and foreshore at the beach.

Sightings of the birds, along with the vulnerable variable oystercatcher, have increased after the Department of Conservation, the Waikato Regional Council, Ngati Karewa Ngati Tahinga Trust and volunteers established a site protection and monitoring programme in the summer of 2011-12.

Port Waikato resident and volunteer co-ordinator Karen Opie said there had been consistent sightings of about six or seven birds in the area and three adults and two chicks at Lime Stone Downs, further south.

DOC estimates that there are only about 1700 of the birds left in New Zealand - tens of thousands fewer than the kiwi. On Waikato's west coast, the population is estimated to be between 32 to 35.

Hamilton-based DOC ranger Michael Paviour said the Port Waikato conservation programme was starting to pay dividends and praised the work of local volunteers.

But he asked visitors to the area to be vigilant.

"The dotterel is especially vulnerable at breeding time because they tend to lay eggs in any little spot near high water mark, so nests are easily washed away in storms or inadvertently trampled under foot."

He said the birds are particularly vulnerable to predation by dogs and cats roaming on the beach, too.

Dotterel breeding season normally starts in September and runs through until about February or March.

Visitors to Port Waikato in the next few months will find an extensive area fenced off to protect the nesting birds and eggs.

The dotterel population is also being monitored near Aotea harbour and Kawhia, where a recent survey found 13 adult birds, two juveniles and two chicks, Mr Paviour said.

Waikato Times