News

Results of Predator Trapping at Otama

The Otama Reserves Group implemented a local predator control programme on the Otama Reserves and private landholdings. This initiative began in 2018 with the establishment of a trapline encompassing the 5 reserves and landowner property and has resulted in the trapping of 348 predators to date. These have been mainly hedgehogs, possums, pigs, rats , stoats and feral cats. The kills are humane and total 175 in 2018, 152 in 2019 and 21 so far in 2020. Myna and Magpie traps are also now being utilised as they prey on native species.

 These successful trapping statistics are beneficial to the survival of native bird life  and we are now experiencing an increase in the 25 native bird species living in the reserves. 

 These species include the critically endangered Matuku – hurepo (Bittern) Matata (Fernbird), Moho-pereru (Banded Rail),  Pateke (Brown Teal), Karuhiruhi (Pied Shag), Kawaupaka (Little Shag),  Kawau-tua-whenua (Black Shag), Kotare (Kingfisher), Tuturiwhatu pukunui (Dotteral) and Torea-pango (Oyster Catcher).

Our efforts have resulted in the successful fledging of 2 Tuturiwhatu pukunui  (Dotteral) chicks this year and our first Torea-pango (Oyster Catcher) chick in 5 years.

 A big thanks to Paul Kington, Vince Mathews and Micali Evans who helped set up the traplines and check the trap lines regularly. Thanks to DOC and WRC for funding for the traps and bait.     

Pampas Eradication on Otama Reserves

As part of our weed control programme on the Otama Reserves the ORG engaged the services of Remnant Restorations last year to eradicate Pampas Grass as well as other weeds such as Agapanthus and Blackberry on its reserves including the main domain, sand dune and wetland reserves. Remnant Restorations undertakes grid spray environmental weed control and this will be an ongoing programme funded by DOC.

The Otama Reserves are home to several nationally and locally significant plant and fauna species. The control and eradication of non-indigenous species will allow the natural regeneration of native species which we plan to be assisted in the future with a planting program as directed by our restoration plan.

It’s great to see many of the dead Pampas Grass plants on the reserves and a general reduction in other weeds.

Matuku (Bittern) Released into the Otama Wetland

Matuku (Bittern) Released into the Otama Wetland

A rescued Matuku – Hurepo (Australasian Bittern) was released into the Otama Wetland Reserve on the 26 of March by DOC Ranger Troy McDonald and Paul Kington from the Otama Reserves Group. The Matuku has been cared for by Annemieke Kregting from Kuaotunu Bird Rescue who looks after native birds that are found unwell and distressed, with the aim to release them back into the wild when recovered.

The Matuku was found in Tairua on the 12 of March very emaciated and missing some flight feathers. It was very small, possibly a juvenile. Initially, it was incubated and put on fluids and crop feed, and then placed into a private aviary and fed salmon smolt and mice, on which it thrived and doubled its body weight.

Emma Williams from Bittern Conservation was planning to come up from Christchurch to band the Matuku and attach a transmitter for research purposes, but due to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, it was decided to release the Matuku back into the wild before it got too stressed in captivity and reliant on the feeding regime. It was feared that the lack of food variety could have affected its long term survival once released.

“In the end I care for the bird’s welfare and the release of one more of the species back into the wild” says Annemieke. The ORG was thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce the Matuku into the Otama Wetland as they are an endangered species and there have been sightings of other Matukus in our wetland. We hope to be able to increase our numbers of this rare bird.

Many thanks to all involved particularly Annemeikke at Kuaotunu Bird Rescue.

Article in Informer: Otama Reserves Group on an exciting journey

Otama Reserves Group on an exciting journey

Paul Kington, chairman of the Otama Reserves Group, is not only excited about their progress the past 12 months, he is also keenly looking towards the future. “We’ve recently become an incorporated society and we’re seeing the impact our predator control efforts have on the reserves in and around Otama Beach, especially the Otama wetland,” he says. “Bitterns are among the birds we spot more often at the wetland now. In a way the bittern became our mascot.”

The group is responsible for maintaining the five Otama reserves and although they are experiencing a steady increase of addresses on their email list, more volunteers are needed for a busy few years ahead. “We’re at the moment running traplines of approximately 100 traps in total, 35 of which is in the wetland,” says Paul. “We’re servicing the traps every two to three weeks. We’re also doing weed control and have recently commissioned a wetland restoration plan with support from the Department of Conservation’s office in Whitianga. The plan will look at the ecology and hydrology of the Otama wetland, as well as how riparian plantings can prevent siltation. We need to thank DOC manager, Nick Kelly, for all his help.

 “We’ve also managed, with the very generous help of the neighbouring farmer, to move the fence on the eastern side of the wetland back to its original position. That’s giving us an additional area of approximately 10ha to restore.

“Once the restoration plan is completed, we’ll have a lot of plantings to do.

“We have a Project Kiwi conservation block behind the wetland and Otama’s famous unspoilt sand dunes between the wetland and the beach. Our ultimate aim, if we look 10 or 20 years ahead, will be for the wetland to be a bush to beach corridor, a refuge for local wildlife without any predators.

“I live in Otama. The Otama wetland is my backyard. Healthy wetlands are an extremely important part of nature. The sad reality is that there aren’t many wetlands left in New Zealand. I personally find it extremely satisfying to not only see bitterns in the Otama wetland, but also oystercatchers, fern birds, shags, herons and even a pair of nesting pateke, and to know that what our group is doing may well contribute to their wellbeing.”

Another project the Otama Reserves Group is working on, is the establishment of a harakeke pa (a flax plantation) on a part of the Otama Village Reserve. Agapanthus and blackberry have been cleared and a variety of heritage harakeke has been planted. “We hope local weavers will utilise the plantation,” says Paul. 

Two pouwhenua, carved by Kuaotunu-based artist, Chris Charteris, will be installed at the harakeke pa. Paul, who’s also doing a bit of carving in his spare time, is working on a third pouwhenua that will be installed at the Otama wetland. “The pouwhenua will give spiritual significance to what we’re trying to achieve,” says Paul.

The Otama Reserves Group’s website, otama.org.nz, is regularly being updated. Paul urges everyone interested in supporting the work the group is doing to pay the site a visit. “We’re on an exciting journey,” he says. “The more people joining us, the more amazing the things we’ll be able to do.”

Dune Weeding on Otama Beach Dunes Reserve

DOC organised a weeding day on the Otama Beach Sand Dunes Reserve on the 28th of February inviting local community volunteers to participate. This initiative was mainly to target Lupins to reduce infestation over the dunes area.

There was an excellent turnout of 12 volunteers and 10 staff from DOC. Wearing hats, sunblock and safety vests we spread out over the dunes in a grid pattern to ensure good ground coverage. We spent 6 hours pulling out Lupins and learning about some of the rare native plants such as Sand Daffeny DOC personnel identified in the dunes. We pulled out or cut down and pasted approximately 2389 Lupins, a bag full of Ice Plant, one Pine and 2 juvenile Banksia. 

It was a great way to meet some of our local DOC representatives and learn about some of the native dune plants, while helping eradicate pest plant species. Lupin eradication is undertaken on a 6 monthly basis and is part of the ORG’s preservation work. The sand dune reserve at Otama is self regenerating and coastal scientist Jim Dahm regards it as by far the most ecologically valuable dune system in the Coromandel, with DOC classifying it as number 2 in NZ.  It is also home to many native birds including the Torea – pango (Oyster Catcher) and the endangered Tuturiwhatu pukunui (Dotterel).

Many thanks to Emily McKeague and Alicia Lose for organising this initiative and for the nice barbeque afterwards, and Jude an Otama resident who brought us all freshly made ANZAC cookies. It was a great day for the community.

Bittern Sighted at Otama Wetland

A large female Australasian Bittern (Matuku Hurepo) has been spotted nesting this summer at Otama Wetlands. This is exciting because Bitterns are rarely seen and their conservation status is nationally critical.

Bitterns are large birds with light and brown streaks in their plumage which helps them blend into the raupo wetland grasses and reeds. If approached they exhibit secretive behaviour and are known for their distinctive “freeze pose” straightening themselves up and pointing their beaks into the sky which lines up with the raupo and makes them difficult to spot. When it is windy, they may sway to make themselves blend in more with their environment or flatten themselves on the ground to disappear from view.

The male bitterns have a distinctive booming call during the mating season and these booming sounds can be heard at Otama Wetland during the breeding season. The female birds build their nests from reeds hidden among the wetland vegetation 20-30 cm above the water and lay 3-5 eggs which they incubate for 25 days and raise alone. Bitterns feed on eels, small fish and frogs in the wetland. The ability to see and stab their prey is important for foraging and survival. New Zealand’s Bittern populations have declined by 90% since the 1980s due to the destruction of wetland habitats to create farmland and towns, predators, and poor water quality reducing their food supply.

It is wonderful to experience the Bitterns surviving in our wetland which is also home to other endangered bird species including Fern bird, Pateke, Banded Rail and Skaup. Our ongoing predator control program is helping these species survive.