Dotterels doing well post RENA

New Zealand Dotterel Life for New Zealand dotterels in the Bay of Plenty seems to be back to normal two years after the C/V Rena went aground, reports ornithologist John Dowding. The number of pairs within the affected area is very similar to the pre-Rena total, and their overall distribution has not changed significantly.

Somewhat ironically, the long-term outlook for the species in the Bay of Plenty has probably improved as a result of the Rena spill.

The pre-emptive capture of dotterels has resulted in the increased awareness of the species in the region. This, coupled with the availability of some funding for species recovery work, has resulted in greater dotterel management in the area.

There is now an active protection programme at Pukehina Spit, and management at Maketu Spit has also intensified. Local dotterel champion John Groom and colleagues continue their highly successful protection programme on the beaches east of Pukehina. And another community group has formed at Waihi Beach, and is actively managing the pairs attempting to breed there.

The only site where numbers are not quite back to pre-Rena levels is Matakana Island, and it seems very likely that the fall there was unrelated to the spill. Reduced predator control on the island, plus some loss of breeding habitat caused by winter storms seems to be behind the lower numbers.

As long as the increased management effort can be sustained, the future looks positive for New Zealand dotterels in the Bay of Plenty.