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By Nick Ledgard, Chairman
Every year we monitor the arrival and breeding activities of birds on the Ashley-Rakahuri river – with particular emphasis on the wrybill. This season, the notable aspect has been the frequency of large floods. Although they have done an excellent job clearing the riverbed of weeds, they have also disrupted breeding attempts.
The biggest flood (580 cumecs) was on July 22, but this occurred before any birds had arrived to breed. The next big one (350 cumecs) was on Sept 19. By this time, seven pairs of wrybill had set up territories, with a 2-egg nest found on Sept 17. Two days later the flood had washed over it. No wrybills were seen during the following 10 days, with the first returnees observed on Sept 29.
Before the next flood on October 8 (again around 350 cumecs), five pairs had been located back on the river, with one 2-egg nest found on Oct 3. This was photographed and filmed right up to the evening of Oct 8, when it was flooded out.
Both birds were quite ‘tame’ and allowed close attention, particularly by anyone adopting a low profile ie., a crawling approach.
The above images are of a female bird on the nest, the river rising, plus one taken while the rain fell, the water rose, and darkness descended – about 1 hour before the nest would have been inundated.
As far as we know, there was just one nest which may have survived the Oct 8 flood. This was a SIPO pair which had their nest on a ridge made by weed-clearing / island-making in late August. The weed-free islands we created at this time have been somewhat ‘rearranged’ by the September and October floods, but do still represent the major high shingle areas which remain.
We now await the flood to recede, the birds to return, and renesting to begin.