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News / Dot Watch needs people to be aware of breeding dotterels on Waihi Beach

Dot Watch needs people to be aware of breeding dotterels on Waihi Beach

Dot Watch needs people to be aware of breeding dotterels on Waihi Beach

Posted November 20, 2021
Environmental , Podcast

Brian Gentil spoke to Pip Coombes about the very important work she and other volunteers are doing at Waihi Beach to protect endangered dotterels. 


It’s nesting time for dotterels at Waihi Beach but unfortunately they are being impacted by the development and growth that has taken place and their nesting sites are now few and far between. Pip’s group Dot Watch works hard managing the nests to ensure the survival of the dotterel, Pip told Brian.


Once widespread there are only about 2500 birds left in New Zealand, making dotterels more at risk than some species of kiwi.


Pip said she became involved when former Prime Minister Helen Clark posted on social media asking the community to do something about the dotterels at Waihi Beach. A group went to the local community board to seek funding to try and start up a volunteer group they have called Dot Watch.


Dotterels nest in open sites, typically low-lying close to beaches and lagoons making their habitat increasingly at threat from the growing urban spawl and the extra threats human development brings with it.


Pip told Brian while people are a threat, dotterels are prone to predation so multiple nests have been lost from Waihi Beach this season. Dotterels can nest up to three times a season. Some birds have already nested twice and all their eggs have been lost by being eaten or taken away. 


Cats are becoming an increasing threat to the nesting dotterels with them being out from dusk til dawn Pip said. The cats come in and steal the eggs or eat the chicks.


Dogs off the leash mow through the nests and trample the eggs and a whole host of other predators like stoats, rats, hedgehogs, black backed gulls, spur winged plovers, you name it, these little dudes have no chance.


King tides are another threat which has meant volunteers, with the help of the Waihi Beach Surf Club, moved the eggs to protect them, with permission from DoC under a wildlife permit. It was a first attempt and very successful. 


Pip told Brian the nests are fenced off and there is signage alerting visitors to the beach that dotterels are nesting. People are asked to please stay at least 20 metres away from the nests and don’t stand there rubber necking at the chicks because close proximity to the nests can cause all sorts of problems from dehydration of the chicks with the parents avoiding the nest to a parent attempting to protect their young with their wings which can harm or kill the chicks. It’s the same for eggs on the nest, please don’t spend time around the nest as the birds will avoid the area while you’re there and the heat of the sun will kill off the eggs causing all sorts of problems. Birds then sit on nests that will never hatch and have to be removed, which causes the trust built up between the birds and volunteers to be eroded.


Brian asked Pip how the nests have fared this season. Pip told him it hasn’t been a good season for the dotterels this year for a variety of reasons.


It’s really important people keep their pets indoors at night during nesting season.


The dotterels have even been named this season. The pair of birds nesting by the surf club have been named Zig and Zag and the David Bowie has been remembered with the naming of chicks.


Pip said Dotwatch is trying to build awareness of the dotterels and develop a culture where people can share the beach with the birds and recognise that it is their home and they’ve been here far longer than we have.


Dotterels always go back to same spot to nest, usually within a metre. The breeding season can be quite extended and last til late February to mid March.


Pip reminded locals who have cats to please, please keep their cats indoors, especially at night, for the next four weeks to give the chicks a better chance of surviving as they’re already up against it.


Flyers have been distributed around the North End area of Waihi Beach area to let residents and holiday makers know about the nests so that people can get in touch as contact details are included.


Please take the necessary precautions to ensure New Zealand dotterels have a chance to recover their population and remember to keeps your dogs on a leash and your cats under control during breeding season.