The areas within our BMP’s are populated by a wide range of species, both native and invasive. The wetlands are popular with resident and migratory shorebirds, and the dune systems provide fantastic habitat for native reptiles such as shore skinks, as well as many different invertebrate species.
Unfortunately, these areas are also home to pest mammals such as rats, stoats, and feral cats, which are devastating to ground nesting birds.
One of the main aims of our work is to provide a safe, natural environment in which native species can flourish, and to minimise the impact of pest animals through our eradication programmes.
The native flora of Maketu provides high-value breeding habitat for native birds, specifically the Northern New Zealand dotterel (Charidrius obscurus), variable oystercatcher (Haemantopus unicolor), red-billed gull (Larus scopulinus) and white-fronted tern (Sterna striata). Breeding success of birds such as the New Zealand dotterel has improved recently, which, combined with the presence of the rare black-billed gulls nesting on the spit, is a sign that pest control by MOWS volunteers is having a positive effect.
A wide variety of native and migrant birds also use the spit and associated mudflats for feeding and roosting, especially during the winter, including: bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica), royal spoonbills (Platalea regia), wrybill (Anarhynchus frontalis) and the extremely rare and threatened fairy tern (Sterna nereis).
The breeding season for the majority of the shorebirds around Maketu is between August and March. Over this period we put fences around the nesting areas to help avoid disturbance. It is important to keep disruption to a minimum and to keep an eye out for nests while walking. Nests can be extremely inconspicuous, and chicks are often well camouflaged, so be aware of where you are putting your feet!
The Amazing Journey of E7
It has long been known that Bar-tailed Godwits undertake incredible migrations from New Zealand to Alaska and back, but to find out more about this amazing journey, in 2007 several godwits at Miranda and Farewell Spit were fitted with radio trackers.
The journey of the bird known as ‘E7’ then became legend. The battery on the transmitter surpassed it’s expected lifespan, as was able to track the godwit on it’s whole voyage. From Miranda to Alaska she had a brief stop at Yalu Jiang Nature Reserve on the Yellow Sea. This was impressive enough, but it was the next leg that really got jaws dropping, with a non-stop eight days flight of 11 700kms back to New Zealand!
E7 has since chosen Maketu for her retirement, and has been seen at Dotterel Point, Pukehina.
Shore skinks (Oligosoma smithii) are a small native lizard found along shorelines, MOWS conduct regular surveys to estimate the population size and distribution within our project areas. Animals are collected in pitfall traps and details such as location, length, weight and health condition are taken as part of an ongoing project. All animals are released immediately after measurements are taken.
Shore skinks can vary a lot in colour, being black, grey, brown, greenish, speckled or striped.
The dune systems have a high incidence of native invertebrates. Well over 150 species have been recorded, including five new or un-described species, notably a new spider and a new beetle. MOWS conduct surveys on a regular basis, using pitfall traps to collect specimens.
New Zealand is home to a wealth of marine life, and a wide variety of species are found in the waters around Maketu. There is a large population of New Zealand Fur Seals (Kekeño) as well as sharks, dolphins, whales, orca, stingrays and jellyfish.
Unfortunately, marine mammals are sometimes found stranded on the local beaches. If you find one, either alive or dead, please call DOC on 0800 362 468 or Project Jonah on 0800 494 253. Fur seals, especially pups, are often just resting, so make sure they are not disturbed or obstructed from getting back into the water. Keep dogs on leads and well away from any marine mammals.