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2022/23 New Zealand dotterel breeding season at Snells Beach

Note that the videos in this blog show a cat predating the nests of New Zealand dotterels.

There were five New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu pairs with defined and established territories at Snells Beach during the 2022/23 breeding season. Six nests were established on the east side of Snells Beach north of the boat ramp at Sunburst Reserve, and one on the west side at Mahurangi Harbour.

On the east side no chicks hatched during this breeding season due, in the majority, to predation by a pet cat. The west side pair were in a construction zone and Watercare reported work stopped at the site to allow the birds to nest. When they returned to work the birds were no longer present, we do not know the outcome.

When we discovered there was a predation problem, which appeared to be a cat we contacted Mahurangi Matters to alert people in Snells Beach that there was a problem. People were asked to keep cats indoors, at least at night.

Paw prints continued to appear around destroyed nests and we borrowed cameras from Restore Rodney East to irrefutably determine what was causing the problem.

We contacted both Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation (DOC) for advice. Council could not live-trap the cat to identify the owner. Following DOC's advice we bought and deployed cat deterrents, which unfortunately did not work.

Meanwhile, we talked with both Stuff and Breakfast about the situation, to raise awareness that our pets can predate eggs as well as chicks and adult wildlife in the area. Endemic New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu are protected by the Wildlife Act 1953.

Full nesting notes of New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu pairs breeding season at Snells Beach, 2022-23

Nest 1

  • 24 Sept: two eggs found,

  • 27 Sept: three eggs and occupied nest,

  • 1 Oct: nest lost to something with paws.

Nest 2

  • 4 Oct: one egg,

  • 6 Oct: cat attacked, nest lost.

Nest 3

  • 10 Oct: one egg,

  • 12 Oct: two eggs,

  • 15 Oct: three eggs occupied nest,

  • 27 Oct: cat attack, found nest had one egg remaining in a new location being tended.

  • 28 Oct: birds abandoned their remaining egg.

Nest 4

  • 10 Oct: one egg

  • 15 Oct: two eggs

  • 15 Oct: volunteers raised nest due to expect storm surge

  • 19 Oct: three eggs and attacked by cat; recovered eggs and birds resumed sitting

  • 21 Oct: nest attacked by cat again. Volunteers retrieved eggs and birds sitting again

  • 23 Oct: nest attacked by cat, replaced eggs, birds sitting;

  • 25 Oct: nest attacked by cat again. One egg missing, two found and returned and birds still sitting

  • 26 Oct: nest attacked by cat

  • 27 Oct: nest attacked by cat

  • 4 Nov: nest attacked by cat

  • 5 Nov: nest attacked by cat and one egg remaining

  • 7 Nov: nest attacked by cat and last egg gone

Nest 5

  • 7 Nov: one egg

  • 10 Nov: two eggs

  • 11 Nov: nest lost due to major dune collapse during storm

Nest 6

  • 19 Nov: one egg

  • 22 Nov: two eggs

  • 23 Nov: three eggs. Nest visited by a different pet cat but eggs okay

  • Nov 24: former pet cat that destroyed the other nests came and all eggs predated

There was a single egg found on the beach in early November, but it was possibly a previously lost egg that had washed up. Set up a cordon for it, just in case, but the next day the egg was gone.

West Pair:

  • One pair established a nest in the Watercare sewage upgrade on the west side of Snells Beach at Mahurangi Harbour. It was reported the pair had three eggs and "work on-site paused. Well, they’ve done just that. 👜 When our contractor returned to site earlier this month, the Dotterel family had packed their bags and set up twigs and sticks elsewhere." - Watercare, Facebook

Other videos:

Oct 19 - Nov 7: Predation of nests 3 and 4

Nov 24: Predation of nest 6


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