Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group Mission statement “to protect birds & their habitat in the Ashley River / Rakahuri, while recognising essential river control works & sympathetic recreational uses.” Currently funded by the World Wildlife Fund
Gravel-based braided rivers are only found in a few countries NZ and Canterbury are braided river ‘hot-spots’ – Canterbury has 59% of NZ’s braided river area If one word defines braided rivers, it is the word ‘dynamic’ – they are forever changing Braided rivers have a unique ecosystem – evolved in order to accommodate this dynamism Up until recently, these eco-systems have been largely ignored – we have tended to mine them for water, shingle, recreation
Features of the Ashley river(cf., Waimak and Rakaia) • It drains from the foothills, so: • has lower flow rates and flood levels • is more prone to weed invasion and dominance • The breeding areas are close to a major town: • Increased people pressure • It has an extensive ‘mudflat’ estuary: • used by birds breeding up the river (‘a MacDonald’s at the end of the street’)
Wrybill plover Ngutupare (bent bill) The world’s only bird with a bill which turns sideways The icon of rare and endangered native birds on the Ashley river
The wrybill is specially adapted for gravel riverbeds: Camouflage Grey back Stone-like eggs in shingle nest Stone-coloured chick Bent bill to catch insects under the round river stones
Black-fronted tern tarapiroe Other rare and endangered birds on the Ashley River are: Their numbers are declining, nationally & on the Ashley River Black-billed gull tarapunga
Pied stilt poaka More common birds breeding on the Ashley River are: South Island pied oystercatcher torea Banded dotterel tutuwhatu
The birds will only nest on open bare shingle areas • They are threatened by: • Weed invasion • Predators • Human disturbance
Invasion of weeds Weeds (mainly lupins, broom and gorse) invade the raised open shingle flats and force birds to nest on lower, more flood-prone riparian areas.
Predators Weed invasion Predate eggs, chicks and ocassionally adults
Mindlessidiots Fishermen Human disturbance Walkers, especially those with dogs 4WD’s, ATV’s, Trail Bikes
In 2006, there was even a case when 16 black-billed gulls were shot at the colony.
The Ashley/Rakahuri Rivercare Group is assisting breeding birds by: • Clearing weeds from islands above flood zone • Trapping predators • Raising public awareness • Monitoring birds
Less than 2 hours work for 10 volunteers Clearing weeds
Clearing weeds But best of all, are natural floods
Predator Trapping: A variety of quick-kill traps are used to catch: Mustelids Hedgehogs Cats
Raising Public Awareness Permanent sign in picnic area by Ashley River
Public Awareness Temporary signs - updated regularly during the breeding season
Raising Public Awareness Not all signs last the distance. Some get vandalised and run over by riverbed ATV drivers
Raising public awareness • Media articles – especially in local paper • Signs on river during season • Screenvista in local cinema throughout season • Annual report for each season • Specially prepared Powerpoint presentation • Talks to schools and groups • Article in School Journal (Part 1, No 4, 2008) • Formation of S. Is-wide braided river aid group (BRaid) • Childrens’ book in 2010 (‘Ria the reckless wrybill’)
Raising public awareness: children’s book ‘Ria – the reckless wrybill’ The adventures of a wrybill chick - born with a bill which turns the wrong way.
Monitoring the birds Regular checks of breeding sites and monitoring traps during the season
Monitoring the birds Adults and chicks are banded for identification purposes. This male (RO-M) is a 5-year-old bird, bred on the river in 2004. In 2006, he returned with a UB mate, and raised 1 chick. In 2007, he returned with a UB mate, but no nest was found. In 2008, he mated with BO-YO who laid 1 egg, but he then disappeared and has not been seen since. BO-YO remated upriver with a UB male, and 1 chick was seen flying in late January, 2009.
Monitoring the birds Wrybill nesting on a cleared area
Monitoring the birds Wrybill eggs Brooding on nest Young chicks hiding
Monitoring the birds Black-fronted terns
Monitoring the birds Black-billed gulls hovering above the first large and successful colony for years (2006)
Measuring Success Predator control
Measuring Success Monitoring birds
Measuring Success Raised public awareness
Measuring success - public awareness Popular bird breeding site The local community is now very aware of the native birds breeding in the Ashley riverbed. Such respect means that people can now swim in specially made ‘holes’ without disturbing breeding birds a few hundred metres away.
Measuring success In 2009 the Group won the Canterbury-Aoraki Conservation Award
The Future “If we work together, we can succeed. If we don’t, we’ll lose the rare birds from the Ashley River.”
The Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group gratefully acknowledges the following sponsors: • World Wildlife Fund • Pacific Development and Conservation Trust • Lotteries Environment & Heritage Fund • NZ National Parks and Conservation Foundation Their help has made the Group’s work possible.
Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group Chair: Nick Ledgard 191 Carrs Rd Rangiora R D 2 Ph/Fax: (03) 312 8799 firstname.lastname@example.org Secretary: Joan Miles 905 Mt Thomas Road Rangiora RD1 (Ph/fax): 313 5133 email@example.com
Group composition and effectiveness • Professionals(‘paid’) • Those whose assistance comes as part of their job e.g, DOC, Waimak DC, ECan • Contracted professionals e.g., professional ornithologist, earthmovers • Volunteers(unpaid - utilising spare time) • ‘priority’ volunteers; who consider assisting the Group as a high priority • ‘non-priority’ volunteers; keen to assist, but the Group is not at the top of their spare time list
Greater emphasis on getting current river users aware and alongside: ~ Irrigators - creation of feeding habitat (role for riverside farmers?)
Irrigators – could they be sitting on a ‘win-win’? • Many ornithologists will have noticed how a number of shore-bird species favour irriggated paddocks when feeding • If irrigators were more aware of this, perhaps they could manipulate their paddock management to improve the situation still further? • They might even be prepared to create gravel mounds on which the likes of black-billed gulls could nest? After all, many irrigators would welcome some extra ‘green ticks’
Lessons learnt – for new actions Greater emphasis on getting current river users aware and alongside: ~ Irrigators - creation of feeding habitat (role for riverside farmers?) ~ Gravel extractors (‘win/win’ creation of feeding and breeding habitat)
Gravel extraction – can be a ‘win-win’ Gravel extraction clears away weeds and can create excellent bird breeding sites. BUT, extractors need to know how to manage sites to this end – otherwise they can create more problems than prospects
Gravel extraction – can be a ‘win-win’ The challenge is to turn this scene back to its ‘normal’ braided state (plus to make sure any unnecessary access ways are made impassable for 2 and 4 WDs)
Greater emphasis on getting current river users aware and alongside: ~ Irrigators - creation of feeding habitat (role for riverside farmers?) ~ Gravel extractors (‘win/win’ creation of feeding and breeding habitat) • ~ Recreationists • Commercial – jet boaters, fishing and canoeing/rafting guides (adding value to their operations by informing clients, and possibly maintaining traps, signs) • Non-commercial – jet boaters, fishermen, canoeists, rafters, off-road 2/4WDers, walkers/swimmers/picnicers (especially those with dogs), car wreckers and hoons (improving awareness, so that actions can be modified for least disruption) Should we regulate to assist the above?
The effect of damming our braided rivers? Lower Waitaki Lower Rakaia
Lessons learnt – for new actions Greater emphasis on getting current river users aware and alongside: ~ Irrigators - creation of feeding habitat (role for riverside farmers?) ~ Gravel extractors (‘win/win’ creation of feeding and breeding habitat) • ~ Recreationists • Commercial – jet boaters, fishing and canoeing/rafting guides (adding value to their operations by informing clients, and possibly maintaining traps, signs) • Non-commercial – jet boaters, fishermen, canoeists, rafters, off-road 2/4WDers, walkers/swimmers/picnicers (especially those with dogs), car wreckers and hoons (improving awareness, so that actions can be modified for least disruption)
Lessons learnt – existing actions * Less emphasis on clearing large areas of weeds, but try to maintain clearance of favoured areas, particularly islands * Continue quality trapping, and keep on top, of predators * Maintain/improve general public awareness
Measuring Success Predator control
Measuring Success Predator control 2008/09: 4980 trap nights, 30 mammals of 6 species caught