Birds of NZ - Waders

Waders of the Otago Harbour area

Oyster Catchers

<< With their whole ecological niche so totally modified, we began wondering where the oystercatchers, once largely the inhabitors of the braided rivers inland, could possibly find safety for the night in proximity to a city. A dusk, the problem was solved, about 70-80 black and pied Oystercatchers descended onto the rooves of two boatsheds at MacAndrew Bay. Not perhaps so comfortable but safe from cat's, dogs, rats, or weasels!

<< The Pied Oystercatcher seems to be quite uniform in coloration, unlike his cousin, the Stilt. In the polluted harbour waters, live shellfish are rare, but they seem to find enough. At Hoopers inlet we saw about 20 stilts, a hundred black swan, and loads of Oystercatchers. They fed, bathed, preened and ignored us until a bus came labelled "Eco-Tours". Whereupon with a thunder of wings, 200 Oystercatchers decided to try the catching at Sandymount and departed. Maybe they can read! What is the long term effect of this constant harrassment? The environment is minimal as a road now follows the beach, and the salt marshes at the bay heads have been fenced off and churned to mud by stock. All the coastal forest has gone, only short grass remains.

<< The Black Oystercatcher. The same in every way but colour?

Several hundred (mainly Pied) Oystercatchers were seen on the bar of the Kaikorai Lagoon, near Brighton. Constantly on the move because of hysterical uncontrolled dogs, often being urged on by their intellectually challenged owners; an hour later all were gone, as people on horseback rode along the bar. Signs such as "Sewage Discharge"; "Shellfish here are contaminated"; "Polluted Water" make one wonder about disease resistance. Offshore is the safe haven of Green Islnd, but which has no beaches for feeding on.

<< South Island Pied Oystercatchers
...on the wing... The white trailing edge forms a distinctive "W".

...on the shore... See the two Black Oyercatchers behind.
One evening (July, 2005) we saw a dozen apparently grazing on grass at a sports gound at Andy Bay, so "Blacks" and "Pieds" while they often mix, may in other activities be completely segregated. People speak as though they are a single species, perhaps they do not realize the fact.

...and probing for shellfish. Oystercatchers are very shy, and without a very long lens, photos usually consist of them trotting away down the beach! Hooligans turn their dogs on them, truly they have become, "The quick and the dead!"
There may be something in the order of 1-200 in the Otago Harbour area, and 2-300 at Hoopers Inlet with a similar number at Kaikorai Lagoon; probably a significant part of the entire south island population. But where do they now nest? Even the cleverest oystercatcher cannot nest on the sloping corrugated iron roof of a boat-shed can it?? And certainly there are no river beds with clumps of sheltering tussock about here! Have they moved into trees?
<< Spur-winged Plovers. A recent arrival from Australia, it is said by getting a ride on Container ships, this plover has spread throughout. Occasionally seen on the sea-shore,it seems to prefer the grazed grass farm-paddocks. They can be quite a hazard on grass airstrips especially near the coast. In the world of aviation it is considered extremely gross to get a large bird tangled in your prop! It's yellow face lends an odd appearance.

<< Stilts, once seen wading in lagoons, swamps and rivers, now seem to be almost confined to sea-shore inlets. They are surprisingly variable, some have white across the shoulder and black stops at the back of the head. In other black extends from the back along the neck to in front of the eyes. This is a "White Poll" variant

Above photos taken by C.B. Gunn on a Pentax "*ist" 6Mp Digicam
using 300mm f/4.5 or 500mm f/8 lenses with doubler.

Another Pied Stilt – this time with a black eye-patch. >>

They have perhaps the most graceful flight of all birds, but a passing hawk may be mobbed, chivvied and driven off by a dozen Stilts.

White-faced Heron , June 2005 >>
near Portobello , Dunedin. Quite rare. One may see 2-3 or none at all. Another was seen on the mudflats at Karitane (July, 2005). two or three on the harbourside below Port Chalmers and two at Kaikorai Lagoon near Brighton. These now seem much more common than the Blue Reef Heron. At high tide on Otago Harbour, their entire ecological niche extends from this point a full 6ft to the coastal motorway.
Photo B.G.
Heron, Otago Harbour, Turnbull Bay, July 2005 >>
Photo: C.B.G.
Herons, like all waders, are very flighty >>
Photo: C.B.G.