Makarora “Welcomes Back the Birds”

“Makarora flock” at the Makarora/ Wilkin River confluence

Makarora “welcomed back the birds” last week with two colourful events initiated by Aspiring Biodiversity Trust (ABT) to help raise biodiversity awareness and connect people with nature.

The first event was hosted at Makarora School where the “Makarora flock” was created with school children from Makarora and Haast. Students helped decorate template birds to make up the Makarora flock (above). The flock will be displayed at various locations to raise awareness of endangered braided river birds and is hoped to grow as it travels. A follow on community event “Welcome back the birds” was held on the Saturday at the Makarora Tourist Centre to celebrate the start of spring and raise awareness about threatened species, particularly those that migrate to breed at Makarora each spring but also resident species.

Makarora and Haast School  with their birds at Makarora School grounds

Over thirty people (including residents from Makarora, Hawea, Wanaka, Queenstown, Makarora school children and passing tourist) learned about endangered braided river birds; wrybill, black-fronted tern, banded dotterel, black-billed gull and South Island pied oyster catcher which return to breed on the riverbed each year. These species are sensitive to disturbance and are vulnerable to invasive mammal predation from stoat, rat, hedgehog, feral cat and avian predators such as Southern black-backed gull.

The Saturday community event also provided up to date information on Makarora’s other threatened species such as rock wren and kea within the alpine environment, blue duck/ whio within the upper river catchments and the forest birds and bats of beech podocarp forest.

Presentation on predator control programmes for Makarora threatened species was also part of the day and Dean Nelson from Twizel talked about the amazing Project River Recovery and what can be learned from this for Makarora. Dean also talked about his early inspirational days at Makarora and historical protected species recording with the late Peter Child who produced the original Birdlife of Mt Aspiring National Park in the 1980’s.

The late Peter Child (Birdlife of Mt Aspiring National Park 1980’s) at Lake Castallia (N branch Wilkin) recording rock wren. Photo credit Dean Nelson

After lunch in the sun, an afternoon field trip on the braided river provided opportunity for people to put theory into practice and familiarise with endangered braided river birds and ABT’S predator control programme.

Afternoon field trip – bird observation on the Makarora River

All braided river bird species have now returned to the Makarora River and are officially “welcomed back” what a great start to the season for these birds and Makarora (feature representation below).

Volunteers welcome to help with ABT threatened species programmes this spring/summer. Including braided river bird surveys.

braided river birds
Part of “Makarora Flock” on the riverbed with endemic wrybill, banded dotterel, black-billed gull, SI pied oystercatcher, black-fronted tern all known to nest here.

ABT would like to thank the Perpetual Guardian Foundation, the local Makarora Community, Makarora and Haast School, Southern Wild Wanaka and BRaid.