Sanc­tu­ary for birds so close

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ANNA LOREN

Men­tion the words ‘‘bird sanc­tu­ary’’ and most Auck­lan­ders will think of ei­ther Tir­i­tiri Matangi or Great Bar­rier Is­land, tossed in the far reaches of the Hau­raki Gulf.

Many have no idea about a world-class bird sanc­tu­ary right in their back­yard.

A short walk be­yond the wooden gates of Man­gere Bridge’s coun­cil-owned work­ing farm, Am­bury Park, re­veals thou­sands of birds – around 20,000 dur­ing the peak sea­son – roost­ing by the rocky shore of the Manukau Har­bour.

The 7km stretch of coast­line which me­an­ders from Am­bury to the nearby Otu­ataua Stone­fields is in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised as a bird roost­ing and feed­ing area.

It forms part of Te Araroa – The Long Path­way – a 3000km walking trail stretch­ing the length of New Zealand, from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

In a past life, the area was part of the Man­gere waste­water treat­ment plant.

It was of­fi­cially re­opened as a coastal walk­way in 2005 af­ter a $451 mil­lion up­grade to the plant by coun­cil­con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tion Water­care.

At the time it was un­der­taken, it was New Zealand’s big­gest coastal marine restora­tion project.

Five hun­dred hectares – 714 foot­ball fields – of sludge ponds were drained and more than 270,000 na­tive trees were planted in an ef­fort to re­store the coast­line.

To­day lo­cal fowl are reap­ing the ben­e­fits of Water­care’s work, spokesman Daniel Wrigley says.

About 80 species of birds make their home here at var­i­ous times of the year. Many roost on ar­ti­fi­cial shell is­lands just off the coast which help to dis­cour­age them from flock­ing at nearby Auck­land Air­port.

It’s a so­lu­tion to an ex­pen­sive prob­lem – ex­perts es­ti­mate the dam­age of bird strikes to planes is in the bil­lions of dol­lars world­wide.

Prevent­ing bird strikes is im­por­tant for con­ser­va­tion ef­forts too.

There are just 5000 wry­bills in the world and half of them use Man­gere Bridge to roost, or­nithol­o­gist Ray Clough says.

A breed­ing flock of 12 north­ern New Zealand dot­terels, of which there are only 2000 in to­tal, also make their home here.

‘‘Peo­ple dis­turb­ing the birds is our big­gest prob­lem be­cause they’ll quite of­ten aban­don their nests if they’re scared,’’ Mr Clough says.

Water­care has a slightly more re­laxed view.

Plans are un­der way to open nearby Puke­tutu Is­land as a re­gional park.

‘‘The whole area will hopefully be a play­ground for the whole of Auck­land,’’ Mr Wrigley says.

Sun­day best: Brightly coloured finches perch on the rocks.

Wet­lands: A spur-winged plover picks through a pud­dle at the Man­gere Bridge bird sanc­tu­ary.

Full flight: A royal spoon­bill stretches its wings.

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