Sanctuary for birds so close to city
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.
Prolific: Spur-winged plovers, foreground, and pied oystercatchers, background, roost here in their thousands.
Pukeko leave their mark in the mud.
Sunday best: Brightly coloured finches perch on the rocks.