Keep an eye out for black-billed gulls
Last year hundreds of tarapuka, or endangered black-billed gull, nested on a dairy farm near Waikuku beach.
The owner and manager of that land received an environmental award for going out of the way to assist the birds.
Ashley/Rakahuri Rivercare Group (ARRG) member Grant Davey said he had followed the birds as they moved from the paddock of their birth.
‘‘I closely followed that colony and it was one of the most successful recorded’’.
Davey said he had followed groups of young tarapuka to the Ashley/Rakahuri riverbed and estuary after they split into two groups.
He had seen the juveniles ‘‘hanging around fishermen’’ along the Ashley/Rakahuri riverbanks and at the ReStart Mall, Christchurch, competing with other bird species for lunch scraps.
‘‘They seem to have surprisingly little fear of humans. It’s not a good idea to feed them – they need to be able to fend for themselves, but they go looking for humans.’’
While the birds were growing up on the farm, cattle had grazed the paddock around the colony and a centre pivot had passed over them, providing some likely unwelcome irrigation to the birds.
However ARRG chairman Nick Ledgard said they ‘‘didn’t seem to mind’’ either event.
Ledgard said numbers of tarapuka were dropping nationally, so a colony able to form on a busy farm was a boon for conservation of the species.
Davey said he was impressed by both the gulls’ ability to shrug off the farming activities around them and by the willingness of the farmers to assist the colony any way they could.
In recognition of hosting the birds, BRaid (Braided River aid) presented farm owner Tim Delaney and manager James Henderson with their bronze environmental accreditation award.
Davey said it was unlikely the farm colony could be replicated in future, unless the paddocks were worked at the same time each year.
Now the new season is just underway, and the gulls have been seen prospecting potential riverside farm breeding sites from Waikuku right up to near Cust.
Davey said these black-billed gulls need all the help they can get.
‘‘We would be most grateful if anyone seeing the colony could give us a call on (03 3131107)’’.
Grant Davey photographing a blackbilled gull colony on a Waikuku dairy farm.