From north to south – education opportunities abound

Hinds School has joined forces with our land management and biodiversity advisor Heath Melville to tackle weeds in a Banded dotterel/pohowera breeding hotspot.

Hinds School students

Hinds School students

Before this year’s lockdown, students from mid-Canterbury’s Hinds School visited Kaikōura to learn about the local environment and help remove lupin weeds from the South Bay pohowera hotspot.

One student, Ben, was thankful to have the opportunity to visit Kaikōura and help rip out the lupins.

“We all had tons of fun. We hope that we can come back one day and continue the project and see if the Banded dotterels are surviving in the environment,” he said.

Ben thanked Heath for caring about the local environment and sharing his passion with the class.

“It was a fun couple of hours on the beach with such an enthusiastic group of students, teachers, and parents. It’s encouraged me to keep engaging with our local schools to celebrate our local environment and look at different ways we can connect people with it,” Melville said.

“Many thanks to Hinds School students and teachers, Wenbo from Sport Tasman, and Ted and Ailsa from the Kaikōura Banded Dotterel Study, for supporting efforts to connect communities with our special and vulnerable coast,” he said.

Class efforts end in pohowera hatching

Pohowera eggs

Pohowera eggs

The mahi that the class completed during the field trip provided instant habitat restoration, turning lupin shrublands back into open beach gravels.

Further weed control work has been carried out here to keep this area relatively lupin free, for now.

Removing lupins and other brush-weeds improves the beach habitat for native ground-nesting birds, like pohowera and tōrea/South Island oystercatchers.

Brush-weeds provide cover for predators and colonise the open gravel environments that these manu/birds prefer to nest in, reducing the area of suitable nesting habitat.

“A pohowera has since nested in one of the areas that the students cleared lupins from,” Melville said.

“Three chicks ended up hatching from the nest, but only one survived. It still has another three weeks until it reaches the fledgling stage and can fly short distances to evade predators more effectively.

“No chicks have made it to fledge this season from the 60 nests that have been monitored so far by the Kaikōura Banded Dotterel Study (KBDS), though there is a handful of chicks running around on beaches around the township.

“KBDS has seen what looks like a domestic cat eating pohowera eggs in South Bay. Keeping cats indoors at night would make a world of difference to the breeding success of these nationally vulnerable taonga species,” he said.

Before the clean up

Before the clean up

After the clean up

After the clean up

Before the clean up

Before the clean up

After the clean up

After the clean up

Other work in the area

The weed control carried out by Hinds School connects with other projects in the zone such as Ocean Ridge trapping, the KBDS and the South Bay Action Plan, which is a community-led initiative to share information about the South Bay beach area.

Stage two of the Ocean Ridge trapping project will trap the shoreline nearby, from the Kowhai River down to South Bay.

Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura also has a predator control project - Te Tau Wairehu o Marokura Predator Control - which we’re a partner of.

Eventually this kaupapa will target predators in the area where the lupin control took place, along with other ground-nesting bird breeding areas in the Ngāti Kurī takiwā/tribal territory between the Oaro awa and the Awatere awa. Surveys are currently taking place to investigate other sites for trapping.

“More needs to be done along the Kaikōura coastline to protect shorebird values, and there are huge wins to be made for biodiversity through educating the community as well,” Melville said.

Heath Melville with Hinds School students

Heath Melville with Hinds School students

Education mahi continues in Kaikōura

Melville is keen to keep the educational kōrero going locally and further afield.

Earlier this year Melville and our youth engagement and education team hosted students in years four to six at Kaikōura Primary School.

The students learnt about the ecological and cultural significance of Lyell Creek/Waikōau, and the life-cycle and challenges tuna/eel face in our modified environments. 

“Kaikōura Primary School students are now producing a film about the migration of tuna (eel) so it’s great to see their experience will be taken back to the classroom to inspire further learning opportunities,” Melville said.

“Having such an excellent outdoor classroom in Kaikōura makes learning about the environment much more fun and interactive and helps raise awareness of environmental challenges at the same time,” he said.

Images courtesy of Heath Melville and Amanda Ferguson (Hinds School).