Forest and Bird Trip to Waituna
World wetland day recognised at Waituna Lagoon. (Article thanks to Jenny Campbell)
Learning more about the health and wildlife of Waituna Lagoon and the Mokotua area was the reason for members of Southland Forest and Bird, Southland Natural History Field Club and Southland Tramping Club members to gather last Saturday to mark World Wetland day.
The group walked along the north edge of the lagoon, observing special plants such as endangered Ruppia and New Zealand musk ( Mimulus) which was in full flower and being visited by bumble bees for nectar, organiser Gay Munro said.
‘’ When lake levels get high and affect farm drainage then the lagoon is opened to allow water to drain out to sea, and if the lagoon stays open over summer months , the Ruppia dies back affecting the health of the lagoon, ‘’ she said. ‘’ It has been 18 months since it was tidal.’’
Members of the group were keen bird watchers so there were frequent stops to observe and identify such species as banded dotterel, pied stilt, grey teal duck, black fronted tern, shoveler duck and turnstone.
‘’ One godwit was spotted on a sand bar and the group was very fortunate to see a usually secretive fernbird in the shrubs along the shore,’’ Munro said. ‘’ World Wetland day on Friday ( 2 February) commemorates the signing of the Ramsar Convention and is celebrated around the world on that day.’’
A growing awareness of the value of wetlands brought people together in Ramsar, Iran in 1971 where the Convention was established, with 138 countries as signatories at present. Waituna was recognised as a wetland of national importance in 1976 and by 2006 it was one of only six Ramsar sites in New Zealand.
A Deed of Recognition has been signed which recognises Ngaitahu’s historic, spiritual and traditional relationships with Waituna Wetland and manawhenua status which results from this relationship.
‘’ With high nutrient levels of concern along with high sediment loads brought down by the river, in 2001 concerned local farmers formed the Waituna Landcare group,’’ Munro said. ‘’ They work closely with Environment Southland and Department of Conservation , presently working with local school and encouraging riparian planting. ’’
The group moved on to Ron and Gay Munro’s property at Mokotua to have lunch and go for a bush walk in their QE 11 Covenant area. This was followed by a visit to Gary and Angela Christie’s farm to observe the difference fencing can make in a 13 ha area of native bush in 2013, so excluding stock and set up a trapping programme.
‘’ We started trapping in 2010 and in the first two years we caught 300 possums and 44 cats as well as stoats, ferrets and rats, with very few being caught now in our on- going programme and we have noticed a great increase in bird life, ’’ G Christie said. ‘’ We used to be able to see through the bush to the other side as there was no ground cover but the fence has meant revegetation with ferns now covering the ground along with lots of different native seedlings which means we are winning.’’
‘’The day was very informative and everyone agreed the conditions had been excellent for the field trip to a very special area,’’ G Munro said.