tūturuatu/ shore plover
One of New Zealand's rarest wading birds, the shore plover has a small remaining population of only around 250 individuals. This year, 31 juveniles were released on Mana Island, a beautiful predator free island close the city of Wellington.
Some of these birds were hatched and raised at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre in Mount Bruce, Wairarapa, with the others coming from The Isaacs Wildlife and Conservation Trust. With the releases taking place in February and March, all teams involved were excited to see the progress this new population would make in establishing a new breeding ground.
Return to the mainland
In June 2020, the shore plover flew across to the mainland where they dispersed to various locations. Unfortunately, although this is perfectly natural behaviour, modern day NZ mainland is not the safest environment for these birds. Cats, mustalids, dogs and even roads (I could not believe it when a local told us this pair on Plimmerton Beach had been seen running up the main road!) are serious threats.
In July, it was decided the best course of action to take to protect these birds would be to move them back to Mana Island. I was lucky enough to photograph the birds during this day, as all 3 were safely caught up and returned home (Plimmerton pair and one from the Waikanae Estuary). They will be looked after in an aviary on Mana Island until hopefully they consider themselves more 'grounded' to their home where they should stay, ready for the upcoming breeding season.
I just wanted to add a quick thank you to everyone who was involved this day with the birds. Mireille (the amazing shore plover Mum from Pukaha), Troy and Rose, such dedicated, passionate shore plover people, and Scratch for lending me his massive lens to use on Plimmerton Beach. I LOVED it! It has inspired me to dig out my big lens I have been trying to figure out, and thanks to your quick lessons, I know what I am doing now! (Well... kind of... I am working on it!)
It was lovely to meet so many people who had been monitoring these birds from their arrival, as well as curious passer-bys who wanted to know what was going on. Seeing their faces light up when you tell them the story of the shore plover and how they are rarer than the kakapo brings these birds into a whole new light.