Introducing Jeremy | Harbourview Reserve.
This week I discovered someone with a great passion for the diverse bird and plant life that is right at our doorstep. Jeremy was born & bred in Auckland, having grown up in Beachhaven. Involved with the Ark in the Park’s Kokako Recovery Project, where he used his bushcraft and photographic skills to locate many kokako birds in the Waitakere Ranges. Jeremy would like to reveal to us just how wonderful this area of the Peninsula is, and to promote the Harbourview Reserve. It is my hope that Jeremy will do follow up articles that cover different aspects of this area and how we can protect what we have.
Here is Jeremy on the Harbourview-Orangihina Reserve
Seen by many as merely a marshy mangrove swamp of little value lying along the eastern side of Te Atatu Peninsula, the Harbourview-Orangihina Reserve is an area of significant ecological importance.
It is not just 2kms of old paddocks, gorse and blackberry, from where people can gaze 9km across the inner harbour to Auckland City.
The vast wetlands of the Reserve feature a saline habitat, with vast tidal mudflats (in some parts 1km wide), shellbanks, estuarine creeks and saltpans providing perfect conditions for oioi grass, salt marsh ribbonwood, glasswort, coastal sea daisy, sea rush and needle tussock, mangrove, toitoi, flax and raupo.
The coastal transition zone, where wetland marsh becomes drier ground, in many places was once paddocks that are now reverting back to the natural coastal vegetation. Remnants of the farm can still be seen; rusting wires, moss covered posts and drainage ditches are all clearly visible along the Reserve.
The combination of plants and tidal habitats provide conditions that support over 30 types of bird, the more exotic including the inquisitive Matata/Fernbird, elusive and secretive Moho-pereru/Banded Rail, globe crossing Kuaka/Bar-tailed Godwit, highly endangered Russia bound Huahou/Red Knot, visiting South Island Ngutu pare/Wrybill and the seriously at risk Tuturiwhatu Pukunui/ NZ Dotterel. More recently Royal Spoonbills have been sighted amongst the gulls, terns and oyster catchers.
As the tides recede in March the mudflats can be covered with thousands of waders, in particular the red knot and godwit, who need feed in preparation for their massive migratory flights via China & Korea to Alaska.
The Matata/Fernbird and Moho-pereru/Banded Rail are permanent inhabitants in the inner wetlands. Both are very vulnerable as they live on or close to the ground. Their official status is At Risk/Declining.
More often heard than seen, Fernbirds are skulking sparrow-sized, well-camouflaged birds who scramble through dense vegetation. They are poor fliers; going short distances with their tail hanging down, just above the vegetation. Fernbirds often approach ‘visitors’ closely, a very risky trait. They smell ‘gamey’ which makes them irresistible to gun dogs. Fernbirds breed from November to February, with a 36 day incubation to fledging period.
Banded rail are rarely seen, as they are well-camouflaged and prefer to remain under the cover of wetland vegetation, although their footprints are often seen. The call of the rail is akin to shrill pipes. The rail breeds from September to March with 60 days from egg incubation to fledging.
However the inhabitants are under daily threats. Pollution, predation and human intrusion are all factors that are causing a decline in bird numbers and hampering the ability of birds to breed.
Introduced predators like the stoat, rat and hedgehog combine with feral cats to indiscriminately kill adult birds and eat eggs & chicks. The City Council is supporting Forest & Bird in a predator-pest control program that is hoping to reduce the predation on birds & nests and thus increase the chances of chicks fledging. Humans entering the wetlands risk destroying nests or scaring birds from their eggs/young. Dogs, which are prohibited from all wetlands, can scare & kill adult birds, eat eggs, destroy nests or make parents abandon their young.
Harbourview Reserve is in a unique position
Harbourview Reserve is in a unique position in that, with ongoing pest & weed control, community support & compliance to bylaws, the area can be protected and enhanced thus giving the flora & fauna a chance to survive & prosper. The Reserve could be a stronghold of ecological bio-diversity in the heart of the largest city in the country and the pride of the residents of Te Atatu for generations to come.