Gulls opt for a better river spot after flood

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Black-billed gull nests just as they were being washed out by the October 19 flood in the Ashley-Rakahuri River. The gulls seemed determined not to be washed out and were still bringing nesting material to their doomed nests. Photos: Grant Davey
Black-billed gull nests just as they were being washed out by the October 19 flood in the Ashley-Rakahuri River. The gulls seemed determined not to be washed out and were still bringing nesting material to their doomed nests. Photos: Grant Davey
Black-billed gulls have been gathering over the last two months in preparation for breeding on the Ashley-Rakahuri River.

Their progress towards nesting has been an interesting but chequered journey, as it has been in previous years.

Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group member Grant Davey says, at first, the birds settled not far west of the Cones Road bridge,

''But their choice was not good, as it involved low islands very prone to flooding.

''Fortunately, only a small percentage of them were on nests because, as feared, a fresh on October 19 forced them to move, he says.

Within a day, they had congregated again about 3km downstream, on a much more suitable site, and by October 22 at least 2200 birds had been counted.

''It was a higher weed-free island offering protection from both floods and predators. The number present is very similar to that which initially arrived on the river last year,'' Mr Davey says.

The black-billed gulls were initially reluctant to move on.
The black-billed gulls were initially reluctant to move on.
Elsewhere on the river, there has been a variable start to the breeding season for other species.

One of the first to arrive was the banded dotterel. Most now have young chicks, while the pied stilt and black-fronted tern are only just starting to lay eggs.

''There are at least six pairs of wrybill present. Four have already hatched chicks, including that of the only banded bird, BW-BW.

''He is present at his usual site for his 10th season.''

Wrybill are the most iconic bird of braided rivers and only breed in Canterbury.

Group Chairman Nick Ledgard says, despite its unique status, comparatively little is known about the species.

''For this reason, we are asking the public to vote for the wrybill as New Zealand's Bird of the Year - a competition which gets under way towards the end of this month.''

 

 

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