A little dotterel chick which has been at the centre of local attention and conservation efforts on Waiheke has taken flight.
Popular dog-walking spot Surfdale Beach was temporarily closed over the breeding season to protect the nesting site of endangered New Zealand dotterels that had recently become established in the area.
A dotterel pair had been nesting at the high school and feeding on the beach. The proud parents had been taking their chick to the beach to teach it to fly, and this weekend the chick was finally spotted flying with its family.
Waiheke Local Board deputy chair Paul Walden said it was an incredible success story for the species and for everyone in the community who had helped the little dotterel family to thrive.
He thanked dog owners in particular who had respected the ban as they were an integral part in protecting the species from danger and distress.
The ban which was due to run until the end of February has been lifted early. Dog owners are free to use the beach again but are asked to please remain mindful of Waiheke's native seabirds.
“This support gave the young dotterel parents the best start possible to nest and hatch their young,” Walden said.
Waiheke is a hotspot for the dotterel, which has a global population of just over 2300 birds.
A few pairs breed on Waiheke and after breeding move to a flocking site at the western end of Blackpool Beach, where they spend autumn and winter before returning to their breeding sites elsewhere on the island.
Breeding and roosting habitat for shorebirds is limited and much of it is under pressure from development and recreational activities, including dog walking.
New activities like kite-surfing are placing added pressure on formerly quiet and secure roosting and breeding sites.