Shakespear Regional Park is developing a name as a place to find wildlife, particularly Okoromai wetland, which is popular with bird watchers.
The wetland is in a pest management controlled buffer zone outside the open sanctuary’s pest proof fence and has become home to an increasing number of rare bird species.
Among the most recent arrivals is the North Island fernbird, which the Department of Conservation categorises as ‘at risk, declining’.
This secretive wetland dweller was first spotted – or rather heard – at Okoromai four months ago. The bird’s distinctive ‘tick tick’ call is often the first sign that they are present, and once they’ve been heard, birders then rely on sharp eyes – this is a very well camouflaged species.
Recently, two more pairs were discovered, this time within the sanctuary.
Auckland Council senior ranger Matt Maitland says the fernbirds were seen during a survey of the recently introduced saddlebacks.
“It’s one of those things where once you’ve seen a single pair, suddenly there seem to be more,” he says.
It’s the first time these birds have been seen here for many years and it seems likely that, although they are not particularly good fliers, they have made it across from Tiritiri Matangi Island.
“It is possible they were already there, and we did have a record of a single bird in past years, but as they are now making themselves known, it is likely they haven’t been breeding until now,” Matt says.
Many local populations have been lost due to drainage of wetlands for development, combined with predation by introduced mammals such as cats, rats, dogs and mustelids.
Matt says the birds are most likely to be seen flitting and darting around the tops of low scrub in wetlands.
“Importantly, we now have connected landscapes, so when birds leave protected sites like Tiritiri and the open sanctuary, there are safe places to go.”