Environment – Planting for birds

In 2016, New Zealand robins (toutouwai) were introduced to Shakespear Open Sanctuary at the end of Whangaparāoa Peninsula. 

Very quickly a pair formed and set up home in one of the most unlikely corners of the park – an area which, before it was planted with natives (20 years ago), had been rank grass. I remember being there for the planting day. We planted mostly mānuka back then and only now is the next generation of mixed species, such as matipo, coprosmas and five finger, coming away underneath to form bush more typical of the area. Despite this, or because of it, these two robins have been the most prolific breeders in the park. This success indicates that we can create habitat for robins to breed anywhere on the Hibiscus Coast where there is space to plant new vegetation.

And there are several places on the Coast that have been planted up in this way, including around Ōrewa Estuary and on the banks of the Weiti River. Without this habitat there isn’t much room for wildlife. Karaka Cove, off Whangaparāoa Road, is another area that the Hibiscus Coast branch of Forest & Bird have been chipping away at for many years; each winter planting a new piece of hillside surrounding the original core of bush. There is a lovely short walk here from the bottom of Matheson Road starting in older bush and winding up to the new plantings. It is well worth a visit. 

Our suburbs are the new ecological frontline so this is where Forest & Bird places a lot of emphasis. Collectively our gardens make up a large area of mixed forest and shrub and are home to a range of wildlife, plants, fungi and all the microscopic life which keeps the world ticking over. I spend most of my outdoor time in my own garden, so I have planned it to ensure variety. There is always something changing, something going on. When I was first establishing my garden, I planted mānuka and kānuka, species loved by insect-eating birds. These have had riroriro grey warblers and pīwakawaka fantails nesting in them for years now, as well as tui collecting twigs for nest building.

Now that autumn rains have arrived, it is time to plan your winter planting so that in 20 years a robin may be nesting in your garden. When you think of the change that the last two decades have seen on the Hibiscus Coast, this no longer seems far-fetched at all.