It’s great to report that visitor numbers at Shakespear Regional Park have held up and even exceeded expectations during the on-going lockdown.
It has been reported that a walk in a green space or nature reserve helps people to de-stress and Shakespear comes near the top of my personal list for an enjoyable excursion close to home.
With the arrival of spring, the park and its resident plants and animals are responding to the longer days and warmer weather.
Some of the birds are already well into their breeding season while others are just getting started. Robins/toutouwai already have fledged chicks and some pairs are on their second nests for the season. There are lots of blackbirds and song thrush youngsters to be seen, many of which haven’t yet got fully-grown tails and are a bit clumsy as they haven’t properly mastered how to fly. Pukeko chicks of all sizes are everywhere, and there are ducklings in some of the wetlands.
Among the burrow-nesting seabirds, little penguins or kororā, will have well-grown chicks while fluttering shearwaters/pakahā and grey-faced petrels/ōi will be incubating eggs or have small chicks.
There are only around 2600 New Zealand dotterels, or tūturiwhatu, remaining, and up to 20 spend the winter in Shakespear park. At this time of year, some of them head off to nearby beaches or land cleared for building in search of a good nesting site.
Two birds that hatched in the park last summer have been seen at Manly Beach and another pair may be in the process of nesting there (HM November 8). This is probably an unfortunate choice as this is a popular beach for visitors with lots of free-running dogs and it will have nocturnal predators such as cats and rats. The six or seven pairs who have opted to nest inside the park’s protective fence will have a better chance of success. However, it’s a challenge, even for them. One pair, at the eastern end of Te Haruhi Beach, has already lost two nests that were close to a path where they probably suffered too much disturbance. That pair is currently trying a third time.
The plants also respond in springtime. Kōwhai have already flowered and some of the tracks have a yellow carpet where the blossoms have dropped. Next up will be flax and māhoe. In a good flax flowering season, many of the park’s birds will end up with yellow-orange foreheads from pollen. The birds distribute pollen from one flower to fertilise another and, in exchange for this service, get to drink the energy-rich nectar.