Ducks Unlimited NZ
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 16:13

Bittern sanctuary

Northland farmer gets help with bittern sanctuary

Living Water - the Fonterra/Department of Conservation partnership – is helping Ian Lupton create a sanctuary for an endangered native bird on his Northland dairy farm.

When Ian bought his farm - eight kilometres north of Dargaville – he saw no native wildlife on the property. This changed after he reduced the amount of nitrogen fertiliser and chemical spray being applied on the farm. 

“Within three years frogs, eels, pheasants, and herons were common daily sightings. I even began seeing bittern fishing for eels in a canal and drainage ditches on the farm,” said Ian.

Australasian Bitterns, or matuku, are endangered native birds that live in wetland areas. The brown, heron sized birds, are very shy and have excellent camouflage. They feed mainly at night, on fish, eels, frogs, freshwater crayfish or koura and aquatic insects.

“Regularly seeing bitterns on my farm gave me the idea of establishing a bittern sanctuary because a successful dairy farm and native wildlife can go hand in hand,” said Ian.

Living Water is a 10 year partnership between Fonterra and DOC working with dairy farmers, iwi, conservation groups, schools and other agencies in five key catchments in significant dairying regions. The focus is on increasing ecosystem resilience and farm profitability, which includes improving water quality and increasing the abundance and variety of native wildlife in the catchments. With help from Northland Regional Council, Ian sought funding from Living Water for his bittern project. 

Fonterra North Island Project Manager Tim Brandenburg said “Ian’s dream of creating a sanctuary for bitterns fits perfectly with Living Water’s goal to increase the variety Safe place: A Bittern takes a stroll near wetland edge. Photos: supplied. and abundance of native wildlife in our catchments.

“The first step in building the sanctuary, is finding out how many bitterns are living on the farm,” said DOC Ranger, Olly Knox, who is co-ordinating the sanctuary work.

“Male bitterns make a booming sound, with each male making its own distinctive sequence of booms. Living Water funding will be used to buy digital recorders to record the bitterns booming on Ian’s farm. The recordings will be analysed to establish the number of bitterns on the property,” said Olly. The funding will enable Ian to control stoats and feral cats. These predators eat bittern eggs and chicks. It will also be used to control weeds that smother native plants and trees. Enabling native vegetation to flourish on the farm will increase the habitat for the bitterns.

Living Water is also providing native plants and grasses to go on the banks of the canal and drainage ditches on the farm. This will create more bittern habitat, which will encourage more breeding.

“Riparian planting also improves water quality by reducing the run off of sediment and nutrients into the canal and drainage ditches. And it provides habitat for the fish, eels, frogs and aquatic insects in the waterways. Having more of these freshwater species will increase the bittern’s food supply,” said Olly.

Dargaville High School has supplied native trees, flax and grasses for the riparian planting. Enviroschools Northland secondary schools facilitator, Jacque Knight worked with teacher, Tim Pratt to establish the nursery. Jacque has also involved Dargaville High students in the bittern project.

“The students are making monthly visits to the farm to record sightings of bitterns, noting details of the vegetation and conditions they favour,” said Jacque. “These are secretive birds. If we can learn more about the habitat and conditions they like, we can recreate these as we build the sanctuary.”

Local iwi, Te Roroa, is supporting the establishment of the sanctuary as it will enhance the local habitat and contribute to a healthy environment for the Matuku. Northland Regional Council Land management adviser, Pete Graham, is working with Ian Lupton to implement a Farm Water Quality Improvement Plan on the farm. “Creating the bitten sanctuary meshes really well with our water quality improvement plan. Pete said “The riparian planting improves water quality and creates habitat for bittern.” Living Water programme Living Water is a 10-year partnership between Fonterra and the Department of Conservation Wetland: Ian Lupton near his bittern sanctuary.  (DOC) working with dairy farmers, iwi, conservation groups, schools and other agencies to improve the health of five key catchments in significant dairying regions throughout the country.

Living Water is working to increase ecosystem resilience and farm profitability, which includes improving water quality and increasing the abundance and variety of native wildlife in the five catchments.

To achieve this includes planting native trees, shrubs and grasses along waterways. This reduces sediment and nutrient run-off into the waterways. Animal predators and weeds are also being controlled, enabling native wildlife and plants to thrive.

Living Water catchments are:

  • Kaipara Harbour - Northland - focusing on Hikurangi catchment north of Whangarei.
  • Firth of Thames / Tikapa Moana - Hauraki Gulf - and Pukorokoro / Miranda catchment.
  • Waikato peat lakes - focusing on lakes Areare,Ruatuna and Rotomanuka.
  • Te  Waihora / Lake Ellesmere - Canterbury – focus is the Ararira/LII catchment.
  • Awarua -Waituna - Southland - focusing on Waituna catchment.

About Fonterra

Fonterra is a global leader in dairy nutrition and is a market leader with our own consumer dairy brands in Australia/New Zealand, Asia/ Africa, Middle East and Latin America. The farmer-owned NZ co-operative is the largest processor of milk in the world, producing more than two million tonnes of dairy ingredients, value added dairy ingredients, specialty ingredients and consumer products every year. Fonterra is one of the largest investors in dairy based research and innovation in the world. Staff work across the dairy spectrum from advising farmers on sustainable farming and milk production, to ensuring we live up to exacting quality standards. 

Read 1942 times