A moat for dotterel

I am working with the Auckland Council mowing team to manage the grass for Northern New Zealand dotterel which are a conservation dependant species. In the Tāmaki Estaury there are no significant beaches, so the dotterel nest in the grass at Point England.

We need to mow the grass so that:

  • Dotterel can walk in it
  • Dotterel can see predators coming
  • We don’t provide food for predators (rats and pukeko)

However we can’t mow near the chicks and the chicks also need cover from predators. I did ask the grass to stop growing at 10cm but it did not listen to me 😀

We currently have at least two chicks who are always seen with 2-6 adults near the old nest. I considered multiple mowing strategies and decided to trial a moat around the edge of the paddock to exclude agoraphobic predators (rats and cats).

So far the chicks are staying in the un-mown area, adults come and go but generally prefer the mown areas for roosting. I have used a line trimmer to create a shorter grass area in the centre which the adults keep their chicks near.

< 48hr old chick with egg tooth visible

UPDATE: 2 December

I was surprised to find a new three egg nest inside mown moat. Unfortunately it was abandoned on the 11th of December. All three chicks did not fledge and were not seen outside the un-mown area. They looked to prefer the areas where the buckhorn plantain seed heads were less abundant and there was more buttercup.