Southern Institute of Technology Bachelor of Environmental Management student Rose Hynson has uncovered a variety of bird life, some of which are threatened species, at a well-known recreation area in Invercargill.
Currently completing her final year research project, Ms Hynson’s research is based at Sutton Lagoon, otherwise known as Pleasure Bay in the Invercargill estuary. “Unfortunately, sometimes it’s even called the Tip Lagoon, which does it a disservice as it is both attractive and environmentally important,” she said.
The aim of Ms Hynson’s thesis is to understand the habitat use and relative abundance of water birds (ducks, geese, swans, and waders - oyster catchers, stilts etc.), which feed in and around the edge of the water at the lagoon, in order to support the ongoing protection and possible options for enhancement of the area.
During the course of the research Ms Hynson has found endemic birds
are using the habitat, some of which are threatened and declining species.
“Sutton Lagoon is encompassed within New River estuary, an area which hosts a wide range of coastal and migratory birds, as well as waterfowl. This includes regionally significant numbers of the endemic South Island Pied Oystercatcher (SIPO)
Haematopus finschi, and Black-billed gull Larus bulleri, which are classified as threatened or declining.”
She noted the lagoon was also a significant location for birdwatching, particularly various waterfowl, one of note visiting earlier this year was the Chestnut-breasted Shelduck from Australia, and a Northern Pintail from the Northern Hemisphere was spotted last year.
“Many other birds can be easily viewed from the paths or with the aid of binoculars... I was fortunate to come across Kōtuku, Marsh Crake, Pied Cormorants and Caspian Terns, as well as other wildlife such as eels, fish, and a young seal.”
During her research work Ms Hynson had frequently interacted with the public, who use the area for recreation. “This area is clearly a really special place for many people... and I believe that it needs our continued protection.”
A high proportion of the birds observed at Sutton Lagoon are ground-nesting birds that use grasses/rushes to nest in and lay their eggs, making them particularly vulnerable to disturbance from humans and animals (dogs, cats, stoats and rats). “Sadly, introduced predators and habitat loss continue to contribute to the decline of some of our most vulnerable species,” Ms Hynson said.
“Given the location's proximity to urban and residential buildings and it is coming into breeding season for many of the waterfowl, it is a timely reminder to note that this area has a dog on lead policy,” she added.
Ms Hynson’s research has been supported by the Southland branch of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand (OSNZ)
, through awarding her the Alloo Avian Research Scholarship. She is the first SIT recipient of the scholarship. OSNZ Southland member, Pete McClelland, said Ms Hynson had connected with them through her interest in birds as a member of the Southland field club; when she approached the society regarding her project, they worked with her to develop the proposal in line with the scholarship criteria.
“We couldn’t have hoped for a better student to start off the scholarship with SIT; Rose has lived up to our expectations and shown that the scholarship will meet the aims of the Society - she has maximised the benefits of her research for birds and birdwatching in Southland. Her project has also helped us refine the process for the scholarship in the future,” Mr McClelland added.
“We believe Rose’s work has highlighted and quantified the value of Sutton Lagoon to a wide range of bird species. It re-enforces why it needs to be protected and where possible, enhanced as an important ecological site in the middle of our city.”
SIT and OSNZ will receive copies of Ms Hynson’s final thesis; she anticipates there may be opportunities to share the findings with local councils, but also, that it will provide a useful resource for any future studies undertaken at Sutton Lagoon. “As well as its high natural values, this area has enormous educational potential for all ages,” she said.