Dotterel chick missing after storm

The dotterel chick that hatched on Mount Main Beach on Wednesday December 27 has disappeared from the beach.

The parents have returned after last week’s storm, but their chick is missing.

On the first day after hatching, the chick was busy exploring the beach surrounding the nest.

When seagulls approached it was observed going instantly still, camouflaged amongst the seaweed and driftwood along the tide mark, while its parent chased off the gulls.

Originally two eggs were laid near to the pair of oyster catchers who were also sitting on a pair of eggs.

Both the dotterel and oystercatcher nest areas were fenced off by DOC to keep their nests safe from people passing, accidentally stumbling into them.

Sandbags were placed around the dotterel nest prior to the December king tides, as their eggs were just above the high tide mark. 

Both sets of birds had many locals including surf club members keeping an eye out for them.

The oyster catcher eggs hatched first, with the parents immediately abandoning the young chicks.

ARRC Wildlife Trust Director and Veterinarian Dr Liza Schneider checked over the surviving oystercatcher chick and confirmed that it had congenital defects. Oystercatchers expend a great deal of energy feeding their young, and won’t do that if their chicks are not going to be viable.

As it is still within the oystercatcher nesting period Liza believes there is a high chance that the birds could lay again.

Meanwhile, the dotterels continued sitting on their eggs, and were observed repeatedly going across to the abandoned oystercatcher nest, almost as though they were checking out what had happened.

Two days before the dotterel chick hatched out, the second egg disappeared on the nest. It is not known what happened to that egg. Two days later, the remaining egg hatched, and created a stir, as the summer beach holiday season was underway with Mount Main beach being one of the most popular attractions to visit in NZ.

The evening beach groomer was able to stay well clear of the family, as they settled down and nested at night amongst the seaweed and flotsam around the tide mark.

One morning footprints of what appears to be a cat were found going to the main nest area and then returning to the boardwalk.

Prior to the storm and king tides coming last week, the family vanished from Mount Main beach, but as the dotterel parents weren’t sighted it was assumed they were somewhere safe with their chick.

On Monday, with the storm over, the parents were seen back on Mount Main beach, but without their chick.

“It’s possible that a rogue wave swept it away,” says Liza. “Or a cat or dog or sea gull got it.”

The fencing, signs and sandbags have been removed.

Both sets of birds – the oystercatchers and dotterels are back on the beach.

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