Pelican landing at Boat Harbour.  The people are fishing from the smaller peninsular.

Pelican landing at Boat Harbour. The people are fishing from the smaller peninsula on the eastern side.  A Darter is waiting on the stormwater boom.

This is the peninsula that will be made into a bird sanctuary.  Boat Harbour is man-made & empties entirely at low tide.

This is the peninsula that will be made into a bird sanctuary. Boat Harbour is man-made & empties entirely at low tide. 

I heard some terrific news the other day & it is something I have long wanted, so I am very pleased to be able to report it here.

Canterbury Council will be closing off the longest peninsula on the western side of Boat Harbour on the Cooks River at Hurlstone Park to create a bird sanctuary.  No humans allowed.

This will be the first official bird sanctuary on the actual river.  Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland is also a bird sanctuary & also in Canterbury LGA.  This is a great trend by this Council & shows that they are taking biodiversity seriously.

With the increase in the popularity of fishing along the river, both peninsulas at Boat Harbour have become a place where people fish.  Before this happened the peninsulas were places where a large variety of waterbirds gathered to rest, spend time with each other, watch the river & wait until the tide went out emptying Boat Harbour.

The pelicans especially use the tidal movement out of Boat Harbour to fish for their food.  As the water in the harbour lowers, the water at the exit becomes only about 2-metres across.  Being shallow, the pelicans can have their pick of any fish who waited too long to leave Boat Harbour & feast they do.

First they leave the water & waddle to a pool left on the eastern side next to the smaller peninsula. Here they have entrée.  Then they return to the shallow water & start to move backwards & forwards across the entrance like stealth bombers.  Their body pose is fascinating, as well as lethal, as they are flattened ready to slice through the water surface to catch fish.  The water at the entrance eventually becomes little more than 2-metres across & here the fishing is easy.

It is not just the pelicans that utilize the low tide for fishing at Boat Harbour.  Darters, cormorants, nankeen night herons & all sorts of waterbirds gather here.  Low tide at Boat Harbour reveals the river floor attracting birds that find food in the mud.

On many occasions we have gone specifically to watch the show.  Birds used to be lined up both on the peninsulas & on a stormwater boom that was in the river just outside Boat Harbour for many years.  As tattered as the stormwater boom was, it was one of the very few places along the river where birds could perch on the river.  They would sit for hours waiting for the tide to go out of Boat Harbour & the signal that it is time to eat.

Sadly the boom was removed some time last year & has not been replaced.  I hope that another could be put here, purely for the use of the birds.

This move by Canterbury Council to create a bird sanctuary on the largest peninsula is to be applauded.  It is wonderful that Canterbury Council takes the welfare of the river wildlife so seriously & it is a great first step to give the waterbirds some security at Boat Harbour.

I hope that once the Council is able to observe that it works, they will also close off the other smaller peninsula to humans.  Fishing lines near or across the opening into Boat Harbour will prevent the pelicans from fishing here.   It matters not from which peninsula the lines come.  Danger from the left or the right is the same amount of danger.

The bottom line is that if the birds cannot fish, they don’t eat.  If they don’t get enough food they will leave & go to a place where they can.

There are plenty other spots from which anglers can fish.  Losing the right to fish at two small peninsulas is not going to make a dent in their ability to fish, but it will make an enormous positive difference to the waterbirds.

Not only will the birds benefit, but the community will be winners too.  Boat Harbour is one of three places along the river where parents can pretty much guarantee their children can view waterbirds. The two other places are Cup & Saucer Wetland & Fatima Island.   All these sites offer a great educational experience, as well as significant beauty.  Most people love to look at birds.  The waterbirds of the Cooks River are varied & encouragement to live here will support all kinds of activities such as bird watching & school trips.

I thank Canterbury Council for deciding to create a bird sanctuary at Boat Harbour.  I ask that Council consider making both peninsulas sanctuaries so that the waterbirds enjoy greater safety from the impact of people.

I made a short video of a pelican fishing at Boat Harbour.  You can see pelicans sitting on both peninsulas & also the stormwater boom – http://bit.ly/1jn2gNt

I last wrote about this issue here – http://bit.ly/1g8HMnQ

Fishing with 3 rods at the entrance to Boat Harbour.

Fishing with 3 rods at the entrance to Boat Harbour.

Cormorants waiting on the storm waterboom

Cormorants waiting on the stormwater boom that sadly is no longer here.  You could always see birds on this boom.

Pelican practicing ballet while waiting for the tide to go out in Boat Harbour.

Practicing ballet while waiting for the tide to go out in Boat Harbour.

Coming into Boat Harbour for a fish at mid-tide.

Coming into Boat Harbour for a fish at mid-tide.

 

 

 

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