FIELD TRIP: The future of the Otago Shags at Sumpter Wharf

A joint trip with Birds NZ to Oamaru via the All Day Bay lagoon

Join us on a trip to visit the Otago Shag colony on Sumpter Wharf at Oamaru and hear about the possible threat to them.

We are expecting, any time now, a proposal for a Zipline in Oamaru harbour, running from the Quarry past Sumpter Wharf with its thousands of endemic Otago Shags to the breakwater, where seals, and sea birds rest. This field trip will be a chance to see how many Otago shags are currently on the wharf and learn from experts about other species that may be impacted. Dr Chris Lalas, who has studied these shags extensively, will be with us.

The Sumpter wharf colony, if left alone is likely to become the world’s biggest colony of our endemic Otago shag.  Shags started breeding here in 2014 – with about 120 nests, and last spring this had increased to around 346 nests.  In June last year Forest and Bird and Birds NZ counted between 1,637 -1,860 roosting shags representing more than half the total population of Otago Shags.

Our wildlife evolved in the presence of aerial predators, and a zip line from the bird’s perspective is likely to be seen as an aerial predator, something to be avoided.  Continual disturbance is likely to result in the birds abandoning their nests, and ultimately the site.  Loss of this breeding site would be seriously detrimental to the survival of the species. 

Otago shags were once found along the entire east coast of the South Island up to Marlborough. Their population has been devastated since human arrival.  Now they are the sea bird equivalent to Kakapo and Takahe.  Every remaining colony is important to look after.

Depart 8:30am, please be there at 8:20am

Meeting point: Botany Department car park, corner of Great King & Union Streets

Car pool $25

Contact: Janet Ledingham - 027 623 4948

Hundreds of Otago Shag are established on Stumper Wharf. Photo: Ben Bowes