Forest & Bird honours dotterel protector

27 Jun 2011

 John Groom of Matata has been awarded Forest & Bird’s prestigious Old Blue award for his dedication to protecting the endangered New Zealand dotterel.

The long-serving Eastern Bay of Plenty member has been monitoring birds, controlling pests and putting up signs at six sites over a 25 kilometre stretch of coastline during the dotterel breeding season.

“John’s dedication really stands out, he is incredibly dedicated to dotterels. He has made a big difference to the birds, he has a high rate of success with the nests he looks after,” says Eastern Bay of Plenty former branch secretary Sue Greenwood.
“The experience he has built up over the years, he knows the birds so well and can interpret their behaviour.”

John loves sharing his knowledge and experience and talking to schools and other groups. If fishermen drive their vehicles on the beach near the nests above the high tide mark, he doesn’t get angry. He just chats to them and asks them to watch out for the dotterel nests.

There are only around 1700 New Zealand dotterels left because they are very vulnerable to introduced predators. The nests are just scrapes in the sand above the high tide mark and they also have no defence against vehicles driven on beaches and other human disturbances.

“John is not one for the limelight and prefers to just get on with the job. He is well respected by both DOC and the regional council because his commitment gets excellent results,” Sue Greenwood said.

He has also been involved in many other Forest & Bird branch activities, including planting pohutukawa and organising walks and talks.

John Groom was one of five people to be awarded the Old Blue at Forest & Bird’s conference on Saturday.

The awards are named for the Chatham Islands black robin called Old Blue which was the last productive female of her species by the late 1970s. The efforts of Old Blue and a Wildlife Service team led by the late Don Merton has seen the population recover from a low of five to around 200 today.