George and Jules – Nesting Success!

When The Better Half Wines sponsored local Marlborough’s East Coast Protection Group (ECPG), the group christened one of their breeding pairs of Marlborough seabirds “George and Jules” after the lively pair of local winemakers.

Fast forward a few months, and Jules and George (the birds) have enjoyed a successful 2023/2024 nesting season!

Sonya Roxburgh, who undertakes monitoring for ECPG says: “Naming the breeding pairs of Variable Oystercatchers/Torea helps people identify with individual birds. It makes it easier to feel a connection with them. From my point of view, I need an identifier to record them anyway, and to me they are definitely individuals, not just numbers!”

A Variable Oystercatcher on the beach
Oystercatchers Eggs in Nest
George Elworthy watching the birds on Marlborough's East Coast

The Nesting Season

Jules and George (the birds) nested on the raised shell bed at Mussel Point in late October 2023, laying three eggs. All three eggs hatched in late November, and two chicks made it through to early December. By this time, the chicks have now at an age where they are safe from most predators and have technically “fledged”. Jules and George remained highly protective of their fledglings and were still with them when last seen feeding on the rocks at Mussel Point into early Autumn. 

New Behaviour Recorded

George takes a hands-on (wings-on?) approach and was seen in January feeding one of the chicks from the abundance of European garden snails that are now found along the beach. This is the first time our native shorebirds have been noted feeding on the garden snails in this area.

As the pair have a nesting territory in an area that has for a long time been busy with human activity, they appear to have learned how to deal with humans and vehicles as much as possible, ensuring their chicks are away from the main vehicle route. Their nesting sites will always be somehwat at risk from humans and dogs however, but this may be improved with increased signage and public advocacy.

Marlborough's moody East Coast
Two Variable Oystercatchers on a Marlborough Beach
Flying over Marlborough's East Coast

Improving Results Each Year

Jules and George have had increasing success each year and are one of the most successful breeding pairs of Marlborough seabirds of the 2024 season.

The ECPG has seen an overall improvement in breeding success for all nesting Variable Oystercatches along the coast of the past couple of years with a significant improvement on fledging rates, likely due to the predator control efforts undertaken by the group. A total of 11 Variable Oystercatcher /Torea chicks were fledged this season along the monitored 42km of coastline, an eleven-fold increase from the 2021/2022 season. 

George is proud of the result!

George (the winemaker) is delighted with his namesake’s prowess and the resulting hatch:

“Well you know what they say about eating lots of oysters! These two Oystercatchers obviously know what they’re doing, and we’re thrilled to see them with another young brood once again this season. It’s also a testimony to all the hard work put in by the East Coast Protection Group to make this area predator free, and to safeguard this coastline as a great place to raise a brood.”

Aerial view of Cape Campbell in Marlborough
Sonya Roxburgh, monitoring bird activity on the beach for Marlborough's East Coast Protection Agency
The windswept Marlborough coast

The Better Half Wines has been sponsoring The East Coast Protection Group since July 2023.

Read more about the group here, or about about our sustainable practices here.

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