Beach users have been jostling for room as high spring tides leave only a narrow strip of sand at Ruakaka.

But it's not people having to squeeze into the limited available high dry shoreline; thousands of birds are also vying for position.

With exceptionally high tides covering about five other harbour and coastal sandbanks where godwits and other shorebirds gather, many hundreds have been forced to head for higher ground - and the Ruakaka Wildlife Reserve at the estuary mouth just north of the Surf Club has the highest sandbar around.

The squash of birds - dotterels, oyster catchers, terns, gulls, godwits, red knots, shags and other species - on the netball court sized sandbank during the past week's spring tides has required consideration from people also wanting to make the most of the beach, says Department of Conservation (DoC) ranger Fiona Watson.


There are fenced off areas and signs to keep people out of the birds' nesting sites at the spit near the estuary mouth.

"People are allowed to use the beach and the estuary but we do ask them to please stay away from the nesting sites," Ms Watson said.

Last weekend DoC staff also asked some who were fishing to move along the beach further to give the birds room, and they were happy to oblige, Ms Watson said.

"Once you talk with people and explain the significance of the area, they understand. It is great that the public are treating this area with care and taking some responsibility for it."

Ms Watson said one woman taking an interest in the birds on Saturday was visiting from Alaska. She had known nothing about godwits or the epic annual 12,000km flight of thousands of them from Alaska and Russia to New Zealand for a southern summer, and was thrilled to see them at Ruakaka.

But local resident Margaret Hicks contacted the Northern Advocate earlier this week with concerns that some people were not being considerate.

Ms Hicks said she had seen areas where the fencing around nesting sites had been removed so people could access the beach.

She had seen people deliberately "evicting" the birds from the sandbank at the mouth of the estuary by chasing them and throwing things at them, she said.