By Rosemary Penwarden
The sodwits, er we mean godwits, seem to have decided that Warrington Spit is too busy right now, and have been keeping to the Evansdale end of the bay at high tide. This saves ornithologists' and their assistants' time and energy; the roadside just past the Evansdale turnoff is quite a good place to count them from, but it also causes frustration. Colour bands are impossible to see when you're standing in grass. It is a well-known fact that ornithologists will travel great distances without food or drink in all manner of weather in order to see a colour band, hence the frustration and the new name for godwits this season.
We counted about 1,110 sodwits at Evansdale on December 27, the highest number recorded in Blueskin Bay since records began in the sixties.
On a short trip to the Catlins on January 14 we saw four godwits on Haldane Estuary near Curio Bay (no colour bands evident from that distance). Sitting with them was a Far Eastern Curlew, a plump wader twice the size of a godwit, with a very large curved beak of the classic Greek variety. Only about half a dozen curlews turn up in New Zealand each year; their normal flight path is from Siberia to Indonesia and Australia.
(Ornithologists of the twitcher persuasion will travel great distances in all manner of weather to see one). One was seen at Karitane a couple of years ago.
Perhaps the fellow in Southland was blown off course by our recent gale force winds.
Don't only look out for godwits in the next month or so; the spoonbills are starting to arrive back from their nesting sites on Green Island and Taiaroa Head. You'll see them roosting at Evansdale at high tide (five were there just after Christmas) or feeding in the muddier channels of the bay at low tide.