Saturday, 22 January 2011

WILD BLUESKIN: Godwits update

Caption: 'Far Eastern Curlew' by Derek Onley

WILD BLUESKIN

Godwits update

by Rosemary Penwarden and Derek Onley

The godwits/kuaka 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 frequent use of a nickname
"sodwits".

We counted about 1,110 godwits at Evansdale on December 27th, the
highest number recorded in Blueskin Bay since records began in the
1960s.

On a short trip to the Catlins on Jan 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 a curlew. 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.


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