Farewell the Godwits!
Monday, March 16, 2015 at 6:55PM
Bill Barclay

This is an occasion that no Thames resident should miss - 'the Greatest Show in or out of Town!'

High tide at 4.30pm, Cyclone Pam a no show, but present in person, and great viewing weather - what more could you ask. And what a show it was - several thousand fat, sleek, nervous looking Godwits simply waiting for the right conditions to finally catch an air wave and soar off up over the Hunua's, and the Gulf Islands to achieve the required altitude before setting their sights for the non-stop journey to their Yellow River stop-over no less. It is an unsurpassed wildlife drama to watch that takes place this year, and every year at this time.

These guys break every rule regarding size and on-board fuel to make this journey. It is the epitome of counter-intuitive - how do they do it? Well, trawling through the mud for last minute worm fuel helps. 

Kaiaua Seabird Centre duty volunteer Trish holds fort and explains patiently to all comers what is going on. Trish points out the Russian observer in the other hide who has been coming for the last few years to watch the take-off before returning to the Siberian tundra to watch their arrival after their sojourn on the Yellow River Delta. It once took two months to report landings of banded birds (often named!) to his colleague here - now two minutes thanks to the internet.

He is simply one of those whose imagination is totally absorbed by the magic surrounding the migration of these 90,000 odd birds each year - 7,000 from Miranda alone with 10% staying behind for age related reasons - young and old. How long has this been going on? - who knows. What we do know is that their habitat here in the incredible feeding lagoons at Miranda is increasingly under threat from the run-off down the Waihou and Piako.

Those who observe the ranks of feeders - Godwit, Wry-bill, Red Knot, Banded Dotterel, Pied Stilts, Oyster Catchers, Black Backed Gulls, Spoon-bill and many other that rely on the array of worms and other insects that barely survive in the environment increasingly enriched with phosporous and nitrogen, are left with grave concerns regarding their future.

This not another anti dairying rant, but I wish to hell that those with one-track minds, and four-footed effluent producers could spare the time to talk to the dedicated 'watchers' who inhabit the 'hides' at this time of year.  

Right on our door-step, we have one of the greatest displays of avian survival anywhere. Did you know that these birds make this trip on average 17 times in their lifetime which can be anywhere from 25 to 33 years? What a miracle - how lucky are we to be able to witness this migration. 

I can't wait to get back there in September to watch their return - non-stop from Siberia, emaciated, a third of today's weight, and desperate to re-establish their bodies and relationships in our waters. You can't buy this experience.






 

Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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