Godwits at Kowhai Bayin the Far North of New Zealand

Godwits at Kowhai Bay in the Far North of New Zealand

Last Thursday (13 Nov 2014) I had the pleasure of joining Les Feasey, BirdsNZ/OSNZ Regional Representative, at Kowhai Bay for an afternoon observing and counting coastal birds. I’ve always loved birds, but this took me into unfamiliar territory—the world of the birder. I spent a few hours juggling pen, notebook, scope and two digital Nikon cameras with large telephoto lenses. Not a wonder the pen fell from my grasp and hid under my seat.

It was loads of fun and intensely educational. Les was a gentle guide. Still, it required focus and attention when counting. That’s where the cameras helped.

Many of these birds breed in Alaska and migrate to New Zealand when the short Alaskan summer draws to a close. Their epic flight to Aotearoa is difficult to fathom. These birds are not very big.

The Bar-tailed Godwits (kuaka) feature in the ceiling at Te Ahu where I work and this was my first opportunity to see them in the wild. Kowhai Bay (immediately south of Henderson Bay) is one of three remote locations in the Far North where godwits, turnstones and knots can be found. It is obvious these birds only go where man goes not.

New Zealand Dotteral at Kowhai Bay

New Zealand Dotteral at Kowhai Bay

Our results were as follows:

Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata)  1

South Island Pied Oystercatcher (SIPO) (Haematopus finschi)  1

Variable Oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor)  14

New Zealand Dotterel (Charadrius obscurus)  11     A few with the godwit flock.  A few with the ruddy turnstone flock. A few juveniles.

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)  700

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)  54

Red Knot (Calidris canutus)  137

South Black Backed Gull (Larus dominicanus)  11

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)  1

Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena)  2



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