Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Reason to Celebrate!

The Godwits are back! After their epic journey non-stop from Alaska someone needs to celebrate! A few weeks ago some visitors from New Zealand told me that when the Godwits return to the Christchurch area the cathedral bells are rung. Nothing like that happens here, unfortunately, but maybe it should. I heard today that there have been 100,000 shorebirds lost from our flyway in just the last couple of years. This loss has happened because some very important roosting and feeding areas have been shut off from the sea and drained in Korea. If things like this keep happening then who knows how long we will see shorebirds returning each summer.
Enough of the doom and gloom. Let me share what I saw this morning.
I went out to Inskip Point and kayaked out to the sand island which is just off the point. There were huge flocks of shorebirds and seabirds roosting there.
I have left all the photos larger than usual to try to give some idea of the size of the flocks. Click on all images.
This is part of the flock of Bar-tailed Godwits. It's only the front birds that are easy to see but look at the legs to get some idea of how many are behind and out of sight.

This is another part of the flock - again mainly Godwits but also quite a number of Eastern Curlews and quite large numbers of Great Knots. There were also some Curlew Sandpipers but not easily seen in this photo.
There are always Pelicans out there but they were in even larger numbers than usual this morning.
I have to put in a photo of part of the flock of Terns - mainly Crested, but some Caspian and Gull-billed also.
Over the last week or so the army has been carrying out some kind of exercises which have included several low flying helicopters. They have been flying just above tree-top level and have passed over my house several times - very noisy!
This morning they were operating on the western side of the Strait and although they were out of sight most of the time the noise across the water was horrible! When they came closest the birds all took off! Not good after their recent long flights down here! Here are a couple of photos of the main flock.
I finished off the morning by talking to some visitors from East Gippsland who were out there with binos and scope. Yes, Of course they knew Duncan! (Ben Cruachen blog). It's a very small world!


  1. Wow they certainly are back, and in force! Great photo's as always. I was over the moon to see 'eleven' on the east coast (down in here in tassie) that were wintering over, a month or so ago. Seeing them in such huge numbers would be quite amazing.

  2. Goodness me - so many birds. Must have been a marvellous sight Mick.

    When the helicopters pass over me on their way to the gas and oil rigs in the North Sea I can sometimes feel the ground shake in rhythm with their rotors and they are probably higher up than yours.

  3. Hi Mick
    Amazing images of those huge flocks of Waders and Terns.
    Dangerous for the helicopters to be flying near such clouds of birds - dangerous for both I would think - certainly bad for the birds to be so disturbed.
    Why not send your blog link to the Commander of the Helicopter Squadron at their local base?
    Seriously, somebody ought take some notice. The "cowboys" in the Helicopters clearly don't.
    Great images, by the way. All those legs.
    I see a Little-black Cormorant in the fourth image, hiding with the Caspian and Crested Terns.
    Sad news about the Korean end of their habitat. Cannot say I am surprised. Similar problems faced by Swifts too.

  4. Hi James, I am sure they will be heading down your way soon even though in not quite such large numbers. I think they enjoy our warm weather :-)

    Hi John, the helicopters are so noisy! Close over my house the noise seemed to beat back from all around. Hope they don't go over your place too often.

    Hi Denis, I didn't make it plain apparently that the 'copters were not overhead. The photo I included was one that passed close to my house. Out on the sandbank they were well to the west of the roosting flock but the sound was close and seemed to be magnified even from what I had heard at home - due to the way the water 'carries' noise I guess. The legislation about shorebird disturbance makes it very hard - it has to be 'proven' that the disturbance was deliberate - so even if a fisherman walks through a flock - quietly! - it can't be proven to be a deliberate disturbance. I think it was Dickens who had one of his characters say: "The law is a ass!"

  5. Hi again Denis. You're right - there is a Little Black Cormorant visible in the photo with the Terns. There are also Pied Cormorants just visible behind the Pelicans. They are usually out there somewhere.

  6. Mick, I can tell you are happy...large flocks of waders...fab sight & great images.

  7. Hi Frank, you're right, of course. Summer's coming on - the birds have survived another migration - what could be nicer!

  8. G'day Mick,
    Yes, you should indeed celebrate. Wonderful to see so many. We're hoping a few will filter south this year.
    Nice report,

  9. Hi Gouldiae, yes it would be nice to see some around your area. Here's hoping!