Community encouraged to welcome godwits

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The godwits returned to Orewa Estuary from Alaska a few weeks ago. Godwits are the only spectators at a cricket match in Millwater. Photos, Sue Courtney. More than 200 plywood birds painted by local artists will be placed around Orewa Estuary to celebrate the godwits’ return.

A Welcome to the Godwits event will be held in Orewa this month and local bird watcher Sue Courtney will be there.

However, she has already seen the first bar-tailed godwits (kuaka) arrive back from their annual migration to Alaska, spotting 24 of them on a sandbank in Orewa Estuary on September 17.
“They are three days late this year,” she says.

The little birds spend the summer here feeding on the tidal mudflats and fattening up, ready for the breeding season. In March they fly north to Alaska, stopping to feed in places such as North Korea. They breed in Alaska in the northern summer and then make the return journey to NZ nonstop.
Sue, who lives alongside Orewa Estuary and has a great set of binoculars and a spotting scope, has been keeping track of the birds that live in the waterway since 2015.

She says having birds like godwits in our backyard is something the community should be excited about. “Birdwatchers like me travel to places such as Miranda to see the godwits, and then one day I saw them sitting on a sandbank in the estuary between Crocodile Island and Orewa College,” she says.
The most she has ever counted in the Orewa Estuary was 262, but she says there are often as many as 120 there at a time. People still miss seeing them though.

“Unless you know what to look for, you could easily miss them as they are not big or noisy birds and well camouflaged.”

She says the best time to spot them is at high tide, which pushes them up and into groups on the sandbanks. Once the tide covers the sandbanks, the birds fly to places such as the Metro Park East sports fields, where Sue says she has seen them “watching cricket” last summer.

“They are tolerant of people nearby, but don’t like larger birds, or dogs,” she says. “Sometimes they can’t land when there’s a lot of activity on the sports grounds, which is a shame as that has been a safe place for them.”

Sue will bring her spotting scope for others to try out at the Welcome to the Godwits event, hosted by Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird on Sunday, October 14.

The event begins with a talk by Gillian Vaughn who has been a keen ‘wader watcher’ since 2000. She has been on numerous wader study expeditions overseas and now focuses on habitat enhancement for shorebirds and other wetland birds in the Pūkorokoro Miranda area.

Her presentation will be followed by placement of around 200 bird cutouts which have been painted by local students and members of art groups at key points around the estuary. Telescopes and binoculars will be available for a closer look at the birdlife.

The event is at Estuary Arts Centre, Western Reserve, Orewa on October 14, 10.30am.


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