Golden Godwits

Well it’s the start of Autumn here in New Zealand , this means that the migratory birds that have summered over here from the northern hemisphere  are preparing to head back to their  breeding grounds after gorging on the summer feast or worms and insects and shellfishes.
The grand daddy’s of the migratory birds has to be the kuaka or bar-tailed Godwit and its smaller traveling buddy the smaller lesser Knots that accompany them .
These birds travel over 11,000 kilometres from Alaska to reach New Zealand stopping  over in Asia for a quick breather along the way.
This massive migration takes them less than 10 days to complete which is simply amazing and during that little effort they will lose half their body weight arriving here skinny and hungry.

A fresh arrival, kind of drab colours and not much meat on this bird
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

Before these migratories return north, they start the breeding colour phase , turning from a rather drab brownish grey into brilliant orange tones.

Ready to depart, plump and Golden
Kuaka the Bar-Tailed GodwitLimosa lapponica baueri

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

A lesser Knot in breeding colours

Huahou the Lesser Knot or Red Knot Calidris Canutus

Living in Wellington the kuaka settle into the estuaries along the Kapiti and Manawatu coasts with the majority being at Foxton at the river mouth of the Manawatu river.
Having missed last year we decided to go and have a look at the birds as they will be leaving soon and see how their colour phase was progressing.
Daylight at the Manawatu Estuary dawned with patchy cloud and sporadic bursts of sunlight on the huddled crowd of birds on the tidal edge.
Getting close to these birds is not easy.

untitled-3571

They are jumpy and fly off at the least provocation often setting back down further along the water’s edge.
Hawks circling overhead often cause the whole flock to take off, do a circuit and return to their resting place.

A flock of Knots and Godwits wheeling around to land back where they were resting right in front of us after being put to flight by a Hawk
flock of Knots and Godwits

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Some of the birds were showing quite a bit of colour while others were not showing much at all.
We tried to get as close as we could without causing too much distress to the birds, got our photos and decided to leave them be and look for other birds of interest.

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Pacific Golden plovers were next on the menu and these birds are more skittish than the goblets.
I got a few half decent images before they took flight landing further along from me.

Pacific golden plover-

my normal shot of flying golden plovers, always away from me lol

Pacific golden plover-3530-Edit

Walking along back to the wagon we  counted 81 banded dotterels resting in the sand and among them 3 sharp tailed sandpipers.
The big long slow crawl along the sand was on and I managed to get really close to these birds and photograph them and I ended up with my best shots of sharp tails to date.
Male and female sharptails
sharp tailed sandpiper-

sharp tailed sandpiper-3638-Edit

Banded Dotterel

pohowera  or banded dotteral

It was now mid-morning so it was decided that we would head south towards home to check out some dabchicks that had chicks on the way.

The dab chicks were in fine form and paraded around me as I lay under the wooden hide clickerty clicking away trying hard to look like a support post for the wooden construction.

A baby weiweia or New Zealand dabchick is a pretty tiny bundle of softness

weiweia the New Zealand dabchick -3653-Edit

But Mum takes good care of her baby
weiweia the New Zealand dabchick -3686-Edit

The baby rides mommas back and she feeds it
weiweia the New Zealand dabchick -

Soon it was time to head home, back to the computer and photoshop.

Once upon a time I never realised just how many migratory birds we receive each summer until I was captured by bird photography.
So many birds still left to hunt for and experience.

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