A Very Special Bird

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One of my special interests in birds is to learn about the migration of certain species, and in particular the godwit. The godwit has the longest recorded non-stop journey of any creature, when it was proved by use of a satellite transmitter fitted on a female bird, that a 12,000 km flight was made non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand.

We are fortunate to have a small number of godwits on our local Whanganui River Estuary and one bird with a leg flag engraved ‘AJD’ is special to us. This male godwit has returned to Whanganui eight years in a row, with amazing regularity. He leaves here on about the 25th of March each year and flies to Alaska, via the Yellow Sea in China. He returns from Alaska to the Manawatu River Estuary each year on about the 30th of September, and then on about the 12th of November he comes over to Whanganui for the rest of the summer. He is featured in my last two bird books, so what a thrill it was to find him back in Wanganui again last week, like an old friend returning. While the rest of the godwits slept he gave me a look as if to say, “I know you” – see picture below.

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Godwits – lots of juveniles this year

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Good to see a number of godwits (22) on the Whanganui River Estuary this week, (and four red knots), with 21 of the godwits being juvenile birds. Some have orange staining around the base of their bills, indicating iron staining from the the Alaskan sediments (as explained by Phil Battley from Massey University). They must bury their face in the mud as they feed. It is a visual connection to the Arctic where just a few days ago they were feeding. Amazing to think that the juvenile birds, at probably less than four months of age, have travelled from Alaska to Wanganui, some 12,000 km. The sole knot in the picture still has some remnants of breeding plumage on its breast.

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Migrant Birds are Returning

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As a birder I always look for the return of migrant waders from the northern hemisphere, from mid-September onwards. So for this reason we took a visit to the Manawatu River estuary last week to check out the new arrivals. Among them were godwits, some with bands and flags being birds that are being studied and tracked. However, it was so windy that I struggled to keep upright and my camera still. Alongside me I noticed a small group of wrybills, their feathers ruffled with the wind, but otherwise happily feeding away on the shoreline. What great little birds – so friendly and confiding – probably my favourite of all birds. The wind on their feathers made for some great photos of these birds that are uniquely ours.

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Beautiful Spring

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Spring time offers many opportunities to photographers as fresh life and growth change the landscape from the dull of winter to the splendor of spring. I love to find fields of spring flowers and enjoy their beauty and perfume, and to see the birds nesting and new chicks emerging.

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Whanganui in Flood

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The Whanganui River flooded badly this last weekend causing major damage and disruption in the city. The large quantity of rain also caused surface flooding in low lying areas as well as hundreds of slips in the wider district. Photographers were out in numbers capturing the scene, but I was particularly interested in what it would look like at the river mouth where the angry river met an incoming tide. The sight was spectacular and the river turn the ocean brown with the sea looking more like sand dunes than salt water. Great quantities of wood were being launched out to sea and I even saw a fridge pass by. All has settled down now but a big clean-up remains.

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Encounter with a Prince

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Wanganui was buzzing yesterday with the visit to the city of Prince Harry. Photographers were out in droves including international media. My wife and I managed to find a quiet spot along the river close to where the Prince, in a waka, was due to pass. Luck was with us and we got good close up views and even a personal wave! Some great pictures were added to our Wanganui collection, and it’s not every day that a prince passes by.

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Readers Letters (Fan Mail?)

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One of the interesting things about writing and publishing books is that instead of there being just a couple of proof readers, you now have thousands. With all these readers they sometimes find mistakes, and some of them write to me, for which I am very grateful. With a book the size of ‘BIRDS New Zealand – beauty like no other’, mistakes are inevitable. However, most letters I receive are positive, and some are so good they make my day. I received a letter this morning from Susan of New Plymouth simple saying “I obtained a copy of your glorious book today – what a feast!” James, an eighty year old man from Christchurch, phoned last evening expressing his enjoyment at reading my book, having taken it with him to the West Coast on a ten-day holiday. Seven-year-old Jamison from Christchurch recently wrote a very good letter (see below) expressing how he was enjoying finding all the hidden kiwis and herons. It brings me great pleasure to see others getting enjoyment from the books and makes all the effort of writing them so worthwhile.

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NEW WANGANUI BOOK NOW OUT

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Our third small Wanganui Book is now available and follows the theme of the previous editions, showcasing the beautiful city and surrounds. The book also contains text giving the top 10 attractions of the city and countryside, a brief history of Wanganui, and a city map with the main attractions marked. The RRP is $12.95 and its small size makes it very convenient for travellers to carry.

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New Lens – New Perspectives

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I have just purchased a new Canon 8-15 mm fish-eye lens that promises to be useful and great fun. At 8 mm it photographs everything in front (even my feet) e.g. 180 degrees, and produces a circular picture on a full frame camera (see picture below of Wanganui), like the Canon 1DX that I use. At 15 mm it produces a square picture, but still showing the fish-eye effect. We plan a trip to Japan soon and I look forward to using this lens for city and land scapes.

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Book Launch a Great Success

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The book launch last Friday evening was a great success and by all reports the evening was much enjoyed by those present (about 90 people). Peter Frost, a local Wanganui scientist and ornithologist was MC, and after his introductory word Dr Phil Battley of Massey University gave us a very informative and interesting talk on their work with godwits, and what they are finding out about their migration. This was followed by the Mayor of Wanganui, Annette Main, telling us about Wanganui and some current initiatives, and then launching the book (see picture below). I then showed a powerpoint on some background of the book and talked about certain subjects that are new for this book. The formal part of the evening was followed by supper, that my wife Jane and others had so nicely prepared. Whitcoulls set up shop to sell books, selling like “hot cakes”, they mentioned afterwards. Since the launch we have been very busy getting the books out to shops all over the country, so are hopeful that good sales will continue.

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