'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Miranda Shorebird Centre and the astonishing Godwit

Today, with three friends, I drove up to base of the Firth of Thames - the big bite out of New Zealand that has the beautiful pristine Coromandel Peninsula on the east, and the huge city of Auckland on the west (more or less - let's not get too picky) to the Miranda Shorebird Centre. 

Here on the shell banks the special and rare Wrybill Plover overwinters.  
There are only about 5300 of these lovely birds left in the world and about 40% are here.
At Miranda, enthusiasts also can see lots of other birds too.  

There today, back from their long journey to Alaska where they nest and raise their young, were Bar-tailed Godwits.    We listened to a great talk by Keith Woodley who is the manager at the centre, about his months in Alaska checking out the Godwits' tundra nesting sites.  He told us about E7 - a female Godwit that has been tagged with a satellite tracking device.  She has proven what scientists have suspected - that, unlike seabirds which rest and feed on their migratory journeys, Godwits just keep going.  She flew non-stop for 10,200km (6,340 miles) from New Zealand to Yalu Jiang in China.  She then flew a further 5,000km (3,000 miles) to the Godwit breeding grounds in Alaska.  And on the way back to NZ, her tag was still working, and we know she flew even further - a record at an amazing 11,500km (7,150 miles) in one hop, without stopping!  She took just over 8 days to come back to New Zealand from Alaska.  
This is a little bird smaller than a Mallard duck.


  1. hi Katherine. :-)

    *sheesh* that's some energy the little buggers' got!

    read the BBC article. very kool.

    but what really got our attentin was the name: Godwit. hmmm God Wit, maybe? nah, probably someone's name or somesuch . . .

    anyhoo, thanks for another good post,


  2. That is quite a remarkable little bird. Interesting that they have a stop over in Asia before flapping on to Alaska. What a flight to get all the way to where they like to summer. I enjoyed both of the website you directed us to. Indeed to be able to fly after they have fattened themselves up so ... very remarkable. Thank you for posting about them Kathrine, great entry.


  3. that was a fantastic soundbit on the beeb, wasn't it? 'they go flap flap'. a fine moment of ornithology there! great to see them though!

  4. Katherine, thank you for this amazing information. We were there 2 years ago on our visit to N.Z. Unfortunatly the weather was not so good for birding but the vistitors centre was fantastic and my husband and i bought our favorite books on the trip there. I will go check out the links now!

  5. Good lord - that flying record is amazing! What a strange name - the godwit - sounds like a term of abuse for an evangelical Christian!

  6. Fascinating post. What remarkable birds! It boggles my imagination to try to understand what drives these guys to make such long journeys.

    I would not have thought it possible for any animal to store enough energy to travel so far nonstop. Even the finest human "Ironman" triathletes and "extreme endurance" runners among us, as amazing as they are, pale in comparison to the Gotwit.

    Thanks, too, for the link to the BBC article which was well worth reading.

  7. Anonymous16.3.09

    Ah, would that be the same 'pristine Coromandel peninsula' that has the Worst Roads in the Known Universe, especially when you're driving an Unfamiliar Motorhome in the Dark and there are No Lights? I remember it well. Utterly beautiful, isn't it?

    That little Godwit is quite something. I remember seeing some of those in your beautiful country, too!

  8. Fascinating. And thanks for the BBC link -- I'm going to try that pound of butter trick next time I travel!

  9. Note: In my ignorance I said in this post that the Godwits were 'back from their long journey to Alaska'. Of course this was misleading - they had arrived back in New Zealand from Alaska the previous October and were, in fact, ready to fly out again.

  10. I spent an interesting weekend near Thames on the Firth around the start of the year and was amazed at the bird life. I sat on the beach at for an hour before and right through sundown just listening to and watching the myriad of birds and was transported to another place.


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