Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Royal Society Reflections (week 9)

Where are they now?

Godwits in flight (photo by Craig)

So, last night, with a Southerly kicking in, Jesse Conklin (a researcher at Massey) reported the last likely departures from Foxton Estuary (bringing his 17 nights or so of migration watch to a close). The birds are all but gone, but prior to their departure Phil caught this photo of a Red Knot from Foxton that was well and truely ready to go - it's staggering to see the amount of fat stored on the breast, reserves for the huge flight ahead. How can it even get off the ground?

One fat Red Knot (photo by Phil Battley)

So, where are they now? Well, birds are heading north west from NZ towards their first stop-over, the staging grounds of the Yellow Sea. Here they will feed up for a few weeks before heading off again to the breeding grounds in Russia or Alaska. This photo below shows some of the tracked godwits and their movements around the Yellow Sea.

Yellow Sea - photo from USGS site

The shores of the Yellow Sea are critical refuelling sights for migrating birds, yet throughout East Asia and Australasia, 85 per cent of shorebird populations are declining, and 40 per cent of shorebirds inhabiting Oceania are classified as threatened or near threatened (read more here). One of the major reasons for decreasing populations may be due to the reduction of sites for birds due to land reclamation of intertidal flats. Loss of fields of mud seems to cause less concern globally than loss of some other habitats, yet these are vital for the survival of numerous species. Conservation efforts are underway. The Ramsar Convention makes efforts to recognise wetlands of international importance, acknowledging that migratory birds do not bother about the boundaries humans have drawn on our 2D world maps. As the convention says...Wetlands included in the list acquire a new status at the national level and are recognised by the international community for being significant not only for the country, or countries, in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole. New Zealand has 6 Ramsar's sites: Manawatu River Mouth & Estuary, Firth of Thames, Farewell Spit, Awarua Wetlands, Kopuatai Peat Dome and Whangamarino . Other groups raise awareness of the issues around land use and conservation of such important sites, for example see Birds Korea. I encourage anyone to find out more and support local initiatives for conservation of areas used by our shorebirds, such as The National Wetland Trust, Miranda Naturalists' Trust and D.O.C's Wetland work.


MrWoody said...

love the photo of the birds in flight :-)

Craig Steed said...