Thursday, September 24, 2009

They're coming back!

The godwits are returning and arriving exhausted after their journey south. I took the opportunity last Sunday to head down to Foxton and see about 100 godwits that had returned over the previous week or so. That is about half of the resident population down there. A number of Jesse Conklin's datalogger birds have also returned, which is great for his project where he'll be able to get a record of their flight paths. I didn't get any photos of the birds (godwits, red knots and pacific golden plovers) before a pair of inconsiderate kayakers went close to the roosting colony and spooked them off. However, I did get a nice shot of a white heron which has been resident at the estuary this winter - a nice treat.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Miranda - mistnetting

The birds flying in at dusk - Miranda

Last weekend we made a journey up to Miranda to do some mistnetting over a couple of nights. The main goal was to catch Godwits and Red Knots to collect blood from the juveniles that had overwintered in New Zealand rather than migrating north to the Russian/Alaskan breeding grounds. These birds would then be used as a comparison group to the adult godwits and knots that are due to arrive back from the breeding grounds this month. We aim to catch some of these birds soon after their arrival, again collecting blood, to look at their physiology such as amount of muscle fatigue. While not specifically for the project I'm working on we did take the opportunity to get samples of any red plumage that birds had on them.

As you can see from photo, it was a beautiful evening on the first night but perhaps too clear and the high tide a little too early as the birds flew over to the stilt ponds just prior to total darkness. As a consequence many avoided the mist nets. Consequently, our catch of godwits was low, just the one. We did catch half a dozen red knots and a huge number of South Island Pied Oystercatchers (SIPO) which we didn't particularly need for the study, but banded for records. On the second night the godwits showed their superior intelligence and figuring we were up to something, didn't come into the stilt ponds at all. Still plenty of SIPO though, even a recapture from the night before! This did mean I had the opportunity to upskill on my banding with the fine teaching of Gillian Vaughan. Always good to be the field!

Me banding a SIPO