The Godwits are coming
5 September 2007
Christchurch celebrates Spring with the arrival of the Godwits from Alaska
A single godwit, the harbinger of spring, has been sighted flying over the Pacific Ocean headed for New Zealand.
Christchurch City Ranger Andrew Crossland says he received a report of a single sighting midway over the Pacific today (04/08/2007).
"We are not far away," says Mr Crossland of the much anticipated return of the Bar-tailed Godwits later this month.
He thinks the godwit, electronically strapped with a transmitter, was picked up by a satellite and was probably heading for the North Island. "It's not one of ours," he says.
Christchurch City Council will ring in spring with the Christchurch Cathedral bells when the first birds are seen on the Avon-Heathcote Estuary
Mr Crossland has been keeping tabs on the birds, electronically and with reports from bird watchers around the world.
It is a privilege to host these birds, he says, adding that the Godwits have undertaken a journey from the other end of the world to be in New Zealand.
"It is important that the birds are not unduly disturbed when feeding or resting," he cautions.
Dogs should be keep well away from and not be allowed to chase them, he says.
The Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) each year fly 11,000km from Alaska to spend the southern summer on the Christchurch coastline.
The godwits are presently massing for migration on the Alaskan coastline after finishing breeding further north in the Arctic tundra. About 20 birds are fitted with satellite trackers.
Scientists report that the godwits make the longest non-stop flight of all birds - an amazing 11,000 kilometres from Alaska to New Zealand, in only five or six days.
"The Godwit breeding ground is tundra, moss and swampy tarn, where they feed on insects," Mr Crossland says. "After breeding, they move to the shorelines and estuaries along the Alaskan coast to build up for migration by feeding on shellfish and sea worms.
After spending the southern summer in New Zealand, resting and gaining weight, the Bar-tailed Godwits leave in March for the long flight back to the breeding grounds.
When the Godwits leave New Zealand they are tracked as they return to the breeding grounds via a route which takes them past New Guinea and the Philippines to a half-way stop in the Yellow Sea of China and Korea. Then comes a second epic flight parallel to the Aleutian islands across the North Pacific and landfall at the northern slope of Alaska.
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