Miranda Shore-birding

Please consider all images as copyrighted – thank you. Contact me for use… DEClapp

Miranda is a place not a person. It is a wonderful place to observe waders/shorebirds in their non-breeding moments. The highlight species here is the very odd little shorebird called Wrybill. It certainly does have a bill that has gone awry. NZ miranda vista.jpgThe site is coastal as you might imagine and quite low. it was agricultural and now a refuge, but will succumb slowly too increasing ocean levels over the next century or less. It is partly low dunes, vegetated salt marsh, cobble beach and adjacent grassy wetlands. Most plants are appropriate but there is a great deal of fennel growing here. As an outsider unfamiliar with fennel I found it to be very attractive and it seemed a bit of a local speciality.NZ miranda fennel.jpg

Please consider all images as copyrighted – thank you. Contact me for use… DEClapp


NZ miranda vista2.jpgBut, back to the birds. As these overview images show there are sweeps of loafing sandpipers on the flats in the middle of the refuge. there are also other birds, oystercatchers for example, that rest in large numbers closer to the salt water. The image below shows winter-plumaged Bar-tailed Godwits and Pied Stilts

NZ 2017 miranda birdsThough the Bar-tailed Godwits have the most amazing migration of almost any bird and they are worthy of their own excellent book ( Godwits; Long-haul Champions by Keith Woodley; ISBN978-0-14-301193-4) it is the funny little Wrybill that I was hoping to see. I have seen lots of godwits in both Australia and North America. In wintering plumage around Cairns and in Alaska where they are in beautiful warm amber/honey colored feathers. I heartily recommend the Godwits book but will finish this blog with the Wrybill.NZ 2017 miranda birdsThey are pretty plain looking, just kind of a gray and white in winter plumage and maybe a richer gray in breeding season. It also develops a black neck band and always has a white forehead. It attracted my attention because it is an endemic to New Zealand and a threatened species. It winters in as few spots only and breeds locally on the gravel banks of braided glacial river courses. NZ miranda showing bill.jpg

NZ miranda wrybill close.jpgWrybills have a bill that bends to the right. They all do. There are birds with upturned bills and downturned bill and even birds where the upper and lower parts of the bill cross over each other. There are pointy beaks and spatulate beaks…but this is the only bird with a bend to the right (or left for that matter).NZ miranda wrybill2.jpg There is something fulfilling about seeing a new bird. It completes a circle of information. Things that have been read about, travels that have been mapped, species that have evolved to survive in specific manners become part of a new whole once they are observed. The world have been spinning away for millions upon millions of years but most life is rather new and constantly honing itself to a world that changes daily. Low sea levels, high sea levels, glacial periods and volcanic explosions are but mere blips on the time scale of the planet but they have been part of what has required godwits to migrate thousands of miles each way each year and for Wrybills to have a bill that turns stuff over only to the right. Very cool. Very humbling.NZ miranda book godwits.jpegThis book is very nice – it is a good story, well written, with a strong plot, and with main characters you can hardly believe, and it comes with with great pictures. But the real story is the simply Bar-tailed Godwit. Certainly, you should look for the book, read it and marvel; but most importantly you should see a godwit and simply appreciate it as a creature of great stamina, ability, tenacity, and beauty.

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