Above: Jesse Conklin with a bar-tailed godwit, cannon nets after they have been fired, and the Manawatu Estuary (images: A. Ballance)
Bar-tailed godwits breed in Alaska in the northern hemisphere summer, and spend their non-breeding season in the southern hemisphere, in eastern Australia and New Zealand. Other species of godwits breed in Siberia and other parts of the Arctic, and over-winter in Asia and southern Africa. Satellite tracking carried out by Massey University researcher Phil Battley, with colleagues from the US Geological Survey, proved that godwits travel from New Zealand to Alaska up the East Asia-Australaisan flyway, and are capable of returning to New Zealand in a single non-stop flight.
On the tail of the satellite tracking project PhD student Jesse Conklin is using tiny data loggers attached to the legs of godwits to track their annual cycles of movement, and he is also collecting as much information about their moulting and other life cycle events using digital photos and observations. He is studying a small population of birds that are summer residents in the Manawatu River estuary, at Foxton Beach. In the first week of November Alison Ballance joined Jesse Conklin and a large team of shorebird experts that included Phil Battley, David Melville, Adrian Riegen, Graham Taylor and Dick Veitch in a cannon netting mission to retrieve 24 data loggers from the Foxton Beach birds.
To find out everything you want to know about godwits check out Keith Woodley's new book 'Godwits: long haul champions' (Penguin Books). The Asia Pacific Shorebird Network encourages international co-operation in the study and conservation of shorebirds.
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