21 March 2017

Flying With Godwits - Tapuae o Uenuku - 1998

Flying With The Godwits

The previous day we had slogged up the Hodder Valley- 50something river crossings – and we're now standing on the top of Tapuae o Uenuku (2885m) the highest peak of the Inland Kaikoura Range of New Zealand's South Island. This day in early March 1998 was perfect; blue skies, no wind, and Warren (my son) and I were congratulating ourselves on our effort and tucking into some food and drink when it happened - quickly.

A glance to the south revealed a dark fast growing small smudge. In a matter of seconds my eyes focused on it as it passed, heading northwards, passing about 20m from our perch on the summit.  It was a peloton of godwits – about 20 of them – birds drafting at speed, packed together, beaks extended, wings pumping, working, eyes fixed on the northern horizon. In a matter of moments they were gone.

"Did you see that?" I exclaimed to Warren. "Yes - what were they?" They were godwits and I was stunned and excited. I'd never dreamed of having a moment like this on a mountaintop. Once, at 7am on the top of another high inland peak, I looked up to find a seagull hovering directly overhead. I'd once ridden with the Morochucos in Bolivia too – special moments - but nothing like this. This time – for a split second – it seemed like I'd flown with the godwits. I've never forgotten that moment – a special moment in a good life. Moving.

Good Day for Viewing Godwits on Tapuae o Uenuku
Godwits in Flight (Photographer unknown)

Shorebirds April 2017 Miranda - most Godwits have departed.
The migratory flights of the godwits are one of natures great events. Recently several godwits flights have been recorded by satellite telemetry. When the first complete flight of one of these birds (E7) was recorded bird lovers from all over the world were riveted to their computers as they followed her flight across the pacific from NZ to the Yellow Sea - and beyond. And then, later, back again in a single flight! Click here to find out more about this amazing flight.

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