The deferred plan mentioned in the previous post came to pass yesterday.
Mary had planned a picnic and asked where might be suitable (photography was allowed). I had chosen Foxton Beach, in the hope that some godwits might be still present before their long trek to Siberia. A pause in Foxton township gave us the opportunity to take a ride on the horse-drawn tram. Two big Clydesdales hauled the rubber tyred tram along at a brisk clip around a surprisingly long circuit and I have to say that it was a pleasant experience.
Down at the sandbar near the river mouth, there were indeed godwits, though they were a considerable distance away across an expanse of very sticky mud. There were others interested in their presence, and a pair of “twitchers” were out on the mud with their big tripod-mounted spotting scopes. They told me when they came back that they had counted thirty-seven of them. I never really got close to the godwits, since I was reluctant to disturb them by getting that far out on the mud.
However, to my surprise and delight, there were lots of banded dotterels (Charadrius bicinctus) sitting on the sandbank, quite close to me. They were quite tolerant of me as long as I moved slowly, and not too obviously in their direction. These birds are extremely vulnerable to all kinds of threat since they choose to nest on open sand with nothing more than a little scraping in the beach for shelter.
The some birds hop, some walk, the dotterel seems to have no visible means of movement and seems to glide across the beach like a small hovercraft. Their tiny legs move very quickly and it is hard to do them justice.
After lunch, when the tide had come in and inundated the areas we were watching we headed across the Manawatu plains to Shannon and then North to Palmerston North. The land was very dry, with a great deal of sun-bleached grass and in some cases a lot of dust.
At the Hokowhitu lagoon, there were signs of seasonal confusion. Some Muscovy ducks were trailing a small team of tiny fluffy ducklings, and this one of a pair of Australian Coot chicks (Fulica atra). The chicks are spectacularly ugly, though as always, a mother’s love is blind.
That was the day.