Miranda Shorebird Centre - Pukorokoro
This destination (on the west side of the Firth of Thames) is well worth a visit for seeing shorebirds in their thousands. If you are a bird lover and/or a conservationist then a stop is compulsory. The three bird hides are open to the public every day of the year, and a visit to the Shorebird Centre will enhance your experience. There is no cost to visiting the hides or the Centre.
The Centre has an exhibition area, a small gift shop, and the staff are friendly, enthusiastic and enormously knowledgeable about the shorebirds that visit the Firth of Thames. The staff will advise you which birds are about at the time of year you are attending. Shell ridges or cheniers that have formed over thousands of years provide safe roosting areas for the birds at high tide. You should go within the two hours on either side of the high tide, otherwise the birds are too far out from the hides to properly observe.
Although there are binoculars in the hides it would be useful to have your own just in case other people are using the provided ones. The staff will also brief you on the amazing annual migrations of Bar-tailed Godwits, and their work to ensure the future of these and other shorebirds. Briefly, in March 2007 a female Bar-tailed Godwit, known from her leg flag as E7, took off from the Centre. When she returned six months later, she had flown nearly 30,000 km on her migration to breeding grounds in Alaska, via the Yellow Sea coast of China. She returned to New Zealand in one nonstop flight of 11,680 km in just over eight days. An amazing achievement.
The satellite tags used to track E7 were installed at the Centre in association with an international network of researchers. Satellite tags are continuing to be used and if you go to their website you can see where the tagged birds currently are. Despite the international concerns relating to North Korea researchers from the Centre go there every year to continue the survey with fellow North Korean bird research comrades.
The Centre is also tagging Pacific Golden Plovers in order to find out more about their life cycle. Thousands of other birds apart from the Godwits and Plovers can also be found at Miranda, for example, about half of the world’s population of wrybill also make their way to Pukorokoro Miranda Bird Centre, as well as other birds such as oystercatchers, gulls, herons, terns, dotterels, rails, and stilts.
And one more thing!
Just about five kilometres before you get to the Pukorokoro Miranda Bird Centre from Thames is the Miranda Hot Pools. Just an almost Olympic scale swimming pool, but the water is heavenly between 36-38 degrees… for details check their website.
Image Credits: Alison Stephens
The amazing story of Godwits hemisphere crossing journeys is told in "Godwits - Long-haul champions" by Keith Woodley, manager of the Shorebird Centre.
"Shorebirds of New Zealand", is a more recent book also by Keith Woodley