As Autumn begins, my favorite migratory wader, the Bar-tailed Godwit begins to show signs of breeding plumage as males begin to orange up and the females start to show dark chevron markings on their underside. They have begun a daily gorging frenzy at low tide to fatten themselves up in preparation for the long 16,000 km journey back to Alaska where they will have their next clutch.
Many of the young ones that returned last year will stay a year or two through our Winter months to mature, before taking the journey to Alaska. Above is a male in breeding plumage carrying a crab, escaping from a Silver Gull in pursuit. He eventually eludes his pursuer, allowing him to enjoy his find. The female is larger than the male and has a slightly longer beak. The photo below was taken in Spring shortly after their migration to Australia.
To understand why this bird has my heartfelt appreciation you need to understand the nature of its yearly journey back and forth from top to bottom of our planet. In a Godwit’s lifetime it will have traveled the distance from the earth to the moon two and a half times.
This remarkable bird is featured in my book “What Birds Teach Us” for its endurant character, which is an encouragement to us humans, who are often tempted to give up too soon, before completing what can be sometimes a very difficult time in our lives. We need to press on till we achieve our goal and enjoy the delight and satisfaction that achievement brings, even if it is not all we thought it would be, savor sweet success.
It is interesting that unlike geese, ibis and ducks, Godwits fly single file and not in formation, which makes the journey even more difficult. However, they are the 9th highest flying bird in the world flying above in the thermals of about 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) which assists their flight considerably.
So a visit to my usual wader viewing beach at low tide, the mud flats of the Georges River in southern Sydney, where the same waders return every year to forage, shows the males are already well into breeding plumage. Note the last photo in the series below showing the chevrons on the body of a female depicting the early stages of breeding plumage. Click on photos to enlarge them. This is what I saw…
This little guy seemed smaller than the others as you can see when compared with this Silver Gull.
A few days later I was able to catch these shots on a sunny day before sunset, catching the westerly perspective of light, highlighting the plumage colour change so much better. It is sad in a way as I know in a few weeks they will be gone from the beach and only a small flock of youngsters will remain. At least they will see me through the Winter till the rest return.
It was also interesting to find a lone Eastern Curlew starting to show similar signs of breeding plumage. This is the largest of our migratory waders and sports a breeding plumage of a mild rufous coloring which is noticeable on this bird. These birds will also do their migratory flight soon to Russia and northern China. Sadly Curlews have a great dread of humans and will not allow you to get anywhere near them. So many have been killed for food in Asian countries on their migration journeys is it any wonder.
Then their is our non migratory wader the White-faced Heron who will be daily found on the same mud flats all year round except while breeding, where it will fly inland to nest high in a tree. This bird is non breeding.
During late August onward it will begin displaying breeding plumage similar to examples below.
Of course there are many other migratory and non migratory waders we see, but these are the only ones I found on this visit which have the most stunning transformations.
It is interesting how this Silver Gull was trying to fit in with the Godwits, but realised he lacked the equipment to penetrate the wet sand to achieve what they were achieving so easily. Notice the middle Godwit looking with interest out of the corner of his right eye, while the gull stands alongside the female Godwit which is in the process of extracting a crustacean from beneath.
Each of us need to feel accepted and loved as a member of a family, community or social gathering, and we succeed in being an authentic member if we can contribute in a meaningful and productive way. With birds the design and shape of the beak or bill is essential for the foraging of their specific food types. The Silver Gull can eat the same food as the Godwit, but must use a different method to do it, such as chasing the crabs on the wet sand, as seen in the following clip..
We are each gifted with different abilities, being equipped with skill sets from different backgrounds. It is not in the copying or imitating of another that makes one an authentic contributor, but the sharing of one’s personal attributes and skills to complement and strengthen the community or family. In this way we should never consider ourselves inferior or lesser than others because we can not do what they do, the way they do it. Examining ourselves to determine where our strengths and weaknesses lie can help us work at doing better the things we do best, and also to be humble and wise enough to know our limitations, thus feeling free to ask for help and assistance when the need arises. That is the underlying strength of good family and community. It is based on love: I give my best of what I can contribute, trusting that you will do your best to return the same commitment in your different but needed contribution to me.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10 (NIV)
“Keep out of debt altogether, except the perpetual debt of love which we owe to one another. The man who loves his neighbour has obeyed the whole Law in regard to his neighbour. ” – Romans 13:10
In the Christian Bible in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the human body as an example of how a loving caring sharing community works as God intended.
Have a very enjoyable week as you watch several bird species and bird numbers change for the approaching season. If this is your first visit to my blog please check out my website Home-Page for more birding tips and healthy life skills.
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.