Sometime in the last two weeks our kuaka have started to return to us after breeding in Alaska and their long return journey over the Pacific Ocean. I recently counted 134 of them at Karepiro and, if things go as they usually do, will continue to increase in the coming week or two to something over 200. The adults return first because they abandon their chicks soon after they hatch and leave for Aotearoa after a brief R&R on the coast. The chicks need to feed, grow, and mature before they undertake their journey and should be here by the end of the month. The kuaka’s long-distance migration is a great mystery, but how birds that are only two months old and with no previous experience successfully undertake an 11 000 km journey over a featureless ocean is truly mind-blowing.
There is now an active dotterel/tūturiwhatu nest at Weiti as well as at Karepiro. While I’m not expecting those summer storms from the northeast this year, one of the advantages of early breeding is that the chicks are big enough to survive if they do come. Later nests are often destroyed during these events. If you are walking at Weiti or Kaarepiro and you notice the birds doing ‘rat runs’ – beak down and bum up running in front of you – you are near their nests or chicks and they are trying to distract you, so just follow them and all will be fine. It’s probably best to walk in the sand well below the high tide mark at this time of year to avoid standing on eggs, which are very well camouflaged and can be laid outside the fenced off areas.
No sign yet that the variable oystercatchers/tōrea pango are nesting, but it can’t be far away.