Shore plovers (Thinornis novaeseelandiae) are amongst the most rare of shorebirds. They would once have been found around the coast of much of New Zealand, but they were decimated by the predatory mammals that arrived with humans, particularly cats and Norway rats, and pushed to the brink of extinction. They persisted only on a couple of small islands in the remote Chatham group, where their numbers dwindled to around 130 individuals. Recent conservation work has focussed on establishing new populations on other predator free islands. One of these is Mana Island, north west of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. Since their release on Mana in 2007, shore plovers have regularly been seen along the adjacent mainland coast, usually in ones and twos, but in June 2011 a flock more than 30 were found on a little rocky beach at Plimmerton. Having more than 15% of the total word population of this endangered species on a highly accessible beach just a short drive north of the capital was a great opportunity for birders and bird photographers who visited from around the country, but risky for the endearing little plovers.
Being incredibly rare, and part of an intensively monitored population, virtually every one of the shore plovers at Plimmerton sported up to 5 leg bands, including some wonderfully vivid coloured bands. Great for ornithologists to identify individuals, but they don’t always look so good in photographs. I had to be a little creative. The photo here is one I was quite pleased with. It’s a beautiful adult, and you can’t see its bands. Of course, just being able to see these special birds was reward enough for the long drive, but a couple of good photos on top is even better!
You can see more shore plover photos in my web gallery.