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Seasons Turn and Terns

Updated: Feb 22

Kuaka and the critically endangered tara-iti.

One of the privileges of living in Snells Beach is that the intertidal area is always changing! Changes not only as the tide regularly turns, but as the seasons change, and of course with stormy weather

We are fortunate to also have a regularly changing population of wildlife. Some, like the NZ Dotterel, are year round residents, and others coming and going as the seasons change. The many birds we see feeding on the flats, or fishing in the bay, include quite a number of endangered species (see Birds I might See).

Watching the flocks of birds flying like strange, fast-moving clouds is a wonder to behold.

New Zealand is part of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway. Twenty-four species of globally threatened or near-threatened birds that use this flyway are heavily dependent on the intertidal zones (McKinnon et al, 2012).

Soon we will be saying farewell to the kuaka (godwit) as they head back to Alaska to breed. Some will stay, those not breeding this coming season, but most will return to Alaska. To follow the progress of the satellite tagged kuaka see: Meanwhile we'll be seeing the pied stilt, royal spoonbills, swans, banded dotterels and others return to the tidal flats.

Even though the flats may look largely devoid of life, they are teeming with all sorts of organisms which feed many other types of life and form an important role in both the local and global eco-system.

Coastal ecosystems across the world face a wide range of anthropogenic threats; from overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, coastal development and the overarching threat of climate change. On developed coastlines, intertidal areas are subject to coastal squeeze, as a result of already rising sea levels on the seaward side, and development on the landward side. Let's do what we can to help preserve these areas and species!


  • MacKinnon, J., Verkuil, Y.I. and N. Murray. (2012). IUCN situation analysis on East and Southeast Asian intertidal habitats, with particular reference to the Yellow Sea (including the Bohai Sea). Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 47. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. ii + 70 pp.


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