Breaking Free of the Dark – New Zealand Dotterel

May 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

New Zealand Dotterel

Pewter sea stretches tentative fingers onto the shell grit and seaweed strewn sand; still in the haven of dreaming, that secretive and seductive pre-dawn. Wave-debris crunches beneath the chilled soles of my feet as I meander along their undulating lines. The sharp tang of pearl-studded weed, fronds wetly crisp underfoot, mingles with the sifting sounds of distant birds breaking free of the dark and the ceaseless susurration of lapping water.

Like an advance honour guard a blackbird tentatively tunes his instrument before launching into song. Nearby, the Tui waits, biding his time from the Kowhai tree before the strong mana of his singing claims centre stage. Light creeps in on the breeze, imperceptibly lending form, revealing the curve of the shore and the clusters of claw prints marking a diligent foray. I follow the small patterns as they weave up and down the bank and then I see it, so still it seems a trick of my eyes, a Dotterel. I blink to focus the slight form, one foot poised, head sleekly rounded against the silvery sea.

Clouds scud like shoals of Tarakihi over the now subdued stars and with them comes the dawn. Light blooms. Colour seeps from the moist sky, greys feathering to blues and subdued tones. Hue and line become ever clearer; the sharp-edged roof of the nearest house, a twining tangle of weed, a discarded sandal with the buckle pitted with rust. The Dotterel stands motionless. Feathers now etch themselves rank upon rank and the newly-gilt flash of an eye catches upon the brimming avian chorus. It stutters forward, head tilted in alarm at my intrusion and then warily returns to probing the sand.

The ink wash of night bleeds silently into the waves, defining shadows where there were none. Each rising cap throws off its shade and stands proudly in the waxing light. Once silver they now shine burnished; row upon row of gilded motion. As the land sheds the patina of night and the sun, risen to expose the coruscating breadth of its orb, burns down, I cast one last lingering look upon the small bird so intent on survival and ingesting a last deep breath turn away.

From ‘Island of Feathers’ A collection of lyric writings by Marie-Claire Colyer

The New Zealand Dotterel is under severe threat. Human competition for the beaches it relies on has meant a decline in Dotterel numbers to the point of being listed as Endangered on the ICU Red List Nests are scrapes in the sand above the high-tide mark. Birds are therefore easily disturbed or eggs destroyed by unsuspecting people and predators such as hedgehogs.

Visit to read more on this wading bird.

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