The 10,000th image loaded on New Zealand Birds Online might seem an unlikely image to celebrate, but it has an astonishing back-story. It is a well-camouflaged clutch of four eggs, laid by a tiny wading bird that doesn’t even breed in New Zealand. The image was taken by Russian biologist Sergey Golubev on the remote Putorana Plateau in northern Central Siberia. The antipodean link is that one of the adult birds associated with the nest had an orange flag on its leg, showing that the bird had been caught in Victoria, Australia, more than 12,600 km from Putorana. Weighing only 30 g, the red-necked stint is the smallest trans-equatorial migrant bird that regularly reaches New Zealand.
Sergey is the 408th photographer to contribute to NZ Birds Online. He comments: “I found this site when I am looking [for] information about Antarctic birds of high latitudes. I like both Notornis and Marine Ornithology, it is very good journals. In this journals has many scientists from New Zealand. For example, K-J. Wilson was published article about south polar skua. It bird species interest for me. Russian literature on the Antarctic birds almost absent or old. All literature published on English. And wildlife of Antarctic and subantarctic ecosystems is very interesting for me! And your site given the opportunity to read articles from the excellent book – Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds! I dream to be there yet!”
“[I have] read your blogs about Te Papa Birds of New Zealand website. This is very important and difficult work, work for many people, who love birds! I want to send you my congratulations! Website have simple structure, it have a lot of useful informations. Furthermore, website includes scientific publications for each birds species! I think, it resource will be live long! 10000 images – it is not limite!”
“I wanted to fill the photos website, because not everyone can get pictures of birds, rare, endangered, or common in different places of the planet or in difficult to access regions. And I use other people’s works. And of course, the live communication with the experts! For example, now I know the person, who saw the young emperor in New Zealand, and I read his article and saw people rescued penguin and taken him home. It is very good! Many reasons, why I connected you, this is not accident!”
To date, Sergey has contributed images of just two species to NZ Birds Online, but they could not be more different. Polar opposites is an over-used cliché, but not in this case. The red-necked stints were photographed at 69° 40′ North, while his other images are of emperor penguins at 66° 33′ South, taken while Sergey was over-wintering (twice) at Mirny, a Russian Antarctic research base south-west of Australia. Emperor penguins are the heaviest living bird on the New Zealand list, and (of course) are flightless, so cannot match the long-range migrations of the tiny stints.
Of the 10,000 images contributed to date, 8277 appear on the live site. We receive too many images of some species for us to publish them all. The species with the most images contributed to date is the variable oystercatcher, with 99. This is followed by Australasian gannet (95), southern black-backed gull (91), pied shag (81), Antipodean albatross (78), New Zealand dotterel (76), New Zealand pigeon (74), New Zealand dabchick (73), New Zealand pipit (71), and white-faced heron and New Zealand fantail (both with 69 images).
At the other end of the spectrum, there are 87 living species with fewer than ten images each, including two species with just single images (white-rumped sandpiper and white-browed woodswallow – both of which are vagrant species in New Zealand). The New Zealand breeding species with the fewest images contributed so far are Auckland Island rail (2 images), great spotted kiwi (6 images), barn owl and rook (7 images), and white-headed petrel, subantarctic little shearwater, Kermadec storm petrel, black-bellied storm petrel and white-bellied storm petrel (all with 8 images).
10,000 images is a fantastic tribute to the 409 photographers who have generously supported NZ Birds Online. I look forward to working with them as they rise to the challenge of photographing the remaining more elusive species.