Whanganui photographer Paul Gibson's latest book is about a male godwit he has seen on the Whanganui Estuary every summer for 13 years.
The bird has a flag with the letters AJD attached to his leg. It was put there in October 2008 at the Manawatū Estuary, by Massey University students.
Unbeknown to them, AJD stays at Foxton for about six weeks, and spends the last four months of summer at the Whanganui Estuary, leaving every year on March 25.
"He has done that 13 times, like clockwork. Most years he migrates from Whanganui at 5pm."
Gibson was so sure of that he invited members of Birding New Zealand's Whanganui branch to the estuary on March 25 this year, to watch AJD take off. The group arrived at 4pm and the bird took flight at 5.17pm.
This year AJD was late to arrive, and Gibson went to Foxton looking for him six times in September and October. AJD was finally spotted in Whanganui on October 30, with other godwits. There were storms during his Pacific migration this year.
"I'm quite sure AJD got caught up in a storm somewhere. It was a bit late for Foxton, so he went straight to Whanganui," Gibson said.
The godwit's journey would have been a single flight of 10,000-12,000km and about 10 days nonstop, from the Yukon Delta of Alaska, south across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. Arriving in September he would be thin and exhausted, but quickly regain strength.
He would then spend six weeks in the Manawatū Estuary, before flying 55km north to Whanganui for the rest of the summer. Between January and March the colour of his feathers would get a reddish tinge, ready for the breeding season.
Leaving in March, he would fly to the Yellow Sea, between China and North Korea, to feed for a month, and then across to northwest Alaska to breed.
The feeding grounds of migratory birds in the Yellow Sea were being reclaimed for housing, but the Chinese government was setting some aside, Gibson said.
His book, made with the support of his wife Jane, is Feats Beyond Amazing: The Life Story of a Bar-tailed Godwit.
H & A Print have made 1000 copies and it's for sale now in Whanganui.
"It's going to sell worldwide, because this is an interesting story for anyone, anywhere."
Gibson has 10 previous books, showing local places but mostly focused on birds. The most recent is Birds: Beauty Like No Other, published in 2016, and covering all New Zealand's birds.
Now semi-retired from his accountancy business, Gibson continues to spend lots of time photographing birds - from land, from boats or on offshore islands. Godwits can live 28 years, so he may have more years to track AJD.
He said the Whanganui Estuary hosts the usual gulls, terns, shags and pied stilts - and increasing numbers of royal spoonbills.
"You can see 20 at a time now."
Migrant visitors include the godwits, red knots and wrybills, and in 2019 an eastern curlew. In November last year Gibson photographed a flagged bird there, a red knot.
He later heard it was flagged in 2013 by Moscow State University and has been spotted in China, New Zealand and Australia as well as Russia.
"It was female and had four chicks in July. Three months later it was in Whanganui. How cool is that?" he said.