THE first post-Covid Sister City visit is underway with a birdwatcher delegation visit to Japan.
A delegation comprising eight Hunter Bird Observers Club members headed by Dr Alan Stuart are on a two-week tour, commencing with bird watching activities in Kushiro, Hokkaido.
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Also travelling with the group is University of Newcastle behavioural ecologist and senior lecturer Dr Andrea Griffin, who is investigating student exchange opportunities.
They were welcomed by Kushiro Mayor Hiroya Ebina and their Japanese counterparts.
Port Stephens, Newcastle and Kushiro Councils signed a sister wetlands agreement in 1994, to exchange knowledge and skills for the conservation and wise use of our wetlands.
Preservation of wetlands is vital to the continuation of an extraordinary natural phenomenon – annual bird migrations between wetlands of Hokkaido and the Hunter estuary – a non-stop journey of 8,500km.
The best-known migrant from Japan is Latham’s Snipe.
Others include the Eastern Curlew, Grey-tailed Tattler, Bar-tailed Godwit and Little Tern, who also visit the Mambo Wanda wetlands in Port Stephens.
Dr Stuart and Dr Griffin took part in presentations and panel discussion at a two-hour bird information sharing conference in Kushiro arranged by the Kushiro International Wetlands Centre.
After excursions in the Kushiro region, the birdwatchers will head to Yugawara – a Port Stephens Sister City – for further bird watching expeditions.
By Marian SAMPSON