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Cantabrian Mural Celebrates Annual 11,000km Migration

Artist Robert Scanlan has unveiled his award-winning mural titled ‘Southern Migration of the Godwit’ in New Brighton, Christchurch.

Mr Scanlan was one of ten winners from across the country who took out the top prize in Keep New Zealand Beautiful’s Resene Nature Mural Competition 2023.

The mural is painted on a long exterior fence of the New Brighton Community Gardens, visible from the road and to people in Rawhiti Domain and on a nearby walkway. Consisting of seven separate images, the mural depicts and celebrates the nesting and dangerous annual migration of the Godwit across an increasingly polluted ocean, concluding with the arrival of the bird in a peaceful and clean estuary in Aotearoa.

The first two murals depict the nesting godwit with her chicks, with predators and dangers in the background. The next three panels showcase the godwit's 11,000km migration from Alaska to Aotearoa – the longest known non-stop flight of any bird – passing oil rigs, polluted beaches and fishing craft. The final two panels see the birds landing in a relatively predator-free South Brighton estuary, sharing their new environment with pukeko, native gulls, herons and shags. In addition, each panel will also have interpretative text added to describe the journey to viewers.

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The edge of each panel has purposely been left rough, to make it look more organic than a crisp finished edge. The oil rigs depicted in the middle panels are drawn freehand to look organic, with jellyfish-like pylons going into the ocean.

The panels celebrate the migration of the godwit, which can fly further than any other known bird (1). Fueling up ahead of time, the birds can double their body weight in fat to make the huge non-stop journey. The birds fly to and from various estuaries in New Zealand, including in the Manawatū, Miranda, Golden Bay, Christchurch, Otago and Southland, in March before flying to eastern Asian estuaries and onward to Alaska. In September and October, the birds then return to New Zealand on a non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean, taking 7–9 days.

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