The Overwintering Project - Six Degrees.

After several experiments, I have revised and amended ‘The Overwintering Project – Six Degrees.’ The core concept is still the same, as is using migratory shorebirds represented by postcards. The big change is to the way the postcards are sent out. All returned postcards will be exhibited.

What is The Overwintering Project – Six Degrees?

Inspired Kate Gorringe-Smith and The Overwintering Project: Mapping Sanctuary, my work The Overwintering Project: Six Degrees is also about raising awareness about migratory shorebirds. Small changes in climate and loss of habitat are impacting on the survival of these species.

Linking up the ideas of migratory shorebirds, six degrees of separation and climate change; the estimated temperature rise by 2100 is nearly 6 degrees.

Influenced by “The Small World Problem”[1]  Six Degrees is a chance to experiment with social connections; finding out how small and precious our Earth is, and inspire recipients to become aware of the environmental impacts we humans are having on migratory shorebirds. Are there just six steps between survival and extinction of a species?

[1] A thought provoking experiment carried out by Milgram and Travers in 1969. The results of this experiment introduced the phrase ‘six degrees of separation.’


So, here are the details:

The Overwintering Project – Six Degrees.

In the initial part of the project, I will be creating migratory shorebird postcards via printmaking processes, in editions of twelve. Each set will contain six thank you cards, and six ‘return to sender’ cards. I will be sending out my migratory shorebird postcards, to people I know on a first name basis, with the aim being that the recipient takes a thank you card to keep (one of the edition of 12), sends back one of the return address postcards – adding their name, location and date, then placing all remaining cards in an envelope and giving/posting them to someone they know on a first name basis. This includes trying to send your postcard migratory shorebirds as close to their target destination by travelling along the East Asian-Australian Flyway to Siberia/Russia/Alaska or the Arctic Circle.

If the recipient cannot give/post the cards to someone else, I am asking that all remaining cards be sent back to the return address in Australia. All returned postcards will be exhibited.




Can anyone else participate?

Yes. To keep things simple, I am asking that people interested in this project, and starting links of their own, create an edition of three postcards. The postcard size must be 10cm x 15cm, and feature a migratory shorebird, this could also include their habitat, or the effects of habitat loss and climate change. Printmaking is encouraged for this, however reproduction of other art media is acceptable, particularly for school students. Please include your name, location and date on the back of the postcard.

·         One to keep.

·         One to send to someone they know on a first name basis.

·         One to be exhibited and sent to:

The Overwintering Project – Six Degrees

C/- 18 Torridon Court,

Huntfield Heights

South Australia 5163

I have received a postcard from my friend –what do I do?

If you receive a postcard from a friend, you are invited to keep the postcard links going, and create an edition of four:

·         One to send back to your friend as a thank you.

·         One to send to another person you know on a first name basis.

·         One to keep.

·         One to send to The Overwintering Project – Six Degrees address in Australia to be exhibited.

What is a migratory shorebird?

Shorebirds are also known as Waders, and usually have long legs in relation to the size of their bodies. They gather on foreshores or on the fringes of wetlands. As their feet have no webbing, they are not swimmers.

Shorebird migration is a natural occurrence, where different species of birds fly thousands of kilometres in order to find the best ecological conditions and habitats for feeding, breeding and raising their young.

Our migratory shorebirds travel to their Arctic breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere summer as the melting snow signals an abundance of food for the birds. As winter returns to these areas, the birds chase their endless summer by flying to the Southern Hemisphere, where temperatures are warmer, and food supply should be plentiful.

Stopover sites are places where the migrating birds stop to rest and refuel, along the East Asian – Australian Flyway. Habitat changes to any of these sites pose an enormous threat to the survival of these birds, and has a critical impact on the success of their migratory journey.

These birds migrate either via short distance ‘hopping’, medium distance flights ‘skipping’ or long distance non-stop flights. These birds are vulnerable to habitat loss, and changing climate conditions.

Where is the East Asian-Australian Flyway?

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway is the name given to the route flown annually by Australia’s migratory shorebirds to and from their breeding grounds above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Siberia, and it extends from Arctic Russia and North America to New Zealand. The twenty-three countries that comprise the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (i.e. are countries in which the birds have been recorded during their migrations) are: the USA (Alaska); Russia (Siberia); Mongolia; China; North Korea; South Korea; Japan; the Philippines; Vietnam; Laos; Thailand; Cambodia; Myanmar; Bangladesh; India; Malaysia; Singapore; Brunei; Indonesia; Timor; Papua New Guinea; Australia and New Zealand.

Some five million migratory shorebirds spend the warmer months of the year on the productive shores of Australia and New Zealand. Come May they sense the shift toward cooler days and prepare for their long migration which takes them up the eastern seaboard of Asia to their breeding grounds in Alaska and Siberia. This preparation involves eating to the point where they almost double their body weight. This is literally the fuel that will take them the thousands of miles they need to go to reach their breeding grounds. As they prepare for the migrations their bodies will also make the most amazing adaptations. For instance, to reduce weight, and in anticipation of long-distance stretches of non-stop flight, their digestive tract will temporarily atrophy. 

No-one knows precisely how they find their way, but we do know that migratory shorebirds can sense the earth's magnetic field to discern a northward route from a southward one, and it is believed that they can use markers such as stars and mountain ranges to map their migrations.

Above the Arctic Circle, for about ten months of the year, the ground of Siberia and Alaska is frozen solid. But the 24-hour summer sun brings with it a brief thawing of the permafrost, resulting in the formation pools of meltwater teeming with insect life. The shorebirds arrive into this abundance of food and light, and in the brief six to eight weeks of the arctic summer they mate, lay eggs and hatch their young. Shorebird chicks, perfectly camouflaged against the sedges and pebbles of the tundra, are precocial which means they are born with the ability to feed themselves. This is just as well, as within weeks of their hatching their mothers will take flight on the long journey southward, only to be followed also by their fathers. The newly-hatched juvenile shorebirds are left to negotiate the onerous flight to the southern hemisphere on their own.
On the way to and from their breeding grounds, the birds may make stopovers to rest and refuel. Of all the places where the birds take their rest, the most important is the Yellow Sea. Bordered by North and South Korea and China, this is a bottleneck of fertile shorebird habitat through which thousands of shorebirds will pass annually on their migrations.

To ensure the survival of these amazing travellers, every Flyway country has an important role to play in preserving the wetland habitats they use during their migration. Australia and New Zealand, however, have a particularly important role in terms of looking after our migratory shorebird habitat as it is on our shores that the birds spend the longest period of their migratory cycle from October to May every year.
The shorebirds’ annual migration, and their dependence on international wetlands, illustrates how habitats around the world are connected, and how important it is to protect them. 


List of Migratory Shorebird species visiting Australia.

The 37 species of migratory shorebirds that make this journey annually from the shores of Australia and New Zealand are as follows:

Pacific Golden Plover

Common Greenshank

Asian Dowitcher

Grey Plover

Marsh Sandpiper

Great Knot

Little Ringed Plover

Common Redshank (rare)

Red Knot

Lesser Sand Plover

Wood Sandpiper


Greater Sand Plover (Vulnerable)

Red-necked Phalarope


Red-necked Stint

Oriental Plover

Oriental Pratincole


Long-toed Stint (rare)

Latham’s Snipe

Broad-billed Sandpiper


Pectoral Sandpiper (rare)

Pin-tailed Snipe

Wandering Tattler


Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

Swinhoe’s Snipe

Eastern Curlew (Critically Endangered)

Curlew Sandpiper

Black-tailed Godwit

Terek Sandpiper


Bar-tailed Godwit (Vulnerable)

Common Sandpiper

Double-banded Plover (the only one to migrate New Zealand to Australia)

Little Curlew

Grey-tailed Tattler



Ruddy Turnstone