Crossland, who worked for DOC before getting this job, also speaks highly of the ecologically minded local authori­ties. It will be interesting to measure the impact our fencing has on wader nest success in the coming months. Furthermore, it is essential the UK has more wetland habitat for black-tailed godwits which is well managed for wildlife and better joined up. As with so many conservation projects to have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, many Project Godwit activities could not take place as planned this year. Nature reserve: RSPB Old Hall Marshes, Essex, Head-started godwits spotted here: Lady & Manea. Colour ring sightings are fantastic, but they still only provide us with details of where are bird has been at a particularly point in time. Five years ago, Crossland and his colleagues scraped the paddock to bare earth and planted native saltmarsh plants that have since self-colonised. Interesting questions that challenge current knowledge! As with so many of our activities which sadly either had to be postponed or cancelled altogether, monitoring of godwits had to be scaled back to a bare minimum. This is why seafarers had chronometers and why precise chronometers were worth a lot of money. This godwit is a sea bird about 40cm in height. At all times of year, a bar-tailed godwit has a streaky back. To all who have donated, thank you so much from all the team at Project Godwit. Food and nesting space are simple answers! A part from the Avon/Heathcote, godwits are fond of just about anything that qualifies as a large food-rich estuary. 112 godwits have been head-started and released since the first year of the project in 2017, to boost the number of black-tailed godwits breeding in the UK. Anouk was released in 2017 at WWT Welney. The other analysis I have worked on during lockdown is comparing adult, nest and chick survival rates between an earlier period of research at the Nene Washes, during which the godwit population at the Nene Washes increased (1999-2003) and a more contemporary period (2015-2016) in which the population has declined. “These guys have just come from being Mum and Dad Godwit on a wee nest in the middle of the tundra, and anything on the horizon that looks wrong freaks them out. “It makes sense from an energy point of view that they fly in a flock,” explains Crossland, “because the lead bird takes the pressure and the other birds are able to go in the slipstream.”. Utilising suitable wind patterns is a key component of godwit migration strategies, so changes to synoptic weather patterns on migration routes is likely to pose major problems for these birds. The reserve managers had already been thinking this was the case, and in 2017 started using special gates and electric fences to keep mammalian predators from depredating godwit nests. The nearly fledged chicks are fitted with a unique combination of colour-rings and some are also fitted with a geolocator. “The larger females can handle a unit that we surgically implant in them. Must find out…”. Project Godwit has a unique colour ringing scheme, whereby all birds are ringed with a lime colour ring on the right leg with the black letter ‘E’ stamped on the ring. But we don’t know how they pair up, especially when they commute up and down the world’s largest ocean. This factor provides an answer to the question, “How do animals know when to migrate?” I’ve got about 17,000 pages of field notes on birdlife here. Jen and Mark also want to raise awareness of the challenges faced by godwits and other waders beyond the UK at key migration sites – such as the Tagus Estuary in Portugal, where 80,000 godwits gather in spring and where an airport development has been proposed (see Graham Appleton’s Wader Tales blog), If you can spare a donation to sponsor Jen and Mark on their fundraising challenge and support Project Godwit, please visit the ‘Funds for Waders’ JustGiving page. Round the tip of the spit and there the godwits are, several score of them, oceanside, gathered at water’s edge. Take away the half of it. For context: some godwits start migrating in the opposite direction, from west Africa back north, as early as the second week of September. Hudsonian Godwits may fly 8,000 miles nonstop between breeding and wintering areas, unless brief stopovers are made at as-yet-undiscovered spots somewhere in South America. March is the time of year when the godwits take off for their long migratory flight to Alaska, where they feed and breed before returning to New Zealand in September and October. So when a tidal surge comes through, all the godwits get pushed up into the air.”, Why? This is why all the birds don’t just stay in the tropics all year. And today? The likely maximum summer population is about 2000, but whatever the final number, at any given time there are hundreds of the creatures on the land or in the air, constantly moving about and mingling with one another: how can he possibly tell how many there are? In terms of birdlife this estuary is probably monitored more closely than any other in New Zealand.”. Bar-tailed godwits nesting in Alaska (L. l. baueri) travel all the way to Australia and New Zealand. The godwit then carries this geolocator with it throughout the year – on migration to the non-breeding grounds and back to the Washes again in the spring. One measure we’re trialling at the Nene Washes is exclusion fencing. A moat right round this site—deeper on the outside, shallower on the inside, so birds can feed—keeps predators like cats out. Here, according to a real estate agent’s sign, is “where your future starts today!”. Black-tailed godwit chicks are being head-started to boost the number of godwit chicks that survive to fledging age. The godwits get pushed down to the bottom of the roost. Head-started godwits spotted here: Swampy, Anouk, Benwick & Chopstick. You can see them walking around looking.”, The godwits’ journey north takes them to a halfway stop on the shores of the Yellow Sea between China and Korea, where there’s reliable estuarine feeding (or has been up to now: those grounds are being threatened by massive recla­mation projects). Explains Crossland: “Of the, say, 70 birds that we caught about three years ago, more than 60 came back the following year and there’s probably about 50-odd here three or four years later, so there’s actually quite high survival.”. Migrating from New Zealand Male godwit Morgan has been spotted at Pagham Harbour in Sussex, Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve in Hampshire and RSPB Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire in July – all within a fortnight! Furthermore, contrary to our expectations, temperatures were a stronger predictor of … As some big wetlands around the margin of the estuary have been developed, they really want to encourage the birds to use those sites. Pickles was released on 9 June at WWT Welney. Andrew Crossland is walking the shores of that estuary­ or this airport—on a windy March day. We have a veterinarian along with us when we catch birds, the birds are anaesthetised, they’re hooked up with a heart monitor, a respirator—it’s just like surgery you or I would have for removal of an appendix or something. She returned to the Ouse Washes in May and has been spotted a number of times since then, in June. Check your inbox or spam folder to confirm your subscription. We’re like the Heathrow Airport of the South Island.”. If that’s true, then it could have been one of those light-bulb moments when Kupe, say, scanned the skies above Hawaiiki and muttered to himself, “Hmm…where are those birds going? Sky was head-started as a chick at WWT Welney Wetland Centre in June 2019 and released at the Nene Washes. The primary aim of migration is to take advantage of the longer days of the northern summer for breeding and to feed their young and to avoid harsh winters. Nature reserve: Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve, Hampshire. Subscribe to our free newsletter for news and prizes, Shorebirds of New Zealand: Sharing the Margins. Another one-year-old godwit head-started in 2019 has just been reported this week from Senegal, in Djoudj National Park near Debi. No ‘godwit stops’ to a reserve where godwits have been spotted today – but with dreadful stormy weather over 72 very hilly and soggy miles, plus a puncture, Jen and Mark had enough to contend with. This permanent fencing barrier is part of a number of fencing solutions the team have been trialling since the project began in 2017. A few weeks later (at which point I happened to be in the forests of Maine, wearing smoky snowpants), I received a job offer to work for the RSPB as a Senior Research Assistant on Project Godwit to monitor the godwits nesting at the Nene Washes. Godwits \ The Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, is a large, long-legged, long-billed shorebird first described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758.It is a member of the Limosa genus, the godwits.There are three subspecies, all with orange head, neck and chest in breeding plumage and dull grey-brown winter coloration, and distinctive black and white wingbar at all times. He can tell you, too, that there are five species of cormorant here: the whole of Europe has only three. Nature reserve: Suffolk WT Trimley Marshes, Head-started godwits spotted here: Fenn & Tipps. The Islands and in Robin Hyde’s novel The Godwits Fly, James Mc­Neish’s book As for the Godwits, and Bridget Armstrong’s play Flight of the Godwit. There will, however, be plenty of support and good wishes sent from afar to spur them on when the muscles in their perpetually peddling legs begin to ache. This behaviour is common for juvenile godwits, whereby they often don’t return to the UK breeding grounds until the age of two years. Just thousands and thousands and thousands of square miles of habitat with, like, no people. They were built in 1991 as a roost for godwits, he says, “but we’ve been manipulating the habitat as of late, and we’ve not cut the grass for a couple of years to pretty much make those islands unusable as bird roosting sites”. Jean Rees-Lyons, Artistic Director of The Word Garden helped name some of the head-started birds of 2019 as part of ‘the ‘Origins Project’, remembering the Scottish Soldiers. Flying continuously (not even glid­ing) over the ocean at an average of 80 km/h, they make the journey in six to eight days. Facing north. In breeding plumage, the only bright orangey-red bar-tailed godwits are males. Even satellite telemetry, however, can’t tell us how high they fly. Every year, in mid-September, about 100,000 bar-tailed godwits return to New Zealand from Alaska. Crossland sets up his spotting scope on a tripod and describes the view. Geolocators are tiny light-weight tracking devices, which can be fitted to a leg-ring or flag. After pairing with a wild-reared male, 2017 head-started female Earith bred at the RSPB Pilot Project site this season. Barker was released as a chick at WWT Welney in June 2019. By Day 4 Jen and Mark were at the halfway point of their cycling fundraising challenge and visited the Kent Wildlife Trust nature reserve Oare Marshes. Many head-started godwits have spent time at these sites in North Norfolk in the autumn, feeding up before migration. Next along the route was RSPB Old Hall Marshes nature reserve in Essex. The penultimate day for Jen and Mark and another challenging one. This godwit breeds at the Nene Washes every spring and was seen with its partner and chicks in May this year by a member of the team. 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