why do godwits migrate

Geolocators are data-loggers that continuously log the ambient light-level. Black-tailed godwit chicks are being head-started to boost the number of godwit chicks that survive to fledging age. 2008, Senner 2010). Project Godwit is a partnership between RSPB and WWT with major funding from the EU LIFE Nature Programme, the HSBC 150th Anniversary Fund, Natural England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Back from the Brink Programme, Leica and the Montague-Panton Animal Welfare Trust. It’s World Migratory Birds Day this Saturday 10 October and with excellent timing a new wave of sightings of black-tailed godwits from outside the UK has flooded in to the team at Project Godwit. Why do godwits migrate when they do? First they get a bit of kip; then it’s serious tucker time. L. l. lapponica make the shortest migration, some only as far as the North Sea, while others travel as far as India. As keen cyclists and wader conservationists, their aim was to promote responsible travel while raising funds for wader conservation. They’ve thought of everything. For centuries, birdwatchers have relied on banding in order to find out where migratory birds go. Birds that migrate to New Zealand. Denver was one of nine released birds that returned to the project sites in 2018 and is from the same clutch as Remi and Nelson. While many of the project team are either still furloughed or working from home under house arrest, it’s been more challenging for the project this season than anyone could have predicted. This major asset for RSPB Nene Washes and Project Godwit has been funded thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund via the Back from the Brink programme and the EU LIFE Nature programme. This male godwit visited Steart Marshes in July 2017. “The radio’s inserted into an air sac underneath the rear end of the bird, so the antenna comes out right by the tail. On September 15 there were 394. 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”. 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. Cornelia was released on June 27th 2018. News of godwits which were head-started by Project Godwit or ‘wild-reared’ birds which were ringed in the Fens many years ago (before Project Godwit had even been dreamt up) helps us understand the movements of these vulnerable waders on migration, the challenges they face and how we can better protect them. It’s largely because of their size. Sun 30th – WWT Welney, RSPB Ouse Washes & RSPB Nene Washes, Cambridgeshire. For obvious reasons, the conference will now be an online event this year – so in light of a pandemic Jen and Mark innovatively adapted their plans. The signals sent out are picked up by National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration satellites and tracked on computer screens by Gill and his colleagues in Anchorage. In any case, he says, godwits tend to be edgier than the other birds, nervous about predators. In the meantime, he and his colleagues “propose that this transoceanic route may function as an ecological corridor rather than a barrier, providing a wind-assisted passage relatively free of pathogens and predators”. Using geolocators will allow us to build a more complete picture not only of the locations these birds are using, but also the schedule of their migration. It’s always exciting when we receive sightings of the birds from the project, and we’d like to thank the birdwatchers out there for keeping a look out for these special birds. She flies non-stop seven days, ten thousand kilometers, to the Yellow Sea. This leg, of over 10,000 km, is completed in a … All birds are equal, but in terms of public affection and admiration, some birds are more equal than others. The last time this two-year-old head-started female was seen was in autumn 2018 in Portes-en-Ré, west France! Omaha Beach, Normandy was one of the five designated beaches that were used during the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944 during the Second World War. All bar-tailed godwits spend the Northern Hemisphere summer in the Arctic, where they breed, and make a long-distance migration south in winter to more temperate areas. Two of the geolocators I examined had logged especially interesting migrations (during my PhD, I analysed more than 300 migrations by Dutch godwits – these two were immediately distinguishable from the pack!). Needless to say, lots of plans and dreams this year have been scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic. We haven’t had that.”. Anouk was released in 2017 at WWT Welney. One of Crossland’s tasks is to count godwits. “Christchurch in my 25 years’ involvement hasn’t had very much of that banging your head against a brick wall, against all the bureaucrats who sit in their little offices with their Tupperware lunch tins and their shorts and their walksocks going, ‘Bring back Andrew Mehrtens’. It wades on long legs in the mudflats at low tides on some beaches and eats insects, crabs and small plants. Remi is another female from our class of 2017 but, in contrast to our other headstarted birds, she has decided to set up home at the RSPB Nene Washes. from arable farmland when the godwits’ main breeding sites at RSPB Nene Washes flooded that spring, forcing the adult breeding pairs to lay their eggs elsewhere. RSPB Nene Washes is a befitting end point for Jen and Mark to cross the finish line, as this is where the eggs are sourced each breeding season. RSPB Nene Washes nature reserve is a befitting end point for Jen and Mark to cross the finish line, as this is where the eggs are sourced each breeding season. They can be found every summer, says Massey University ornithologist Phil Battley, congregating in northern harbours like Kaipara, Manukau and Kawhia; the Firth of Thames is another popular spot, as is Farewell Spit. Others migrate to areas that are better for nesting. Both Manea (male) and Lady (a female, unsurprisingly) were both head-started as chicks in June 2017 at WWT Welney. “Can they only re-meet by going to the breeding ground and landing on the nesting site and hoping that the mate comes back? In migration and winter mainly on tidal mudflats along coast. Black-tailed godwits use ‘staging areas’ (stop-over sites) on their migration route to rest and feed, in places such as the crucially important Tagus estuary in Portugal, which connects breeding sites across the northern hemisphere to wintering areas in Africa. “The permafrost melts, so all of the mosquitoes and other insects are in huge abundance; there are amazing food sup­plies for them. There were no pairs breeding here in 2017 – but this year there were 6 pairs. Or, as another paper co-authored by Gill puts it, “Is weather across the Pacific teleconnected such that certain departure cues at northern latitudes assure relatively favourable conditions along most of the route?”. “If all storms increase in frequency and intensity, I think godwits will adapt to it; but if the storm track shifts for whatever reason, it could very well not provide the tailwind they need.”. On March 15th I arrived in the UK. Signs of spring are well underway at our project sites in the fens and it won’t be long before the first black-tailed godwits return to the Nene and Ouse Washes. turned to the Netherlands again – this time to Zuiderwoude in May this year. Terns, shags, stilts, oystercatchers, all manner of shorebirds and waders, he knows them well. There’s been another sighting of a 2019 head-started black-tailed godwit from outside the UK – Juno was spotted in Zambujal, near Sesimbra, Portugal by Pablo Macías and Victor Pizarro on 11 October. on 600 miles, 8 days, 11 nature reserves, 1 epic challenge! So if a godwit can survive the South Island winter, why would any of them feel the need to leave at all? This time Crossland takes us round in his 4WD, talking non-stop about wildlife and wetlands. Subsequently, the project had to rely on the site managers of WWT Welney, RSPB Nene Washes and RSPB Ouse Washes to monitor the godwits when they could, on top of their already very busy workloads. Jen and Mark will instead remain in the UK and cycle 600 miles in eight days from Somerset to Cambridgeshire between 23rd-30th August, following a route that links 11 nature reserves which have been visited by black-tailed godwit chicks raised and released by Project Godwit. 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. This head-started godwit has been getting around a lot lately. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped us keep an eye out for these special birds. Black-tailed godwit sightings are a bit like buses…. They come and go from several estuaries throughout the country but the Avon/Heathcote has be­come particularly identified with them, perhaps because the people of Christchurch have taken them to their hearts. Nature reserve: WWT Steart Marshes, Somerset. Many species migrate in order to take advantage of better food supplies in different environments at various times of the year. What’s so special, for in­ stance, about the menu here at the Restaurant Chez Avon/Heathcote? After spending much of the second half of 2019 in west France, Strider (sex unconfirmed) was spotted in Dellmensingen, south Germany in May. Nature reserve: RSPB Nene Washes, Cambridgeshire. However, the food-rich tidal mudflats of the Yellow Sea are disappearing rapidly. Nonetheless, we are aware of some pairings. Fast forward six months to late September, and we’re back on the estuary to see the godwits that have jetted in from Alaska, as per their annual schedule. It will be fascinating to see how many of our headstarted birds are amongst them. Through Project Godwit, we’re testing a range of measures to reduce the pressure of key predators on the black-tailed godwit population so that this fragile population can start to recover. They arrive in New “This white-faced heron here,” he says, indicating a bird I couldn’t tell apart from the next one. We know what they like to eat and what makes them nervous. Readers of the previous blog from Project Godwit will recall that Jen and Mark wanted to visit all 11 nature reserves in England where head-started black-tailed godwits reared and released by Project Godwit have been spotted before migrating to Africa. Most godwits begin breeding around the age of two and although some have been known to breed successfully at that age and even younger, more experienced adults tend to have greater breeding success. WWT Welney is where all the head-starting happens: godwit eggs are incubated and chicks are reared in specialised pens before release at fledging age, to get them through their most vulnerable time of life. Certain tropical rainforests, in particular, can be densely populated making good … “People just become exposed to the information and the children learn it as well. This ‘wild-reared’ male godwit is 17 years old, revealed by his rings which show he was ringed as a chick in 2003 at RSPB Nene Washes. The males, being smaller, can’t handle the weight of that implanted unit, so they have a much lighter solar-powered unit that has to be applied externally. 1030. “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. Bar-tailed godwits Limosa lapponica baueri migrate northward from New Zealand toward Asian stopover sites … This is why seafarers had chronometers and why precise chronometers were worth a lot of money. The affable Battley, a senior lecturer in zoology in Massey’s Ecology Group, studies all kinds of shorebirds but for a while godwits were of particular interest to him: he was part of an international research project run by the US Geological Survey out of Alaska, a project which culminated last year in a fluke discovery that set the ornithological world alight and even made the general news headlines. Denver was the first headstarted bird to be spotted by the project team in 2019 on 22 March. Amongst some of the godwit sightings recently to have arrived in the team’s inbox is that of a female godwit reported from the Tagus estuary by Hugo Areal. Its rings reveal it to be an incredible 19 years old! This factor provides an answer to the question, “How do animals know when to migrate?” justgiving.com/fundraising/fundsforwaders. Some of Project Godwit’s head-started adults to have successfully bred this year include female Anouk and male Delph (both head-started in 2017) fledging one chick. For that, ornithologists are relying increasingly on satellite telemetry. When the birds go, as many as 600 citizens gather to fare­well them; when the first ones return, the cathedral bells are rung in the city. The oystercatchers are feeding on shellfish, mainly cockles: there’s an amazing abun­dance of cockles in this estuary. The birds have been keeping the team busy and we’ve been out surveying to find as many colour ringed birds as possible. This female godwit was head-started as a chick at WWT Welney Wetland Centre and released at RSPB Nene Washes in June 2019 (pictured below as a chick). Even today, an elaborate system of different-coloured bands and flags attached to birds continues to provide critical information about migration patterns. This Sunday 23rd is Day 1 of Jen and Mark’s fundraising challenge and they begin their adventure departing from WWT Steart Marshes in Somerset. Now we’re back where we were in March, at Southshore Spit, only on the inland side this time, looking out on a long sandbank exposed by the low tide. While the black-tailed godwit breeding season has (sadly) come to an end, some birds may venture over to coastal wetlands around the UK before migrating south to wetland sites in Spain, Portugal and West Africa for the ‘non-breeding season’ in autumn and winter. It was a fluke finding, Battley admits, because by rights E7’s transmitter batteries should have run out of puff long before she got near the South Pacific. Bob Gill, of the US Geological Survey, explains how this procedure is carried out. Instead, these birds cut inland over Christchurch and end up at the Avon and Heathcote estuary. Project Godwit and all our colleagues working to protect godwits are indebted to all who go to the trouble of reporting colour ring sightings. 2006. Head-started female Omaha has been back at WWT Welney since May. The extended daylight hours allow diurnal birds to produce larger clutches of eggs than those of non-migratory species that remain in the tropics all the year round. We’ve been monitoring black-tailed godwit nests and chicks for the last four years at the Nene Washes and we know that in those years predation has been the main cause of breeding failure. Nature reserve: WWT Welney, Cambridgeshire, Head-started godwits spotted here: All 112 reared and released to date. The recent decline at the Nene Washes is therefore likely the result of lower reproductive success resulting in fewer birds recruiting at the Nene Washes. Due to the Government restrictions on movement during the lockdown, the team were also unable to conduct much monitoring of the godwits this season, therefore we do not know how many young birds as two-year-olds may have returned from their first migration and joined the Fens population of black-tailed godwits this year. As the name suggests, the white tail is barred with brown. This behaviour is common for juvenile godwits, whereby they often don’t return to the UK breeding grounds until the age of two years. 1; Skagen et al. These volunteer recorders are making a significant contribution to conservation science, helping us better understand the movements of these migratory waders all along the migration flyway. Read our privacy policy. A male black-tailed godwit was spotted in September in the Algarve, Portugal – ringed as a chick at the Nene Washes in 2003. As some big wetlands around the margin of the estuary have been developed, they really want to encourage the birds to use those sites. “When they’re in the breeding grounds, anything big and brown that moves, like a skua or bird of prey, they’re really nervous. The dynamic duo took on this endurance challenge of cycling 600 miles in 8 days to raise funds for Project Godwit and the International Wader Study Group (which gives out small grants each year to support wader projects around the world). He’s been spotted on two occasions at Porte-en-Re, on the west coast of France. A team of researchers headed by Robert Gill Jr. of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center in Anchorage implanted tiny satellite trackers in female godwits near the Alaska coast. A good start to 2020! Bar-tailed godwits that arrive in New Zealand face no predators, and so they can simply rest. For context: some godwits start migrating in the opposite direction, from west Africa back north, as early as the second week of September. It’s largely because of their size. “They just look exhausted. It was two-for-the-price-of-one for this godwit stop, as siblings Lady and Manea have both been seen here at Old Hall Marshes, spotted together in July 2017. The first was from ‘Cornelia’, a head-started chick released at the Nene Washes in 2018 (also learn more here). Even Crossland can’t figure that one out. And in some ways the key questions have already been answered,” says Battley. For the same reason other birds migrate. “When I was about 17 I went along to a meeting on the estuary and stood up and told all these things I’d been seeing. The team will be monitoring its efficacy in the spring and making any minor adjustments to its design if necessary. The last reported sighting of Manea was in April 2019 at WWT Welney. Researchers had hoped at best to track her northward migration and maybe just a bit of the trip back. First stop was Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes where many head-started godwits have been spotted since Project Godwit launched in 2017: Swampy, Anouk, Benwick and Chopstick. It’s the same with the plant people and other people around Christchurch, the council’s always been really good that way. She was not seen at the project sites in 2018 so may have spent an entire year and a half in the wintering grounds of southern Europe and West Africa. Tom’s egg was collected from muddy farmland and hatched at WWT Welney on 19 May last year. Here’s hoping Storm Ellen has also passed over before Sunday. The sandbank’s covered in birds, most of them taking a rest on one leg or two. Six weeks later in mid-June, this two-year-old was spotted at RSPB Ouse Washes! “Each unit costs about $5000–$6000. Here’s hoping Juno returns to the Fens next spring. He has been seen displaying over Lady Fen (the release site) and has been spending time with another headstarted bird, a female named Purl. Did you know ‘Barker’ is an old name for a godwit, along with blackwit, whelp, yarwhelp, shrieker and Jadreka snipe?! 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. This will be a socially-distanced event, so sadly there won’t be crowds of supporters gathering along the way. Black-tailed godwits have a bold black and white stripe on … Then it gets cold real quick and they can’t survive there; they’ve got to get out of it. One measure we’re trialling at the Nene Washes is exclusion fencing. She’s also been seen at Porte-en-Re, on the west coast of France. The shorelines are constantly shifting, and not always just at the sea’s behest: human care and attention modify this tidescape too. Firstly, major mechanical failure struck with Jen’s bike – meaning the rest of the day had to be ridden with a single speed conversion, then Jen and Mark were buffeted along the North Norfolk coast by 45 mph winds! The hundreds of godwits that came here six months ago make their departures over a five-to-six-week period in groups of five to 25, and stick together the whole way, as far as anyone knows. Photographed by Neil Fitzgerald, Imagine a bicycle wheel, right? At all times of year, a bar-tailed godwit has a streaky back. 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. We may see these birds back this spring, but often godwits don’t return to the breeding grounds until they are two years old. So they migrate southwards.”. Intriguing! 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. 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. Meanwhile, after not being seen for almost two years, Maris’ brother Désirée was reported from IJzervallei, near Woumen in Belgium in May and appears to be breeding at a nature reserve there. 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. They’ll even feed through the high tide and within a few days will have regained so much weight that they’re indistinguishable from those who wintered over. Every year, in mid-September, about 100,000 bar-tailed godwits return to New Zealand from Alaska. The benefit of flying in a flock is that they fly in a V-formation. The other was from a male godwit known as OB-OL(E). We are grateful to all the volunteers around the UK who report sightings to Project Godwit. Godwits Migration - across the world in 8 days! 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. Chicks are reared by our project partner the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) at Welney Wetland Centre and released once fledged. Due to the lockdown, it is unknown exactly how many pairs have bred at each project site this spring. The hub of the wheel is Banks Peninsula: this is the central nodal point for the whole east coast of the South Island. A tall, elegant wader, the Black-tailed godwit breeds in wet grasslands, and winters on coastal estuaries and marshes, and at inland shallow waters. And we know—well, we’re pretty sure—that, astonishingly, young godwits barely a month old fly from Alaska to New Zealand without their parents shepherding them along. Juno wasn’t spotted back at the breeding grounds in East Anglia this spring – but as young godwits often don’t return from their first migration until the age of two, this is common behaviour. Written by Denis Welch       Hurricane spent last spring near Valencia, Spain, therefore this is the first time he’s been back in the UK since being released as a chick at RSPB Nene Washes in June 2018. Please keep your eyes peeled for any colour ringed birds – you can report your sightings to us here. Round the tip of the spit and there the godwits are, several score of them, oceanside, gathered at water’s edge. Structurally, they have a wing shape designed for fast, efficient long-distance flight. Needless to say it’s been a challenging year for the team, however we look forward to next year and hope for good health, better prospects and that normal programming will resume soon so we can continue making gains for the conservation of black-tailed godwits. One of the 2019 head-started birds to have returned this year is Tam. Thirty-eight years old now, he has been coming here since he was a boy. Collecting the eggs early in the season encourages the adult breeding pair to lay another clutch, thereby preventing any net loss to the source population. This was closely followed by a sighting of Tom, a headstarted bird released at WWT Welney in 2018, wintering in Porto Alto in Portugal. Thanks to satellite tracking, we now know that godwits fly the 12,000 km journey from Alaska to New Zealand without ever stopping. Black-tailed godwits are migratory, and birds from the limosa subspecies spend the non-breeding season in wetland sites in Spain, Portugal and West Africa. Then there are the paradise shelducks: they’re every­where in Christchurch now, but Crossland can recall when there was just one pair, in 1997, and how they nested by a pond near a school in Beckenham. Hail, then, Limosa lapponica!—or, to give it its Maori name, kuaka! Mostly bar-taileds but maybe a few black­taileds or Hudsonians among them. Individual monitoring, Firth of Thames, 2004-2006 Photo: Phil Battley . Birds from the eastern European populations migrate to Tunisia and Algeria, then on to Mali or Chad. This one-year-old male has been at the Ouse Washes since May this year, moving between WWT Welney and RSPB Ouse Washes nature reserve. I’ll keep you posted! He talks so knowledgeably (and quotably) about his work that you can’t help but envy him, as someone who clearly enjoys doing what he does for a living—wildlife monitoring and habitat restoration. Everything that breeds in these braided river systems comes from the coast to the south, migrating north, but doesn’t go round Banks Peninsula. It has dull white underwings, and a long, slightly upturned bill. It basically kills the invasive grasses, and most of the plants that like salt are native plants. Female black-tailed godwits tend to disperse further than the males, though most birds recruit close to the natal site. One-year-old female godwit ‘Sky’ was reported at a national nature reserve near Yves in Western France in September by Jérémy Dupuy. Five years ago, Crossland and his colleagues scraped the paddock to bare earth and planted native saltmarsh plants that have since self-colonised. 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. Pickles was released on 9 June at WWT Welney. The ability of birds to migrate from one part of the world to another has always fascinated people. We know from banded birds. I was coming from winter, which was clear from my pale skin and a permanently smoky smell imparted by my woodstove. Rising sea levels will greatly reduce intertidal foraging habitat at wintering, staging and post-breeding sites. These eggs were rescued from arable farmland when the godwits’ main breeding sites at RSPB Nene Washes flooded that spring, forcing the adult breeding pairs to lay their eggs elsewhere. (a) Why do godwits fly so high? 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. She may return to the UK at the usual breeding age of two next year, or she may join the Dutch breeding population of black-tailed godwits and return to the Netherlands each spring. The first influx had clearly arrived from Alaska, as some of them still bore traces of their breeding plumage. Thanks to Dr José Tavares for reporting this sighting to Project Godwit. This godwit has been seen regularly at the Tagus estuary over the years, in autumn and spring. Furthermore, it is essential the UK has more wetland habitat for black-tailed godwits which is well managed for wildlife and better joined up. Another one-year-old godwit head-started in 2019 has just been reported this week from Senegal, in Djoudj National Park near Debi. on Headstarted birds make their way south, threatened with the development of an airport, multitude of other reasons this airport should not be built, Storms, punctures, a broken bike – all in the name of fundraising. For many years, he says, he would count various bird populations up to eight times a month; now he does them perhaps once a month “because I understand from my earlier data how the seasonal abundance pattern works”. According to Gill, the greater threat is the projected changes in both the frequency and the intensity of the storms that come across the north Pacific, the storms that produce the winds that get these godwits started on their migration. Nature reserve: RSPB Old Hall Marshes, Essex, Head-started godwits spotted here: Lady & Manea. Pointing out dotterel footprints, he says: “I started moni­toring the birdlife on the estuary when I was at high school, so a lot of these birds I’ve been monitoring for 24 years straight. “How do you not,” he replies, “given what they do?” It’s a sentiment with which most of us Kiwis clearly would agree. Head-started godwits spotted here: Benwick, Mo, Wedge, Gold, Chopstick, Chip & Rosti. Fri 28th – Suffolk WT Trimley Marshes & RSPB Boyton Marshes 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. That's why it is critical that godwits and other vulnerable species have undisturbed access to their highly productive feeding areas in New Zealand and along the flyways, he says.

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