A Grand Old Age for a Godwit

Regular readers of this blog and visitors to the coast will be very aware of the various colour-ringing schemes carried out on the wildfowl and waders of the Solent. These schemes have generally been undertaken by Farlington Ringing Group and over the years many hundreds of birds have been captured and ringed on Farlington Marshes in Langstone Harbour, as well as several other sites. Periodically we publish posts of interesting sightings, the last one being the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos that was found breeding in Norway after initially being ringed at Farlington Marshes.

The Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa is a familiar and perhaps iconic species of the Solent and along with the dark-bellied brent goose Branta bernicla bernicla, is one of the primary reasons for the Solent’s designation as a Special Protection Area. The black-tailed godwits frequenting the British Isles in the winter are of the Icelandic race L. l. islandica. The species only began regularly wintering in Hampshire in the 1940’s: numbers increased initially but levelled off in the 1970’s. Despite this population undergoing a sustained growth for many years, with the national wintering population showing a similar growth, the Hampshire population has not shown a corresponding increase.

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Black-tailed Godwits – Farlington Marshes

Colour-ringing studies on Black-tailed Godwits began in the late 1990’s, driven by Pete Potts of Farlington Ringing Group and his dedicated team of volunteers. The aim of the studies was to increase the number of sightings, in order to build up a picture of how birds move around during the winter months, and establish where birds wintering in Hampshire were breeding in Iceland. The sightings generated and subsequent data gathered has been tremendous and the movement of birds is now well understood.

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Black-tailed Godwits with colour rings

One of the earliest birds colour-ringed in Hampshire was ES74718 (or B+BL according to her colour rings). She was caught at Farlington Marshes on 16th November 1998 and was aged as an adult female. She has been recorded almost every year since her original ringing date and has been sighted 117 times. Unlike many other colour-ringed godwits, she has never been recorded outside of the UK, but has been recorded at some point most winters in Hampshire. On the rare occasions she has been recorded outside of the county, she has been recorded in West Sussex, Thorney Island July to August 2000, August 2001, August 2002 and September 2012, Pagham Harbour July 2001 and February 2014, Fishbourne Channel, October 2003 and September 2008, Chichester Harbour September 2011, Emsworth Harbour October 2015 and Pulborough Brooks, January 2016, Isle of Wight, Newtown Harbour December 2002, Motney Hill, Kent, July & August 2011.

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Black-tailed Godwit (ES74718) – Originally ringed in November 1998 and one to look out for over the coming winters

I first encountered her on 19th December 2007 from Port Solent in Southampton and re-sighted her only this week (10th January 2017) in Portsmouth Harbour at Porchester. This latest sighting must make her nearly 20 years old, and if she is recorded over the next four winters she will claim the national longevity record for Black-tailed Godwit, so one to look out for over the next few years.

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One thought on “A Grand Old Age for a Godwit

  1. Great story, loved reading the sightings, I will just say that port Solent is in Portsmouth harbour and nowhere near Southampton! Keep up the brilliant blogs.

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