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Juvenile godwit

Young black-tailed godwits have started arriving on the Solent having made their first ever migration.

During August we have begun to see juvenile black-tailed godwit arriving in Hampshire having made their first migration from Iceland. A flock of 23 were recorded at Farlington Marshes in Langstone Harbour these will be larger than the chick we’ve shown in the photo and already difficult to tell from the adults. The juveniles have been making independent flights following their parents who would have left the breeding sites a few weeks before. Many of these birds will be of the Icelandic subspecies, for which the Solent is such an important wintering area. News from Iceland is that surveys of breeding birds went really well. Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson of the University of Iceland reports “We had a very mild spring and the highest number of Godwit broods recorded since we begun our surveys in 2011. So you can expect a very good number of juveniles at your end”.

Meanwhile godwits breeding in Britain have been given a helping hand…

There is a tiny population of European black-tailed godwit that still breeds in Britain and these have been the subject of an important conservation project to boost their numbers. As part of ‘Project Godwit’, eggs were removed from nests of birds breeding in the Cambridgeshire fens and hatched in incubators. Staff at WWT Welney Wetland Centre hand-reared the young birds until they were old enough to look after themselves. It’s the first time the conservation technique, known as ‘head starting’, has been used in the UK. Head starting will dramatically increase the number of young black-tailed godwits that fledge in the UK this summer. Their human ‘parents’ have been able to safely raise far more chicks than the godwits themselves, away from the dangers of predators and flooding. By removing the eggs from their nests early, they have prompted each pair of godwits to lay a second clutch, giving the parent birds a chance to raise a brood of their own. In mid-June Some 25 Black-tailed Godwits were released into their new home in the Cambridgeshire Fens by conservationists from RSPB and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT). Now the hand-reared birds have been released, they are expected to meet up with other black-tailed godwits hatched in the area this summer, and spend several weeks feeding on the rich wetlands before starting their migration to Spain, Portugal and West Africa. Many will stop on the way at sites such as those around Solent, to feed up during their epic flight south. Find out more about Project Godwit(Opens in a new window) .