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Nature Notes


lack tailed godwits (Limosa limosa) are tall elegant waders with a long straight or very slightly upcurved bill. Although a scarce breeding bird in Britain (approximately 50 pairs around the Ouse washes) it is better known as a wintering bird and a bird on migration from wintering grounds further south to breeding grounds further north and east.


Nature Notes for the month B


In Devon, they are particularly common in winter around the Exe estuary and can also be found on other wetlands and estuaries. In winter their upperparts and breast are plain grey brown but are unmistakable in flight due to a combination of broad white wing bar, square white rump and prominent black tail band.


As spring comes on, many birds start to acquire their


startling brick red colour spangled with black and white on the back and underparts. Many of the birds wintering here are from the Iceland race, islandica; these birds are currently the subject of a number of studies into their movements and wintering grounds using colour ringing on the legs so that individual birds can be identified in


2010 in the Netherlands – maybe it got caught up with European birds on their way back to their breeding grounds. As part of the general interest in godwits, other birds are being colour ringed on the Axe Estuary at Seaton in east Devon and indeed I also saw one of these birds. If you happen to see a colour ringed bird, please make a note of the order of the rings and which legs (note the Icelandic scheme involves birds with colour flags on their legs) and contact By the Dart and I will do my best to find out their history.


What to look for in March/April


March to April is a big transition time – winter birds start to depart and the vanguard of summer visitors arrive, first in the form of sand martins, chiffchaffs and wheatears soon to be followed by swallows, willow warblers etc. The first butterflies are on the wing, overwintering small tortoiseshell and newly hatched brimstone and the spring flowers burst upon the scene. Look for the delicate wood sorrel together with the delightful primrose.


Black Tailed Godwit


the field. This is a much more effective way of obtaining “recoveries” of birds from ringing, the traditional metal ringing getting only a very small recovery rate.


Back in January during a trip to the RSPB’s Exminster Marshes, I managed to see three birds with colour rings. Indeed one bird I had previously seen at Topsham back in September 2010. The history of this bird is quite interesting – it was ringed as a chick at Langhus, Fljot N. Iceland on the 18th July 2007. It then seems to have spent its first two winters in Ireland, with sightings at Wexford and Dublin Bay in February 2008 and February and March 2009. Its first sighting in Devon was at Bowling Green Marsh in September 2009. Subsequent to this it has been seen round the Exe estuary on each of the last two winters coupled with sightings in Dublin Bay in late March/early April.


The latter sightings indicates the route the bird takes back to Iceland and the areas it favours to stop and feed up. The only exception to this is a sighting in March


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