November 12th   1 comment

I went twitching this morning. Perhaps because lockdown comes back tomorrow, perhaps because it was just on the edge of my local patch and it’s good to hedge your bets. But really because it was a Hudsonian godwit, a rare wader even in North America where it breeds. And I have a soft spot for waders. A Hudsonian godwit turned up on the Eden Estuary at least 12 days ago but was only positively identified after some pictures were posted up a couple of days ago. It is an easy bird to overlook being very similar to a black-tailed godwit, which is quite common at the Eden in winter. When they fly, however, they show a very distinctive black underwing – and the photo captured this. I went out this morning overconfident that it would be easy to spot. But I hadn’t reckoned on the godwits roosting at a distance. There was a flock of 33 black-tailed godwits close to Guardbridge as the tide was rising. I scanned through them – all looked just like black-tailed godwits. One by one the rising water caused them to fly a short distance to dryer mud. I checked 28 underwings – all pure white and so not the Hudsonian. Five shuffled or swam so I wasn’t 100% sure. I cycled down the south shore of the estuary to check for other godwits. I found a single bird with curlews in a flooded field halfway to St Andrews. Another black-tail. I headed back to Guardbridge and had just got there when the Hudsonian godwit was reported flying away with the roosting flock of godwits – I had overlooked it earlier. Luckily the flock came down just below the Edenside stables, where a grassy, saltmarsh area provides a roost even on a high spring tide. I biked down and started working my way through the flock again. I picked up a slightly smaller, more spangly-backed bird in amongst them but felt it was just wishful thinking. Then the flock flew in alarm and it was there – right in the middle – black underwing contrasting and obvious, and the bird a little bit more compact and shorter legged looking as it sped away. The flock circled round and came back to roost. The search began again. Luckily the Hudsonian godwit flicked its wings up and gave itself away. We (now a small group had gathered) could follow the bird as it walked through the flock for a couple of minutes before it resumed roosting. The differences were very slight. A grey mottled panel on the scapulars contrasting with a browner wing, the white of the supercilium more concentrated just in front of the eye and a slightly more peachy buff tone to its plumage generally. Thank goodness for the underwing. My time was up and I headed back to Guardbridge, home and work. Nothing like a twitch with a time limit, as long as you get the bird well in the last few minutes.

Black tailed godwit and hudsonian godwit – tricky (JA)
Hudsonian godwit and black-tailed godwit – easy (JA)

Posted November 12, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

One response to “November 12th

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  1. An excellent illustrated report

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