Bar-tailed Godwit at Conder Green 27 May 2011. John Bateman.
It was a pleasant surprise to find c.150 Bar-tailed Godwits (BTG) in the creeks at Conder Green last Friday 27 May, an unprecedented record as far as I'm concerned at this location or any other in our recording area on this date. With the exception of just one bird, this flock all were 'grey' 1st summer birds.
In Oakes time he recorded the BTG as abundant on the Ribble Estuary, but less numerous - though still plentiful - in Morecambe Bay. Oakes interestingly refers to the BTG as summering flocks to be first noted in 1918, and further refers to them as being in 'grey dress' and not usually in more than 100 birds. In 2009 peak numbers in the month of May - including WeBS counts - in Morecambe Bay and the Lune Estuary combined totalled just 31 birds.
The Arctic breeding BTG is a long distance migrant, the birds in our area of Lancashire and North Merseyside are thought to originate from the Fennoscandia and W.Russian breeding population. Although I'm suggesting a first record of 1st summer non-breeding in this number anywhere in our recording area of Lancashire in May, summering flocks are a feature of the south-west including Seaforth where up to 700 birds regularly roosted in June during the late 1990's, with another flock of a similar number in non-breeding plumage on Warton Bank in 2003.
Two interesting BTG's ringed in N.Merseyside in 1980 were both re-trapped at an African wintering quarter in Guinea-Bissau eight years later in 1988. Also of note is that of a long-lived bird which was marked in 1972 and was found dead 21 years later in 1993.
Bar-tailed Godwit. John Bateman.
It was a very pleasant experience observing the BTG at Conder Green again yesterday 31 May when at least 220 birds - I've seen one report of up to 300 - were counted in the same spot as last Friday, the birds gave a excellent display in flying around the area whilst calling, something not easily achieved with a bird known to be a very mobile species in where it settles and usually seen at a distance rather than the close quarters these birds afforded us here.
Thanks for the photographs John, and for another pleasant and rewarding days birding for us both.