limosa Black-tailed Godwit – Titchfield Haven, Hampshire

Last Saturday Amy Robjohns photographed a juvenile Black-tailed Godwit on Titchfield Haven south scrape and she suspected that it may be the nominate race limosa. This form breeds one month earlier than the familiar islandica race and so any juveniles seen in July are worth checking. She sent the photos to Mark Golley in Norfolk who confirmed the limosa identification. I saw this bird when I visited the next day, the Sunday, but I hadn’t made any sketches and so I fancied another trip to Titchfield Haven.

Once Dad and I had settled in the hide I started searching through the godwit. I found the juvenile limosa fairly quickly feeding close to the reeds in the north east corner of the south scrape. Again it appeared to be the only juvenile with the other 80 godwit being adults or 1st summer birds.  

Facing directly towards me the bright and broad supercilium was very striking and the neat, scallop patterened mantle and covert feathers were obvious. It was very tall and rangy with extra long legs and bill. This was clearly the same juvenile that Amy had seen last weekend. Throughout the whole time it kept itself to itself as though it knew it was different to the Icelanders. 

When they feed in deeper water Black-tailed Godwit tilt their rear end almost up to the vertical and once they’re back above the water level they jerk their heads throwing the food back before jabbing their horizontal bill forward to catch it properly. It reminds me of the way my whippet Barney throws large chunks of dog food to the back of his mouth where his only remaining teeth live.

Virtually every bird on the scrape took off as a large juvenile Sparrowhawk powered over the reeds on the eastern side. A Terrapin raised its snout like a periscope before withdrawing it slowly and slipping back out of sight. They are regularly abandoned by pet owners into rivers and lakes and they often struggle to adapt in the wild.

A pair of Oystercatchers were mating on the causeway. Birds regularly suffer low fledging rates and if the weather and food reserouces allow it they often attempt second and third broods. Avocets only have one brood and many of the early juveniles were fully grown with some brownish feathers on the mantle being the only give away of their age. The late and small Avocet chick which appears to be the only one left was still around on the edge of the reeds being guarded by its parents.  

Two Green Sandpipers were loosely associating with each other from the Pumfrett Hide. Another Common Sandpiper made it three altogether and a couple of Dunlin showed briefly including the first juvenile of the autumn.

On the walk back from the Pumfrett Hide a Common Darter settled on bramble leaves while Blue-tailed and Azure Damselflies drifted low over the water. Purple Loosestrife, Hemp Agrimony and Great Willowherb added splashes of colour and Meadow Grasshoppers chirped from the long grass.

Up to four Arctic Terns had been seen off Hill Head on Wednesday afternoon and so before we set off home we spent 30 minutes picking through the 80 Common Terns that were settled on the shingle islands which were being revealed by the falling tide.

They were distant and the light was harsh and it didn’t help that the tern flock were flushed countless times by dog walkers and people paddling. I’m pretty sure that there weren’t any Arctic Terns amongst them.

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