We now have 48 chicks in the headstarting facilities at WWT Welney. The chicks started hatching towards the end of May and are doing well. The chicks spend the first week of their lives inside a specially adapted portacabin at WWT Welney. Once they are old enough they are then moved into rearing aviaries situated within the grassland at Welney. This outside space gives the chicks the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of their new wetland environment, whilst still under the protective care of the aviculture team. Our oldest chicks have recently had their colour rings fitted. Each chick is given a unique combination of colour rings so that we can follow their progress after they have been released. A sample of birds are also fitted with a geolocator, a tiny lightweight tracking device which is being used to follow their migration route. In a few days’ time the chicks will be given a health check before being moved to the release aviary. Our aim is to release the chicks when they are approximately 30 days old, which is the age at which godwit chicks would naturally fledge in the wild.
Mixed fortunes for wild nesting godwits
It has been a season of mixed fortunes for the godwits breeding at the project sites. Denver and Purl, both released in 2017 attempted to nest, but in an unexpected event their nest was disturbed by a goose and the pair subsequently abandoned the nest. These birds are still quite young for black-tailed godwits so they may still be learning the ropes. Anouk and Delph, another pair headstarted in 2017, successfully hatched their nest and we will be monitoring the pair closely to see if their chicks fledge. We have been monitoring the nests of black-tailed godwits at our project sites so that we can understand the cause if a nest fails. To date several nests have successfully hatched although we have lost some nests to predation and some nests to flooding. Because black-tailed godwits nest on the ground they can be particularly vulnerable. The team are now monitoring the godwit families so that we can identify how many chicks from the hatched nests go on to successfully fledge. Monitoring the godwit families in knee high vegetation is easier said than done, but the chicks are colour ringed so that we can identify them in the field – if we can see them!
Inspiring the next generation
We have been visiting schools close to the project sites to deliver tailored sessions about black-tailed godwits and their fenland habitats. We have been blown away by the enthusiasm shown by the children about their local environment and the special wildlife that it supports. We are delighted to welcome several new schools to our Godwit Guardian scheme including Millfield Primary School, Hillcrest Primary School, Townley School and Pre-school, Hilgay Riverside Academy and Ten Mile Bank Riverside Academy. Becoming a Godwit Guardian is a fun (and free) way that schools and community groups can get involved in Project Godwit by linking to one of our headstarted godwits whose progress you can follow. To find out more please visit our website here.