Monitoring and science

Historically, black-tailed godwit numbers declined in the UK as a result of land drainage and habitat loss. The population of godwits in the fens today is small and vulnerable, and appears to be limited by poor breeding success.

We’re undertaking research at the Nene Washes to understand what is driving the productivity of black-tailed godwits at this important site.

Nest monitoring

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) mother with chicks at nest, Waterland, Netherlands

Nests are monitored throughout the breeding season by experienced fieldworkers. All located nests are fitted with a small temperature logger which tells us when the eggs are being incubated and can be retrieved once the nest is no longer in use.  We also use nest cameras so that in the event that a nest is lost, we can identify the cause.

Chick monitoring

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) day-old chick, Waterland, Netherlands

We are fitting chicks with colour rings so that we can follow their progress and estimate brood survival. We also want to understand the role and impact of predation on black-tailed godwits at the Nene Washes. In order to do this we are monitoring the presence of mammals using trail cameras and ink tunnels during the godwit breeding season.



We’re fitting tiny tracking devices to the black-tailed godwits in order to find out more about their movements in the non-breeding season. Small geolocators, weighing 1g, are attached to colour rings which are carefully fitted to the godwits legs. The geolocators record light levels which can be used to determine latitude and longitude: essentially providing a location of the individual bird’s whereabouts at a snapshot in time.

Colour ringing

Colour rings Andy Hay

We have been colour ringing black-tailed godwits at the Nene and Ouse Washes to help us understand more about the bird’s movements in the breeding and non-breeding season. Godwits are known to undertake long and often complex migratory journeys, and the marking of individual birds provides valuable information about the remarkable journeys these birds undertake.