Project Godwit

Project Godwit is a partnership between RSPB and WWT with major funding from the EU LIFE Nature Programme, HSBC, Natural England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project aims to secure the future of black-tailed godwits in the UK.

 

Our objectives

  • To increase the productivity of black-tailed godwits at the Nene and Ouse Washes so that the population can begin to recover.
  • To maintain and enhance black-tailed godwit wet grassland habitat at the Nene and Ouse washes, providing the right conditions for the species to thrive.
  • To improve our understanding of the local and migratory movements of black-tailed godwits breeding in the project area, using colour ringing and tracking.
  • To supplement the Ouse Washes black-tailed godwit population through the trialling of a rear-and-release programme, helping to re-establish the birds at sites adjacent to the Ouse Washes.
  • To increase support among local communities for the long-term conservation of black-tailed godwits.
  • To develop a UK-wide recovery plan for black-tailed godwits, working with international flyway initiatives.

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.

Tracking

Ouse-Washes-2-RSPB-rspb-images.com_

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 rspb-images.com

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.

Action

Habitat management

Ouse-Washes-2-Andy-Hay-rspb-images.com_

We’re taking steps to enhance the habitat for black-tailed godwits and other waders at the project sites. Black-tailed godwits need moist soils to probe for invertebrates, vegetation of the right structure to build their nests and areas of taller vegetation where chicks can safely forage. We’re increasing the number of wet features (such as scrapes) at the Nene and Ouse Washes. These features help the fields to maintain their wetness throughout the breeding season and provide areas for birds to feed. We’re also taking steps to limit the impact of predation on the breeding success of black-tailed godwits.

Headstarting

DavidMorris

We're bolstering the breeding population in the Fens and helping to re-populate the Ouse Washes by giving godwits a helping hand during the particularly vulnerable incubation and rearing phases. Breeding black-tailed godwits produce four eggs each year, but even in a good year, not all of these will survive to fledge (life isn’t easy for a young wader). Using artificial incubation and protecting the chicks during the rearing period, we can fledge three to four chicks from each nest. These birds are released onto carefully chosen sites with good breeding habitat. If all goes to plan, a proportion of these birds will return to these sites to breed, and the Ouse Washes population will begin to recover.

Engagement

Black-Tailed-Godwit-Cambridgeshire-Chris-Gomersall-rspb-images.com_

We want to raise awareness about black-tailed godwits, their conservation and the amazing wetland habitats they call home. We’ll be setting up a local schools programme, as well as running a number of events for interested members of the local community. If you’d like to find out more about how you or your local group can get involved in the project, please get in touch.