Amalia has chicks!

Jos Hooijmeijer reports on 27 May 2017:

After 4 years without breeding success, there seems to be a chance that Amalia will successfully raise young. Amalia is the most famous Black-tailed Godwit in Friesland, or even The Netherlands. In 2013, he was issued a satellite transmitter in the town of Amalia in Spain, and since then we have known his whereabouts from day-to-day (see Follow the Godwits). He probably has been breeding his entire life on the same field on the farm of the Stremler family at the Froonackerdyk in the town of Easterlittens.

This afternoon I again visited the farm and as usual I asked the farmer for permission to look for Amalia. Of course permission was granted, the farmer and his family know I show up every year. When I walked into the field it was fairly quiet; only a single pair of godwits was chasing a crow and approached me, loudly alarming. Unfortunately neither of  the birds had a visible antenna, so they certainly did not carry a satellite transmitter. I walked through the high grass with patches of flowering Meadow Buttercups Ranunculus acris and a some late Cuckoo Flowers Cardamine pratensis. I even saw a Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus, a sign that the management of this field has no negative effects on butterflies and other insects as in many other places.

At the far end of the field, suddenly three pairs of godwits emerged from the high grass and one of them was Amalia! The transmitter on his back was still in place and the bird looked great. Looking at the colour rings on his legs I could confirm  that this really was Amalia. With the typical fluttering flight of godwits guiding broods he indicated, with hanging legs, where approximately his chicks would be hiding. But I did not get to see them. The grass was high and probably the chicks were still very small.

This encouraging observation is no guarantee that Amalia will end this breeding season with a successfully raised brood. The naked numbers show that only one out of 20 chicks will fledge and survive the difficulties of their first year of life. Mowing machines, the lack of insects and a wide range of predators make life a challenge for chicks growing up in farmland. Fortunately, the breeding site of Amalia has not been mowed yet , and in the immediate vicinity of this field there is still a lot of non-mowed land, and fields with grazing live stock. Will Amalia and his partner succeed? After a day or ten we look again!


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