Report published: Black-tailed Godwit Demographic Project – spring migration of Black-tailed Godwits in Iberia 2017

Jos Hooijmeijer reports:

In January and February 2017, our teams were present again in the Iberian ricefields to look for colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits. And with great success: despite the lower total numbers, we never saw so many birds with colour rings.

More than 3842 resightings were done of 1187 individual birds; and that just of godwits from our own scheme…… That is an incredible 72% of our colour-ringed population that was alive at that time!

Some of you might have received re-sightings from your own scheme during this trip.

Please have a look at the report for an impression of the field work and the situation last winter. We hope to go back again in 2018; it is addictive you know…..

GFN Iberia report 2017.jpg


Amalia is back in Africa – but what happened to his brood?

Jos Hooijmeijer reports on 7 September 2017:

Amalia is back in Africa! He is in Senegal, in the wetlands and rice fields of  the Casamance (see map).  Amalia is a satellite-tagged male Black-tailed Godwit who’s claim-to-fame is that we are now following him for four and half years!

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Amalia in March 2016: he has just arrived in The Netherlands and getting ready for the breeding season. Note the antenna of his solar-powered satellite transmitter. Photo: Ep van Hijum

He is carrying a transmitter since 2013, the longest of all godwits we track. He actually is a superstar in Friesland, The Netherlands, where his arrival each year is awaited and celebrated by the local community and school classes – including a contest to predict his arrival date. Through satellite tracking we are learning a lot about ‘our’ Godwits, and especially multi-years tracks such as from champion Amalia, are extremely valuable.


This year Amalia again spent the breeding season in Friesland, The Netherlands. That was no surprise: he has come back to the breeding grounds in Friesland for five years now.


Amalia in Friesland, The Netherlands on 9 May 2014. Photos: Jos Hooijmeijer

What was a nice development this year is that on 27 May 2017 Jos Hooijmeijer reported that Amalia was seen with very young chicks!. You can read about it here. He apparently found a mate and together they hatched a brood.

What happened to the precious brood Amalia was guiding in May?

Based on Jos’ visit in May we estimated that the laying date has been around 25 April . That is quite early and probably this was his first clutch in 2017. Jos again visited the breeding site of Amalia in Friesland on 9 June 2017, when the chicks would be about 20 days old.

Jos found Amalia only a few hundred meters from where he saw Amalia and his family on 27 May. Amalia’s mate was leading two or three chicks through a pasture grazed by horses and Amalia was sitting on a pole, a good lookout to watch over them.

The chicks were not captured and ringed, so we cannot say with 100% certainty whether they fledged or not. However, if indeed on June 9th there were two or three chicks that survived for 20 days, there is a fair chance that at least one will have survived for 25 days, to the age of fledging.

Amalia sites 2017One of the last observations of Amalia in The Netherlands was on 15 July 2017. That day he was seen by Jelle Loonstra near the town of Jeth, in a group of nine adults and 12 recently fledged juvenile birds. Maybe one of more of these fledglings were his own chicks!

The next day, Amalia was still in Jeth, but he left soon after because on the 18th he had arrived in SE  England, in the estuary of the River Alde (NW of Ipswich). The same day he flew back to the mainland, to the Hoge Plaeten in de Westerschelde bij Breskens (The Netherlands).

From Breskens, he started his southward migration. On 20 July, he was in the vast “marais” wetlands south of Rochefort in Charente Maritime (France), a well-known stopover for Black-tailed Godwits, especially in spring. There he stayed until the end of July or early August (he was 10 days of the radar), to fly to the Casamance in southern Senegal where he arrives on August 12, as in previous years. He is not only faithful to his Friesian breeding area but also to his Senegalese wintering area.

Amalia in Senegal11-9-2017
Amalia is his wintering area in Casamance in southern Senegal, where he arrives on August 12, as in previous years.




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!