The Godwit gets my vote

PUBLISHED: 11:09 12 May 2006 | UPDATED: 21:51 28 May 2010

We are fortunate to have many special birds in the Fens. Our resident barn owls, and wintering whooper and Bewick s swans are among the stars. The Fens are an important part of the world for these birds. People come from all over the country come to see t

We are fortunate to have many special birds in the Fens. Our resident barn owls, and wintering whooper and Bewick's swans are among the stars.

The Fens are an important part of the world for these birds. People come from all over the country come to see them, scientists come to study them and, of course, we residents love to have them around.

They are all very visible and many people, whether real nature-lovers or not, will be aware of their presence and be familiar with seeing them regularly.

One extra special 'Fenlander' that many people may not be so familiar with is the black-tailed godwit. This superbly named bird is a stately, long-legged, long-billed wader that stands taller than the lapwing and raises its young in wet grassland.

There is no more important place in the whole of the UK for nesting black-tailed godwits than the washlands of the Ouse and Nene. There are only about 60 pairs here and most breed on our washlands. Between them, these strips of flood meadow support at least three-quarters of the total UK population and probably more.

It is only because of the existence of these two sites and the expert management and care taken to protect the godwits (first found nesting on the Ouse Washes about 50 years ago), that these elegant birds maintain their status as a British breeding bird.

In breeding plumage, black-tailed godwits are a brilliant orange-red on the face and breast with neat barring on their flanks and belly. In flight, they show a dazzling stripe across each wing and show their black and white tail. They really are striking birds and once seen, are never forgotten.

Spring is the time to watch their spectacular display flights over their chosen field or 'wash'. They fly with slow, deliberate wingbeats, uttering their haunting, but musical 'whicka-whicka-whicka' calls to proclaim their territory and impress their mate.

I was enjoying this sight only recently and to see these birds displaying (as many as 20 pairs that afternoon), set against the backdrop of the 'big' Fenland sky is really quite something and has been one of the highlights of my year so far.

If there were a bird to be the official emblem of the Fens, then the black-tailed godwit would most definitely be my choice.

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