Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Bar-tailed Godwit

(1) Bar-tailed Godwit
(1) Bar-tailed Godwit
(2) Bar-tailed Godwit
(2) Bar-tailed Godwit
(3) Bar-tailed Godwit
(3) Bar-tailed Godwit


The Bar-tailed Godwit.
On 28th of April this year, on my way back from a walk to Ardmaleish, I came across a wader on the shore, just at where the burn from Kames Castle meets the shore.

This bird was on its summer plumage, hoping to meet with its partner from previous years, or perhaps a different one. The difference between winter and summer is amazing. In winter they are in their weekly attire, but in the spring they are wearing their Sunday best, a head to tail in chestnut brown with streaking effect on their back, and darker wings.
I often wondered why it is some birds stay the same all the year round, yet others do not. Then again it is nice to look good.
They arrive on Bute in numbers for the winter of around fourteen plus at Kilchattan Bay, and also Ettrick Bay, and perhaps other bays as well. This is the time that you are most likely to see them. Long black legs standing high above other waders. Head, buff and brown. Upperparts, buffy grey streaked black. Rump white. Tail barred black, short and square. Breast, buff. Bill, dark with pink base; very long and thin, upturned... A plain looking bird, but never- the-less they brush up well.

They nest on tundra and bogs in the extreme north. (Not Scotland) and have a nest of a lined hollow on ground. They have up to 4; olive, blotched brown eggs, and is incubated with both sexes, which hatch out in about 20-21 days.
It was a first for me finding one in summer plumage, and I hope to see more of them.

I suppose some birds are the same as humans. Take for instance. When we were very young and going somewhere special, like church, party, holidays we would wear our ‘Sunday Clothes’, so as to look smart, and later on in our teens, we would when going to a dance, we would be ‘Dressed to Kill’, and when we met the girl of our dreams, we would say that she was ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’. Why link being smart in two of these instances with death?

Well, it is well documented in the bird world that it’s not only the fancy colours of the male’s wings etc., but their song and most importantly the aerobics that they may perform, and prowess at building nest in some cases that will get them a partner... The poor males have a hard time of it, yet look at the some of the females, drab colours. Plain Jane’s and they still play hard to get.
Back to the wader.
They arrive on our shores and can amount to as much as 58,000 in our winter, and that is from a book printed in 1992, and says that this species are never seen on Bute, and most of Scotland, only to be seen at Farne Island up to Firth of Forth and Tayside, and also at the Moray Firth at Inverness. So it is time that I got an up to date book, then why bother. I know that they are here every winter, and now one in the spring, which will do me fine, so I will keep my eyes open for more of the same next spring.

Norrie Mulholland

First Published in the Buteman. 09-08-2013.




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