[Tweeters] Bar-tailed Godwits at Westport

Dennis Paulson dennispaulson at comcast.net
Fri Sep 10 18:16:17 PDT 2021

Thursday morning (9 Sep) Netta Smith and I spent much time with the Marbled Godwit flock in the Westport Marina, a great experience. We easily found two Bar-tailed Godwits and a Willet in the flock and watched and photographed them for some time. Yesterday afternoon we watched flocks of godwits murmurating over the marina and out into the harbor just as I have seen Dunlins and starlings doing for years and years. Flocks of well over 100 birds wheeled in spectacular patterns in the air, high in the sky and then down almost to water level. They flew back and forth for easily over a half hour, finally disappearing to the east of the marina. Of course we got dozens of photos of this.

This morning (10 Sep) Kim Stark joined us at the marina, and again we readily found the two Bar-tailed Godwits and Willet. As people are still reporting a juvenile in eBird reports, I want to emphasize that the two godwits that we saw are both adults, one seemingly in quite worn full basic plumage and the other similar but with traces of orange alternate plumage on the underparts. We saw no juveniles after lengthy scrutiny, and photos from a week earlier showed what were presumably the same two adults. So I wonder if any of the recent reports of juveniles have been photographically documented.

I think it is always good to record the age of rare shorebirds in autumn, just so we can continue to learn about their migration through our region.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the two Bar-tailed spent the winter at Westport along with the Marbled, as they winter at this latitude in Europe. The east Asian and Alaskan subspecies don't normally winter this far north, but birds on the wrong continent are already behaving unusually, and they may prefer to stay with their Marbled cousins rather than setting off by themselves, as I suspect the juvenile did.

Dennis Paulson

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