This is the east-west solar panel alignment proposed by the developers for Graveney Marshes. As we celebrate World Migratory Bird Day today we ask how on earth will the 390 species of wildlife that inhabit Graveney Marshes be able to live with a vast lid of solar panels covering their homes?
One of the precious migratory birds that visits Graveney Marshes is the Black-tailed Godwit, a rare breeding bird in the UK that has suffered from dramatic declines. It can most easily be spotted around the coast in winter and at inland wetlands when on migration.
Black-tailed Godwits are beautiful, large, wading birds. In the summer, they have bright orange-brown chests and bellies, but in winter they’re more grey-brown. Their most distinctive features are their long beaks and legs, and the black and white stripes on their wings. Smaller than a Curlew and bigger than the noisy Redshank, in spring, black-tailed godwits feed largely in grasslands, moving to muddy estuaries after breeding and for the winter. The UK is home to a small breeding population of Black-tailed Godwits – around 60 pairs. Because of their vulnerable population, these large wading birds are red-listed in the UK and possess Near Threatened status globally, meaning they are likely to be threatened with extinction in the near future; so it’s vital that we do all we can to safeguard them where they breed in England.
THEY GET ABOUT
Godwits migrate in flocks to western Europe, Africa, south Asia and Australia. Although the species is seen in Ireland and Great Britain all year-round, they are not the same birds. The breeding birds depart in autumn, but are replaced in winter by the larger Icelandic race Godwits from the Icelandic population. They do winter mainly in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and the Netherlands, though some fly on to Spain and Portugal.
BIRDY NERDY CORNER
Black-tailed godwits are mostly monogamous monogamous pairing up for a life of sometimes over 20 years although this was not recorded in a four-year study of 50–60 pairs, where bigamy was considered “probably frequent”. A study of the Icelandic population showed that despite spending winter apart, pairs are reunited on their breeding grounds within an average of three days of each other. If one partner does not arrive on time, ‘divorce’ occurs!
In England, black-tailed godwits were formerly much prized for the table.
Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) said: “[Godwits] were accounted the daintiest dish in England and I think, for the bignesse, of the biggest price.” Old names included Blackwit, Whelp, Yarwhelp, Shrieker, Barker and Jadreka Snipe.
NOT to be confused with the Bar Tailled Godwit!
Nature Back From the Brink – saving Britain’s most endangered species from extinction
The WildLife Trusts