A black-tailed godwit released into the wild in the Fens after being hand-reared has returned home from its winter migration, wildlife experts have said.
The bird is one of 26 raised at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Welney Wetland Centre, Cambridgeshire, and released into the wild last summer, from where they migrated as far as Portugal for the winter.
Their release was part of the Project Godwit efforts by the charities to increase the small, vulnerable breeding population of black-tailed godwits in the UK.
Conservationists said the sighting was a “wonderful and welcome surprise”, as the birds were not necessarily expected to return home from their wintering grounds this year.
The wading birds were hatched in captivity and hand-reared by wildlife experts from the RSPB and WWT away from dangers such as predators, in a process known as “headstarting” which aims to improve survival chances and boost numbers.
The male is the first of the group to return to the Fens and has been named Delph after the river bank where he was sighted.
Project Godwit expert at WWT Louise Clewley, who made the discovery, said: “It was right in front of WWT Welney’s main observatory for everyone to see.
“Migration is fraught with danger and the successful return of the first of our UK hand-reared batch gives us hope for the future of these birds.”
Hannah Ward, RSPB Project Godwit manager, said: “We weren’t necessarily expecting any of the hand-reared birds to return this summer so this is a wonderful and welcome surprise.
“We may have to wait until next summer before this young bird breeds but this is a fantastic moment for the Project Godwit team and great news for this magnificent but threatened species.”
– Project Godwit is a partnership between RSPB and WWT with major funding from the EU LIFE Nature Programme, HSBC’s 150th Anniversary Fund, Natural England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, through the Back from the Brink programme.