Godwit post release at WWT Welney © Bob Ellis/WWT
The 25 black-tailed godwits were the first UK chicks to hatch in a technique called ‘headstarting’, having been removed from the nest as eggs and hand-reared by conservationists.
The young godwits, now a few weeks old, have been released by the RSPB and the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT) as part of Project Godwit.
“It has been a nerve-racking day,” said WWT’s Nicola Hiscock, who has overseen the hand-rearing process, “but I’m delighted to say that all the godwits have now taken their first flights in the open air and started to explore.”
The fledglings have all been ringed, which will allow them to be identified in the future, and four of the birds have had radio tags attached to their legs to monitor them in the local area.
Some birds have been fitted with geo-locators which will record their location at regular interviews, and will be retrieved and analysed at a later date.
The godwits are expected to remain in the area until late summer when they will migrate.
It is thought that they will migrate to sub-Saharan Africa, however this is the first time that British breeding black-tailed godwits have been radio tracked and they may migrate to a different area.
Some mainland European populations do not migrate all the way to sub-Saharan Africa, but migrate instead to the Iberian peninsula.
This is the first year of the project, which will run for five years.
The Project Godwit team watching the release © Bob Ellis/WWT
“We are delighted with how well this first year has gone,” said RSPB’s Hannah Ward, who manages Project Godwit.
“This is essentially still the pilot year and we hope to continue to headstart godwit chicks each summer for the next four years.”
Read our previous news story about these black-tailed godwits here
Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine