26 young black-tailed godwits released 11 weeks ago by Project Godwit have been spotted in Norfolk and Essex.
They are expected to leave the UK soon and may soon be seen in southern European countries such as Spain or Portugal on their migration south to Africa.
The birds have distinctive lime green rings with the letter E on their right legs.
“All 26 birds have now dispersed from the Ouse Washes and sightings are starting to come in from the south of England,” says Dr. Baz Hughes, head of conservation action at the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT).
WWT were provided with the godwit eggs by the RSPB, who handed them over to be raised via a technique known as ‘headstarting’.
The technique aims to secure small populations of the godwits in two breeding sites: Ouse and Nene Washes, with the hope that they continue to return to these sites to breed in the future.
These black-tailed godwits will be the first hand-reared individuals of their species to make the transcontinental passage from Norfolk to Africa this winter.
By taking eggs into captivity and headstarting these birds, conservationists are hoping to increase the population, which is near threatened according to the IUCN.
“Young godwits don’t usually return to breed until they are two years old – when they have matured – so we’re going to have to be very patient while we wait for them to come back to the Fens to breed for the first time,” explains RSPB’s Hannah Ward.
Main image: The black-tailed godwits are the first ever bird species to be headstarted in the UK. © Mark Whiffin