Finding a rare bird is part matter of chance, bigger part making the effort. When Joan Comeau discovered a godwit strutting around Mavillette Marsh, only two answers would have seemed logical, Hudsonian or Marbled. A summer Hudsonian is very distinctive and her bird looked much more like Sibley’s Marbled Godwit, a fair identification. Joan’s photo, posted on the Nova Scotia Bird Society Facebook page soon gather justifiable likes.
Ronnie d’Entremont called me while I was in the garage having the car inspected and away from an Internet connection. He told me about the godwit and flagged that the bird looked odd for a Marbled and so I went home, got Sandra to abandon her house painting, and we set off. The skies were getting greyer as the predicted rain started to patter down. As soon as we arrived at Mavillette we located the godwit, disputing the ownership of a piece of mud with Willets and generally losing. I wanted to see the bird fly and the angry Willet soon granted me my wish. Rapid fire shots showed a barred tail and a V up the back and, armed with the still image on the back of the camera and with the field guide open at godwits, it was clear that the bird was a Bar-tailed.
Although I have seen very many Barwits in the UK, out of context birds do require some serious cross-checking of the features and so that is what we did. Satisfied that no other godwits could show the features we were seeing at any age, we broadcast the news and birders started to arrive. The godwit was settled, except when the Willets were intent on kicking its ass, and great views were had in steadily worsening conditions.
In Nova Scotia, there were less than ten provincial records to 2012 making the godwit a real prize for the gathered birders present. Hopefully the bird will stay, allowing others to enjoy it and we all owe Joan a debt of thanks for getting out there in the field and finding the bird. Given her level of enthusiasm for birding, there will no doubt be many more finds from Joan to come.
Here is a composite of the Willet doing its best ‘get off my sand bar!’