Mud Mud

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

This is a Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

I took these photos on the muddy sea shore by the town of Clonakilty in November. The Godwits are winter visitors from Iceland and live up to their Latin name Limosa means mud so they are actually named ‘Mud mud’! Wading amongst the muddy bubbles probing with their long straight and stout beak they like to feast on invertebrates, including bivalves, polychaete worms and shore crabs.

Black-tailed Godwit - Notice the black and white wings and a black tail feathersBlack-tailed Godwit - Notice the black and white wings and a black tail feathersIn their winter plumage they are quite difficult to tell apart from the Bar-tailed Godwit until they fly. The give away is the black and white wings and black tail feathers, hence the name whereas the Bar-tailed Godwit’s tail has grey wing feathers and fine horizontal bars on the tail.

Icelandic or Irish?

The Godwit’s epic journey in Winter from Iceland to Cork got me thinking… Are they Icelandic birds visiting Ireland or are they Irish birds visiting Iceland? Does a bird have a sense of home? Or nationality?

There has been some research to suggest that Blackbirds in Ireland sing longer, so in a sense they have an Irish accent. Perhaps the idea of ‘home’ or ‘nationality’ is something invented by humans? Many birds do have an amazing sense of location journeying thousands of miles to nest in the same place each year.

Although I used to work in the UK every alternate week it didn't take very long to call the place we live in Ireland ‘home’. I guess even our distant ancestors had a sense of belonging and of location. However, not all stayed put, and some lived a nomadic existence to chase the food sources and seasons. Maybe Godwits are Nomads and see Iceland, Ireland and everywhere on Planet Earth as ‘home’?

Black-tailed Godwits travel from Iceland to Ireland in the WinterBlack-tailed Godwits travel from Iceland to Ireland in the Winter


Most of us live a life that completely ignores the seasons. We surround ourselves with artificial light when daylight is shorter, and sleep through hours of daylight in the Summer. Perhaps it’s no wonder we are jaded in the Winter time? Come to think of it, if the Black-tailed Godwit stayed in Iceland during the Winter it would have no daylight at all inside the Arctic Circle. Sometimes I try to imagine being the thing I observe to see if there is anything nature can teach me.

Perhaps I need to try this yogic one-legged balancing ‘Tree’ pose with a single bare foot in the mud. And if I lose balance and put my second foot down I could really be a ‘Mud mud’, a Black-tailed Godwit.

Read about the Godwit's strange bendy beak

Black-tailed Godwit doing the ‘Tree’ poseBlack-tailed Godwit doing the ‘Tree’ pose

Did you know that one of the collective nouns for this bird is a prayer of Godwit?

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