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Nature / Hudson Bay bird visits isles for the first time

A HUDSONIAN godwit was spotted at Grutness over the weekend – it is the species’ first ever sighting in Shetland.

The shorebird is part of the sandpiper family and they usually breed in Canada and Alaska, along the shores of Hudson Bay.

They begin migrating to South America in July.

According to local wildlife guide Hugh Harrop, it is the first time the species has been spotted in Shetland, its third appearance in Scotland and fifth in the UK overall.

“The bird breeds in North America, where it’s pretty restrictive,” Harrop told Shetland News. “It’s the fifth British record, the first one was 1981.

“That was the first in Yorkshire and that bird then moved to Devon, where I actually saw it as a 12-year-old boy with my late uncle.

“It was seen again in Yorkshire in 1983… there were a few other records including one as recently as 2020 in Scotland.”

This particular bird was spotted by Larry Dalziel on Sunday morning at Grutness.

“[Dalziel] posted pictures on the internet and people realised then that it was a Hudsonian godwit,” said Harrop.

“Everybody then descended on to Grutness and it just gave amazing views.

“Rare birds are typically associated in Shetland with spring and autumn and it just goes to show that anything can, and does, turn up here.”

He described July as an “amazing” month for rare birds, as a Pacific swift also appeared earlier.

“Like most American vagrants, they do turn up in the autumn in Europe and then it’s probably then continued its northern migration, albeit in the wrong continent and now it’s continuing its southern migration,” he explained.

“Some birds do get back on course with regards to direction but not necessarily location.”

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