There had been no change to the Black-tailed Godwit numbers in the Reykjavik area overnight so we travelled south again in the hope (and expectation) that we would meet up with new arrivals. Surely some birds must have taken advantage of brisk south-easterly winds to make their way from the British Isles and coastal Europe?
As we neared the coast we started to see wisps of Snipe; small flocks of up to a dozen wading birds circling over the marshes. These birds had not been here yesterday – and there were more geese, swans and ducks too, including a couple of Pintail. Initially we could only see four Black-tailed Godwits but over the next hour the number grew to 170, as birds came in off the sea and started feeding enthusiastically around a marshy pool, searching for their first worms for perhaps 48 hours.
Despite their obvious hunger, the birds were restless; taking to the air and circling the pool quite frequently. Eyrarbakki is not a Godwit hot-spot and there seemed to be competing urges within the flock from birds that wanted to rest and others to move on.
Black-tailed Godwits, with their russet-red plumage and elegant appearance, are attractive birds in breeding plumage, but the addition of some plastic rings makes them even more interesting – at least to us. It was not easy to see the legs of the birds, as they fed belly-deep in water or between tussocks, but Jen soon picked out a bird wearing four colour rings, two on each leg, in a unique permutation that told us that this was a bird that had been ringed in Lincolnshire in August 1998. Many birdwatchers have spotted her over the years; she is usually in East Anglia for the autumn and probably winters in France. Last year we first saw her in Iceland on 15 April; she is always an early bird. The flock contained one other bird with rings, a male that breeds near Reykjavik. We should expect to see him back on his own estuary by tomorrow.