HO7 the Curlew …

I met this individual on my recent travels.

He or she is a Eurasian Curlew, Numenius arquata, and I encountered it in the Odiel Marshes, Huelva, Spain just across the river from where Christopher Columbus set off on his first voyage to the new world.

I say individual for a reason. One Curlew looks a lot like another, if you’re interested in life span or movements of birds from a particular area you need to mark individuals. The common method to do this in the past was with a metal ring. This guy (in the non-gendered sense) has one on the left leg. To read it though one has to catch the bird. The advent of coloured flags has meant that anyone with binoculars or a camera can identify the bird easily in the field.

In recent years a Eurasian Curlew was seen on Eighty Mile Beach in Western Australia. The Australian Wader Study Group are active there, in fact I have banded birds with them there myself. Ever the optimist I entertained the hope that this one might be it.

I reported my sighting through the International Wader Study Group (sightings@waderstudygroup.org) and in the fullness of time received the information that this particular Curlew was banded as a first year bird at Poscien, Mazowieckie, Poland 10 months earlier. It was reported 50 days after banding in Irun on Spain’s north coast where it stayed for at least a month. It was first reported in Huelva on the south coast six months prior to my seeing it. In all seven sightings had been submitted. This is a much more efficient means of following a bird than relying on recapture.

So far in its short life it had flown at least 2,800 km. May it fly many more.