Hudsonian Godwit: May 8th 1998, Asan Bay
Nial Moores

Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica

One breeding plumaged adult, Asan Bay, Gyeonggi Province, May 8th 1998. Record already published in Moores (1999).

While conducting a yearlong nationwide shorebird survey, Nial Moores spent several hours before and at high tide counting a very large flock of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa melanuroides coming in to Asan Bay, on a roost island several hundred meters offshore. Counting individual birds through a tripod-mounted Nikon telescope (with 25-40x zoom and 60x fixed lens) in good light, several small groups of godwits were watched flighting in from other parts of the estuary or from adjacent rice-fields. One group of about 8 birds contained a striking individual, showing (1) most obviously clearly blackish and pale underwings, with (2) a contrastingly white wingbar on the upperwing. The bird was watched only very briefly (a matter of seconds) as it dropped into the main flock (consisting of over 18 000 Black-tailed Godwits!), then raised its wings, walked a few steps, and settled into roost, when additional features, such as (3) dark reddish looking underparts contrasting with a plainer grey head were noted. These features are all diagnostic of Hudsonian Godwit, a species that Nial Moores has only seen once before, in England in April 1983.

Highly distinctive in flight, as soon as the bird settled properly it became part of the massive grounded flock and impossible to pick out.

Although apparently unrecorded in Asia, the species has been claimed several times in Australia in recent years (C.Minton in lit.), with three Australian records listed in The Handbook of Australia, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (Marchant and Higgins. RAOU. 1990) and two seen subsequently (D.Rogers in lit.). Several individuals have passed the austral summer in with flocks of either Bar-tailed Limosa lapponica or Black-tailed Godwits, with the most recent Australian record in Adelaide in April 2002, with both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits (D.Rogers in lit,). In New Zealand, Hayman, Marchant and Prater (1986) consider it to be "almost regular in tiny numbers", with between 2 and 9 records annually in recent years (D.Rogers in lit.).

It is interesting to note that many Bar-tailed Godwits are suspected of migrating direct from eastern Siberia and Alaska (where some Hudsonian Godwits breed: e.g. Hayman, Marchant and Prater, 1986) to New Zealand in the autumn, with the same populations then migrating back northward through northern Australia into eastern Asia and again across into Alaska. It is possible that after being displaced during autumn migration, the Asan Bay individual migrated south towards Australasia for the boreal winter, before migrating back north with other godwits (a vagrancy pattern similar to that shown by many other shorebirds and presumably by the vagrant Hudsonian Godwit in Britain in the 1980s). It is likely, considering that a significant percentage of the East Asian-Australasian flyway’s Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits stage in the Yellow Sea, that the Hudsonian Godwit is rather more regular in East Asia and even Korea than this single record suggests.