I had an e-mail this morning with a report of a godwit that had black and white on its tail and was hanging out with Whimbrels at Totem Park yesterday afternoon. I went down to see what it might be, and was able to confirm that it was a Hudsonian Godwit – the second reported here this year (though the first was only seen one afternoon). Prior to the last several years, Hudsonian Godwits seem to have only been reported a handful of times. Webster indicates only a single report from Marge and Tedin in 1999 (when one was seen from 7-11 May), and Marge and Tedin’s records from prior to that indicate only a couple of reports. (The discrepancy is probably because Webster was working from records published in North American Birds rather than Marge and Tedin’s actual records.)
In addition to these records, I’ve heard about an observation from Low Island (I do not know the year), and the’ve also been documented at Totem Park in May of 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. So this leaves me wondering why they have been reported now four years in a row, when in the previous 30 years there had been only four reports from the road system (with five overall). While it’s possible that it’s just a fluke, and Hudsonian Godwits only show up every few years on average, I suspect they actually occur most years in small numbers. For whatever reason, they seem prone to making only brief appearances, with half of the recent occurrences being ones where they were observed for less than a day. Improved coverage and/or communication by local birders in recent years has probably improved our collective chances of catching those brief occurrences, which in the past may have gone unnoticed, or at least unreported. Whatever the case, I think it will be interesting to see if they continue to be found annually in the years to come.