The Hudsonian Godwit

It’s funny how a long lifetime quest can start from nothing more than a short note.

Years ago, in the margins of one of my Grandmother’s bird guides, I found a handwritten note next to the description of the Hudsonian Godwit. The note simply said:

Seen at Randolph on Kennebec R. 8/24/58


The book, a 1943 edition of the Roger Tory Peterson classic was given to her by my Mom sometime long before I was around.

The note made me hope that someday I’d find this bird. Hudsonian Godwits are not common or easy to find. As the years passed, I never forgot this bird, but they never seemed to be anywhere close to where I was.

Finally this past Thursday I saw eBird reports of a Hudsonian Godwit at Lewisville Lake Park in Dallas, Texas. I happened to be there on business. That evening I went over to the lake and walked along the shore until I noticed an assortment of gulls and shorebirds down at the end of this point:

Looking through my binoculars I spotted a bird with a slightly upturned beak – a reliable field mark of Godwits. Could it be? I began taking pictures of the group and moving closer, expecting them to fly off at any moment.

I moved slowly and inched closer and closer. Yes, it was a Hudsonian Godwit!

Just one, but an amazing find.

At one point another person approached and the group flushed. The Godwit went only a short distance, and when it landed, I was able to get a blurry shot of its characteristic black and white tail.

For the next hour, the Godwit, surrounded by an assortment of Willets, Phalaropes, and other birds, moved methodically back and forth along the west side of the point. I sat on a short fence post and took pictures.  Sometimes I put the camera down and just watched, taking in the moment.

Godwits (and some other sandpipers) have a beak that is flexible near the tip. Perfect for grabbing wiggly meals from deep in the mud or sand. One of my photos happened to catch a great view of its flexible beak in action.

It was cloudy when I first arrived but just before sunset, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds, casting a perfect golden light for a few final pictures:

You can learn more at the Hudsonian Godwit page at allaboutbirds.org.

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