This week I learned a bit about the black-tailed godwit (and through writing this the English term for what I call a ‘grutto’). Apparently there is a Dutch professor up north, Theunis Piersma, working on very cool research involving birds. He studies how the distribution and numbers of waders correlate to climate, food, predators, pathogens and their historical-genetic background. More recently he focuses on black-tailed godwits and their migration patterns. With tiny transmitters he and his research group are now capable of tracking these birds over time.

One thing they learned is that a lot of these birds reside in Portugal during the winter. These birds are very picky, because it’s an area they grow rice for baby food. That means no use of pesticides. Smart birds. The problem they are facing right now is that Portugal is contemplating relocating Lisbon’s airport. Guess what? The planes will fly right over this area. The researchers started a petition to make local authorities aware of this and reconsider the relocation of the airport.

The most exciting part of Piersma’s research is that you can follow the birds online. This is how I learned of Estevao, who was hanging out in my neighbourhood the past few days. Somehow I find it very comforting to know this bird is travelling through my country. It means spring is around the corner.

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