Boomerang Billy flies back for the eighth year running

RIVER STOUR: When summer draws to an end and our migrant birds prepare to head off to their wintering grounds, bird spotters are often left wondering if they will see them again.

But one plucky bird – a black-tailed godwit – is sure to grace our waters once more next year.

Nicknamed Billy the Boomerang by wardens on the River Stour the local legend has just returned to the Suffolk river for his eighth year running.

Mark Nowers, RSPB warden at the Stour estuary, said: “Billy is quite a local character these days.

“We’ve got used to seeing him leave here around the middle of April and head north to his Icelandic breeding grounds.

“At the beginning of August, we keep an eye out for him returning and this morning; there he was busy feeding amongst a flock of 300 other birds, just metres from the roadside.”

Billy is one of 1,500 black-tailed godwits who travel to the estuary, covering more than 1,000 miles from his native Iceland each year.

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Mr Nowers added: “He is just one of around 1,500 black-tailed godwits that will assemble on the estuary and picking him out from the crowd can sometimes be quite tricky.

“We look out for his colour ring – a kind of badge we use to tell one bird from another.

“The godwits are easy to see on a rising tide from the roadside at Mistley Walls, but to get the best from a visit, the RSPB run free events where people can come along and take a look through telescopes to get a really close view.”

Scientists from across Western Europe have colour-ringed around three per cent of the Icelandic black-tailed godwit population and there are more than 8,000 sightings on file of colour-ringed birds.

The information gathered from the sightings provides scientists with valuable information helping them gain a greater understanding of what influences the population size of a migratory bird species like the black-tailed godwit.

n Have you seen any unusual birds in the area? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk