Flitwit the godwit
My name is Flitwit and I am godwit. My story started like the stories of so many other godwits, in a verdant meadow of a cold and damp land called The Netherlands. One day, when I felt the time was right, I started pecking at my eggshell until it broke. And thus I was born. As soon as I opened my eyes I could see my father’s long, orangey bill, and behind it his tender eyes.
My father sheltered me under his wings and covered me with his heat until my down dried up. That day hadn’t yet turned into night and I had already found the strength to hold myself upright on my tiny legs. Soon I left the nest and started looking for food. I ate flies and small spiders, but don’t think I was alone. My father was always around, ready to defend me from danger and keep me safe from the cold and the rain.
I was lucky to grow up in a meadow full of many-coloured flowers, where the flies were plenty and fat. I soon got bigger, much bigger. When I was twelve days old, as I was finishing my lunch, I hear my father screaming: “Flitwit run, fast!” I started running and just had a small glimpse of my father flying over me like an arrow as he shouted “uytu, uytu, uytu” in alarm. The farmer was mowing the hay with a tractor full of blades and I just barely escaped by jumping into a ditch.
I clambered out of the ditch, cold and wet all over, and my father warmed me for a very long time until. It was then that he told me why I didn’t have a mother, or bothers, like most other godwits. My mother died defending our nest from a stout, a greedy little animal with a long snout who loves to eat eggs and chicks. Despite her courage, the stout managed to steal all the other eggs. From then on, me and my father only had each other.
Over the following weeks I continued to grow and became as large as my father. I also learned to fly. By now I knew how to escape the animals that tried to eat me so it was time to start living on my own. Before my father left he taught everything I needed to know to reach the far away land where godwits spend the winter, and where I would see him again.
We godwits winter in Africa, where the weather is warm and the food easy to come by. Our traditions say that the young must travel on their own, without any help from their elders. We follow our instinct and the teachings that our parents pass onto us. One day, as I watched the setting sun, I knew it was time to go. I departed towards the south. My first flight was a short one. I stopped by the shores of a great lake where other godwits fed voraciously on fat worms. We had to bury our bills deeply in the mud to find them, but they were delicious! I spent three days feeding on those worms to regain my strength and then flew southbound once again.
This time I flew the whole night. I finally landed on a small bay near the sea, in a land called France. There were many godwits there, as well as a myriad of smaller birds which also sported long bills and legs like us. Here the worms were salty, they were even tastier. Although the food was nice, I didn’t like that place. My father had taught me that open ground is always safer and this bay was narrow and surrounded by tall sedges and trees. You couldn’t very well see what was going on behind the foliage. As the second day dawned, there was a great commotion among the birds. A falcon suddenly appeared from behind a large bush and flew like a rocket catching an unsuspecting bird with long red legs. Clearly, my father was right!
As soon as I felt strong enough, I left that place. This time I flew a whole day and night and only stopped when I noticed large flocks of godwits sitting in a group of large lakes surrounded my shallow vegetation. I soon learned that I was in southern Spain, the last stop before the long flight that would take me to my final destination, and closer to my father. I found the food was again excellent, and gorged on small reddish larvae until my belly felt like it was about to burst.
I spent some two weeks there, feeding and resting. Some of the older godwits explained the youngsters that the coming flight would be long and strenuous, with no places to stop until we reached our goal. I was anxious to embark on such an adventure, but was also a bit frightened. Would I be able to fly such a long time without stopping? One warm afternoon all the godwits started taking flight. We formed a huge flock in the sky and, after a few twists and turns, got the right bearing and departed.
It was a long, tiresome flight. Over the next three days and nights we crossed the sea and the desert. We flew over mountains that were so high they seemed to scratch the sky and witnessed the magic sunrises over the desert, when the sun paints the infinite sands in bright hues of carmine. We saw oasis, small blue sapphires on the yellow sands of the desert, and sighted the camel trains of the desert people.
Eventually, the desert ended and once again there was the green of the trees and the blue of the lakes and rivers below us. We flew a bit longer, until reaching a vast floodplain by a great river. We were in Guinea-Bissau, where the ground is red, the trees leafy, and the people have dark skins and live in huts with thatched roofs. This was where I hoped to find my father.
Here the godwits formed huge flocks on the rice fields. We ate rice seeds, a type of food that I never found quite as tasty as the fat, salty worms I has tried before. I spent my first days on a field near a large bridge, over which men passed on foot, riding bicycles and driving trucks that were so heavily loaded they looked like mountains on wheels. But I wanted to meet my father and soon looked for other places to stay.
After three weeks hoping between different rice fields, I heard some godwits saying that the largest flocks were merging in the fields near a large city. Rice harvest was just finished in those fields and many seeds had fallen to the ground. It was a true feast. I formed a flock together with a few others and we started flying in the direction where we could see the most people. This way we were sure we would find the great city and the fields that lay beyond.
We soon found the city, a sea of houses, roads and people. These humans are such strange animals. Who would enjoy living like that, locked inside small boxes filled with so many of their kind? The city sent off a foul stench, arising from piles of garbage, smoking fires and diesel engines. It was there that we spotted something that at first looked like just another cloud of smoke. However, this cloud turned out to be a huge flock of godwits landing somewhere to the north of the city.
We flew in the direction of the flock with a joyful heart. We reach the other godwits just as the last of the flock touched the ground. There were thousands among thousands of birds there, but as soon as I landed I found the one I was looking for: my father. We greeted each other merrily in the manner of godwits, in a flutter of small flights, jumps, and calls. When we finally landed to talk, my father looked at me with a deep gaze and finally said: “Welcome to Africa son. I never doubted for a single second that you would make it. Your mother would have been so proud to see you here!”