Working with Wildlife: Protecting Beach Nesting Birds In New Jersey

Written by Christopher Haxter, Seasonal Steward/Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to work with nature and wildlife.?? As I grew up I learned many species were in trouble and needed our help.?? Imagine my excitement when I got a job working for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.?? I was hired to manage Hereford Inlet for the summer, between Stone Harbor and North Wildwood.?? This hasn???t been my first experience working with wildlife, last summer I did an internship at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor.?? The focus was on Red Knots and Horseshoe Crabs; I got to be right out on the beach with them.


Piping Plover returning to its nest. ?? Christopher Haxter.

My first day on the job was the day after my last college final (I just graduated from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey).?? After I met the people I would be working with for the next few months we were off to set up a predator enclosure.?? This is when I first got to observe a Piping Plover up close.?? To put up a predator enclosure, we needed to cover the nest while we set up the fencing.?? The Piping Plover spent this time trying to draw us away from its nest; their defensive behavior is fascinating. The first thing you notice is the ???peep???, their call to distract you from the nest.?? When you get closer to the nest, the Piping Plover starts exhibiting a behavior called ???broken wing???.?? The goal is to look injured to further distract a predator from their nest.?? Ironically, looking for this behavior is one of the ways we use to find the nests.?? After working this job for a few weeks, I have had the exciting experience of finding a nest quite a few times (including finding oyster catcher nests).

Before the end of my first day I also got to see Stone Harbor Point, the location that I would be focusing on.?? This area is different every year, and this year it is quite large.?? After enough exploring and assembling an accurate map I eventually learned the area well.?? One area of concern I have for the future of the beach nesting birds in Stone Harbor Point is its history of flooding.?? Hopefully the weather and tides will cooperate this summer.?? This job has been an amazing experience so far; and when the eggs start hatching, I can only imagine things getting more exciting.

Learn more…

Scientists Work to Protect Shorebirds from Gulf Coast Oil Spill (USA)

Posted by Meredith Gutowski, Conservation Specialist, Manomet

This article is also available in a different online format via PRWeb.


Plymouth, MA (PRWeb) 25 May 2010 ??? Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences??? Shorebird Recovery Project (SRP) team has been working with partners in the northern Gulf of Mexico for the past several weeks to protect important shorebird areas from the Deepwater Horizon off-shore oil spill. The oil, spewing for a month now, is a serious threat to high-priority migratory shorebird species currently nesting and raising chicks around the Gulf Coast. Of greatest conservation concern are the beach-nesting American Oystercatcher, Wilson???s Plover, and Snowy Plover.


“These shorebird species???s populations are already in decline from ongoing coastal habitat loss, disturbance from human activities, and climate-change effects,??? said Dr. Charles Duncan, Director of the SRP. ???An oil spill of this magnitude in an area as important as the Gulf could have significant long-term impacts on these vulnerable species, which need coastal habitats to survive.???

Dr. Duncan also directs Manomet???s Executive Office of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN), a longstanding initiative within the SRP. Under this office???s leadership, international shorebird experts have authored science-based Species Conservation Action Plans for the most at-risk species identified in the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan. Each action plan lists the most important known breeding, migration, and wintering sites for a species. Manomet???s Meredith Gutowski, WHSRN Conservation Specialist, and Lisa Schibley, SRP Database Specialist, have mapped these sites using Google Earth, creating an interactive, multi-layer conservation tool. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, they began overlaying this with oil-spill trajectory maps to quickly identify sites and species potentially in harm???s way.

???We???ve been sharing our map and other technical resources with federal, state, and local partners in the Gulf region to help expedite the protection of high-priority shorebirds and habitats,??? said Gutowski. ???It???s a tragic and unexpected use of this tool, but a meaningful one.??? The map also is in Manomet???s Newsroom.


“The spill could not have happened at a worse time???the breeding season.These birds will be nesting and raising??chicks along the Gulf Coast for the next 3 months.???


In a related effort, Manomet???s Dr. Stephen Brown, Director of Shorebird Science, and Stephanie Schmidt, Data Coordinator, have been compiling and sharing International Shorebird Survey (ISS) data with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and other partners to determine the numbers of all shorebirds using Gulf Coast sites pre-spill. The ISS is a citizen-science monitoring program that Manomet began in 1972. ???Understanding shorebirds??? use prior to the impact enables wildlife management agencies to better gauge the potential scope of damage and prepare accordingly,??? explained Dr. Brown. ???The ISS data may also support mitigation measures needed for spill-related wildlife loss.”

According to Manomet???s Shiloh Schulte, American Oystercatcher Recovery Coordinator and coauthor of WHSRN???s conservation action plan for this species, ???Oystercatchers are particularly vulnerable to contamination from this spill because they live exclusively along shorelines, are short-distance migrants, and forage on oysters, clams, and other bivalves in the water.??? Oil has reached Louisiana???s Chandeleur Islands, where American Oystercatchers are currently nesting and raising chicks. Other important oystercatcher nesting areas include Florida???s Cedar Key region and the Texas Gulf coast, both still at risk. ???Northwest Florida also supports more than 1,000 oystercatchers in the winter???that???s up to 15% of the total U.S. population,??? noted Schulte.

In the early to mid 2000s, scientist Margo Zdravkovic led the??first comprehensive surveys of beach-nesting birds along the Gulf Coast on behalf of the Coastal Bird Conservation program (CBC), then part of National Audubon Society. These surveys revealed that??70% of the total U.S. population of the Wilson???s Plover, a high-priority migratory shorebird species, occurs in the Gulf region; more than 26% of the U.S. total occurs in coastal Louisiana.

Ms. Zdravkovic, Director of Conservian (the nonprofit organization now managing the CBC) and author of WHSRN???s conservation action plan for the Wilson???s Plover [in progress], was scheduled to begin the second round of surveys this May when the spill occurred. “The spill could not have happened at a worse time???the breeding season,??? said Zdravkovic. ???These birds will be nesting and raising??chicks along the Gulf Coast for the next 3 months.???

The CBC crew has been tirelessly collecting current beach-nesting data??from Florida to Louisiana to aid pre- and post-impact assessments. These targeted data complement those from Manomet???s broad, multi-year ISS dataset. The CBC is also monitoring, and helping to prevent or minimize, damage to nests and chicks from??on-shore boom placement, beach clean ups, and other well-intentioned efforts. July 2010 through February 2011, CBC will also be surveying and monitoring post-breeding shorebirds in south coastal Texas.

The Snowy Plover is a high-priority migratory shorebird species whose Pacific Coast subspecies, the Western Snowy Plover, is already federally listed as Endangered. Approximately 63% of the plover pairs currently nesting on Gulf Coast beaches are along a 60-mile stretch of southernmost Texas. ???Our surveys indicate that some Snowy Plovers remain in the Gulf region year-round,??? noted Bill Howe, Nongame Coordinator for the USFWS Southwest Region???s Migratory Bird Office and coauthor of WHSRN???s conservation action plan for the Snowy Plover [in progress].

The Gulf Coast oil spill will be a conservation concern throughout the summer and fall. At that time, many shorebird species will be either returning to the Gulf region for the winter or stopping there to rest and refuel before migrating hundreds or thousands of miles more to wintering sites further south. Dr. Duncan affirmed that Manomet???s SRP team will continue sharing its technical resources and expertise with partners to help protect or recover migratory shorebirds hemisphere-wide from the impacts of this spill.

About Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences: One of the nation???s oldest nonprofit environmental research organizations, Manomet is dedicated to conserving natural resources for humans and wildlife. Through science and public engagement, Manomet works to integrate social, economic, and environmental values into enduring, sustainable systems that will support the needs of present and future generations. Manomet???s headquarters are in Plymouth, Massachusetts (USA), with offices in Maine, Vermont, Mexico, and Chile.


An important new book on shorebirds: Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Management by Mark A. Colwell

Written by Heather Vaughan/University of California Press

Shorebirds are model organisms for illustrating the principles of ecology and excellent subjects for research. Their mating systems are as diverse as any avian group, their migrations push the limits of endurance, and their foraging is easily studied in the open habitats of estuaries and freshwater wetlands. This comprehensive text explores the ecology, conservation, and management of these fascinating birds. Beginning chapters examine phylogenetic relationships between shorebirds and other birds, and cover shorebird morphology, anatomy, and physiology. A section on breeding biology looks in detail at their reproductive biology. Because shorebirds spend much of their time away from breeding areas, a substantial section on non-breeding biology covers migration, foraging ecology, and social behavior. The text also covers shorebird demography, population size, and management issues related to habitat, predators, and human disturbances. Throughout, it emphasizes applying scientific knowledge to the conservation of shorebird populations, many of which are unfortunately in decline.

Mark A. Colwell, Professor in the Wildlife Department at Humboldt State University, has been studying shorebirds for nearly thirty years.

Available worldwide
A Stephen Bechtel Fund Book in Ecology and the Environment
Hardcover, 368 pages
ISBN: 9780520266407
October 2010
$60.00, ??41.95

Category of shorebird species changes 2010 IUCN Red List

Posted by BirdLife International

BirdLife International???s 2010 update of the IUCN Red List for birds follows the publication in 2008 of Threatened Birds of the World when all the world???s birds were comprehensively assessed against the IUCN Red List criteria. In 2010 a total of 10,027 species are recognised by BirdLife with the status of 113 species discussed on the Globally Threatened Bird discussion forums on BirdLife’s website, resulting in the IUCN Red List category being revised for 37 species. In addition, a number of taxonomic changes were incorporated. The table below gives the totals in each IUCN Red List category since 2000. The relatively small net changes to the totals mask the fact that 226 species moved between categories in 2000-2004, 99 species in 2004-2005, 150 in 2005-2006, 81 in 2006-2007, 147 in 2007-2008, 78 in 2008-2009 and 99 in 2009-2010 (see below). These include category revisions owing to improved knowledge and taxonomic changes, as well as genuine changes in status. Therefore, it is difficult to interpret the changes in absolute totals. Instead, it is better to examine trends in the Red List Index, which shows graphically the net changes to the overall projected extinction risk of the world???s birds from 1988 to 2008.


?? Chris Kelly, Spoon-billed Sandpiper was uplisted to Critically Endangered in the 2008 IUCN Red List update

Species changing IUCN Red List
The table below lists all 99 species (including 5 shorebird species) whose IUCN Red List category was revised in May 2010 for the 2010 IUCN Red List. An explanation of the category codes and ‘Reason for change’ terms follows the table. Of the 99 category changes, 9 resulted from a genuine change in the status of species (1 improvement versus 8 deteriorations), 28 were a result of improved knowledge (of the status of species or the threats impacting them) and 61 resulted from taxonomic revisions (either recently published or recently evaluated/re-evaluated by BirdLife). Full explanations for the taxonomic changes are given in the Taxonomic notes field on the species factsheets, which are available through the Datazone.

Australian Painted Snipe Rostratula australis
2009 RL category: NR
2010 RL category: Endangered
Reason for change: Taxonomy (newly split)

Madagascar Snipe Gallinago macrodactyla
2009 RL category: Near Threatened
2010 RL category: Vulnerable
Reason for change: Knowledge

Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis
2009 RL category: Least Concern
2010 RL category: Vulnerable
Reason for change: Genuine (since first assessment)

Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
2009 RL category: Least Concern
2010 RL category: Vulnerable
Reason for change: Genuine (since first assessment)

Somali Courser Cursorius somalensis
2009 RL category: NR
2010 RL category: Least Concern
Reason for change: Taxonomy (newly split)

Full list of species changing IUCN Red List can be read on BirdLife International’s News.

IUCN Red List categories

Reason for change
This is a code assigned by BirdLife whenever a species’s IUCN Red List Category is changed. The codes are:

Genuine (recent)
The change in category is the result of a genuine status change that has taken place since the last complete assessment. For example, the change is due to an increase in the rate of decline, a decrease in population or range size or habitat, or declines in these for the first time (owing to increasing/new threats) and therefore new thresholds are met relating to the IUCN Red List criteria.

Genuine (since first assessment)
The change in category is the result of a genuine status change that took place prior to the last complete assessment, but since the first complete assessment (1988) and that has only just been detected owing to new information/ documentation. If this new information had been available earlier, the new category would have been assigned during the previous assessment(s).

Criteria revision
The change in category is the result of the revision of the IUCN Red List Criteria (currently 1994 v. 2001 versions). These largely relate to criteria A2, A3, A4, D2 and the removal of the ‘Conservation Dependent’ category.

The change in category is the result of better knowledge, e.g. owing to new or newly synthesised information or better understanding of application of the IUCN Red List criteria.

The new category is different from the previous one (which may be ‘Not Recognised’) owing to a taxonomic change adopted during the period since the previous assessment. Such changes include: newly split (the taxon is newly elevated to species level), newly described (the taxon is newly described as a species), newly lumped (the taxon is newly lumped with another species) and no longer valid/recognised (either the taxon is no longer valid e.g. because it is now considered to be a hybrid or variant, form or subspecies of another species, or the previously recognised taxon differs from a currently recognised one as a result of a split or lump).

The previous category was applied in error (excluding those cases covered under Knowledge).

The change in category is the result of other reasons not easily covered by the above, and/or requires further explanation.

Source: BirdLife International

Searching for Sociable Lapwing with Nature Iraq???s Omar Fadil

Written by Omar Fadil/Nature Iraq

Since the invasion of 2003, many people have been struggling to survive in the chaos and bloodshed in Iraq . Even now the country???s far from safe. However, over the past two years, Omar Fadil has set out to doggedly survey the bird population for Nature Iraq (BirdLife Partner), taking him to some of the most dangerous spots in search of species like the elusive and Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius. On the phone from Baghdad, he told BirdLife about his latest survey in what is still one of Iraq ???s security hotspots.


My team is based in Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam, and we are looking for the Sociable Lapwing. It???s a Critically Endangered bird and we received fresh sightings and GPS co-ordinates which indicated a bird was sitting in an area near Haditha which is an extremely dangerous place. It took me about 6 hours to drive from my base in Tikrit to where the bird was sitting.

My problem was how can I make the Iraqi army or police understand that I am coming to this area to look for a bird? For them it doesn???t not make any sense because of what the area has witnessed before.

I was impressed that the Iraqi army understood, and supplied me with three patrols with five armed soldiers in each of them. All of us are looking for the Sociable Lapwing, which was an amazing experience for me.

The soldiers were surprised. They asked: ???what are you looking for? It is a precious bird or golden bird??? or something like this. And it was difficult for me to make all the troops who came along to understand the importance of this bird. But actually I can say that all the eyes of the group ??? of the policemen, the Iraqi army, and my team ??? were looking for the bird.

At the end of the day, which was about 4pm , they offered for me to stay in the field for the next day, so they could start looking for the bird the next day as well. However, we didn???t have the time to do that, but they were very keen to help me definitely.

Unfortunately we could not find the bird. But now we have a better understanding of the habitat, the feeding resource and the migratory places that the birds are looking for in the western desserts of Iraq .

It???s dangerous birdwatching in Iraq . For example, from Haditha to the site, where the bird was sat, there was some rocky houses by the river banks ??? very familiar places for Al-Qaeda. Policemen sometime hesitate to go past these rocky houses, because there have been a lot of innocent Iraqi people killed. I feel very sad when I pass by these rocky houses.

When we???re passing through local cities or villages, the people are surprised about what we are doing because we are looking like combat troops. But when they understand our situation, and that the troops are for protecting us, they come to offer help and indicate to us when and where we can see the birds.

They call me in Iraq a ???bird guy???. Some people think I???m mad, but I say that???s ok ??? I???m feeling good!

Read more stories from The BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.


Ruff, Whimbrel and Pied Avocet on the decrease: a new report on the status of birds in the German Wadden Sea

Posted by NABU

The European Wadden Sea, shared by the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, is one of the world???s largest intertidal ecosystems. It is unique for the vast extent of its tidal flats and other natural coastal habitats ??? and it is of outstanding importance for millions of birds passing through on the East Atlantic Flyway or staying there to breed.


NABU, in alliance with its BirdLife partners VBN (The Netherlands) and DOF (Denmark) is strengthening its engagement in the Wadden Sea. This report serves as a basis for future strategies. It contains an analysis of the conservation and ecological status of the area, describes threats for birds, and identifies gaps in knowledge and topics for future action.

Major parts of the German Wadden Sea are designated conservation areas, but show substantial shortcomings. The influence of economic interests (fisheries, oil exploitation, waterways, tourism) on site management is still strong, and total reserves are almost completely lacking. Strategies for future coastal defence do not yet adequately consider ecological implications. Scientific knowledge is insufficient to explain bird population trends. It is therefore nearly impossible to predict the effects on bird populations of different management strategies and climate change.


Within the last 20 years, 19 out of 33 migratory bird species have decreased in number. For some species, the reasons for the declines are known, and indicate that insufficient management may well have contributed. NABU therefore intends to defend the Wadden Sea against current threats, to work towards a future Wadden Sea landscape and to form broad alliances with other stakeholders to ensure ecologically sustainable development of the region.

???Status, threats and conservation of birds in the German Wadden Sea???, 114 pp., is available from NABU Natur Shop, Am Eisenwerk 13, 30519 Hannover, Germany, Tel. +49 (0)5 11.2 15 71 11, Fax +49 (0)5 11.1 23 83 14, Item no. 5215. Cost: 2.50 Euro per copy plus postage and packing payable by invoice.

Endangered Species Day ??? 21 May, 2010

Written by Gyorgy Szimuly/WorldWaders

The Endangered Species Day could not be more actual than today when hundreds of threatened and endangered animals are fading away as an effect of the oil spill in the Mexican Gulf. The special day celebrates the endangered and critically endangered species for the 5th times. The last conservation activities are under way worldwide for pulling back these animals from the brink of extinction.

Shorebirds are no exception. The list of endangered and critically endangered shorebird species is massive. It should be zero but sadly there could be further negative changes, during the next evaluation process, in the status of shorebird species.

List of Endangered shorebird species:

Chatham Oystercatcher Haematopus chathamensis
Status: Endangered???? D???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: increasing

New Zealand Plover Charadrius obscurus
Status: Endangered???? C2a(i)???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: decreasing

Shore Dotterel Thinornis novaeseelandiae
Status: Endangered???? D???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: stable

Tuamotu Sandpiper Prosobonia cancellata
Status: Endangered???? B1ab(ii,iii,iv,v)???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: decreasing

List of Critically Endangered shorebird species:

Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius
Status: Critically Endangered???? A3bc+4bc???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: decreasing

St Helena Plover Charadrius sanctaehelenae
Status: Critically Endangered???? C2a(ii)???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: decreasing

Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris
Status: Critically Endangered???? C2a(ii); D???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: decreasing

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus
Status: Critically Endangered???? A2abcd+3bcd+4abcd???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: decreasing

Jerdon’s Courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus
Status: Critically Endangered???? C2a(ii)???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: decreasing

List of possibly Extinct shorebird species:

Javan Lapwing Vanellus macropterus
Status: Critically Endangered???? D???? ver 3.1
Pop. trend: unknown

Eskimo Curlew Numenius borealis
Status: Critically Endangered???? D???? ver 3.1

Source: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. <>. Downloaded on 21 May 2010.

What conservation bodies and individuals can do? Is there still some chance to keep the diversity of waders at least on the current level? So many questions are waiting to be answered. Public awareness is one of the key tool which can help to save the habitats of shorebirds they are using during all their life cycle. There is much to do on individual level to slow global warming and the increase of sea level. The lenght of to do list is endless.

Today is the time of action. Every little step counts!

Delaware Bay Shorebird Project

Posted by Kevin Kalasz/Delaware Shorebird Project

Things continue to go well here. We did the plane survey today and??the count was about 6,500 knots in the bay, however the actual number??is probably higher. Horseshoe eggs are super-abundant this year (they??set a record count in Mispillion harbor at the last sample- over half??by volume was eggs) so we suspect birds can fill up quickly in the??morning and are spending much of the rest of the day roosting where??they plane count wouldn’t have detected them. Crab spawining??continues to be quite good on most beaches.

We have made our first catches of both knot and turnstone and are due??to make our next catches- bad weather and Peregrine problems have delayed us. The rainy day gave us time to get caught up on data??entry, however, so it wasn’t a total loss and by afternoon the rain??had slowed to a mist and Graham and his hardy assistants made a nice??catch of Semi’s with walkin traps. ??We have had a lot of Peregrine??Falcon activity this year, particularly in Mispillion Harbor and??nearby Slaughter Beach. Just this afternoon we saw a falcon take??either a Dunlin or a Semipalmated Sandpiper.

We also continue to work on resightings at all our sites. ??We’ve??already seen some of the birds we caught just a few days ago.

Art and conservation create invisible connections and public reflections at a unique gathering

Posted by Danny Rogers/AWSG

Atop a step ladder in Melbourne???s City Square on Wednesday, 12 May at 12:30pm, internationally acclaimed artist, John Wolseley, launched Invisible Connections, a book that depicts the dramatic journeys of migratory shorebirds, while putting the finishing touches on his mural, Australia???s largest waterbird scene.


?? CSIRO Publishing

This was a free event. Guests had the opportunity to meet the artist, photograph the mural and talk to some of the contributors to Invisible Connections.?? Co-author, Dr Danny Rogers, from the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG), a special interest group of Birds Australia, discussed shorebird conservation. Copies of the book were sold at the event.

Invisible Connections is a stunning photographic display that follows the migration of shorebirds flying from their breeding grounds in Far East Russia, through East Asia and on to Australia and New Zealand.

???It really is amazing what migratory shorebirds do, year in and year out??? says Dr Rogers. ???Most of the time we are completely unaware that these tiny birds are flying overhead.???


?? Ken Gosbell

They travel along the East Asian ??? Australasian Flyway, a shorebird ???super highway??? made up of over 20 countries. Protection and conservation of stopping or staging sites where the shorebirds rest and feed is vital for their survival. ???Invisible Connections??? highlights the need for international cooperation to protect these important areas and reveals the surprising and little-known connections that exist between countries, habitats and people.


?? Ken Gosbell

John Wolseley was commissioned by the Melbourne City Council for a public art initiative titled ???Propositions for an Uncertain Future??? which seeks to address different aspects of climate change with five responses, through art, to a fountain without water. He is a world-renowned painter, known for his unique depiction of the Australian landscape and its flora and fauna, as well as being a passionate conservationist.


?? Ken Gosbell

John???s inimitable style bursts out of the site where the City Square fountain once cascaded, in an impressive celebration of the bird life of our wetlands. Influenced by current conservation issues, this mural reflects the story of the federal government???s recent buyback of the Gwydir wetlands north of Moree, NSW, one of the largest Ramsar sites in Australia.

Visit the City of Melbourne website to learn more about ???Propositions for an Uncertain Future??? public art initiative or the CSIRO Publishing website for a sneak preview of ???Invisible Connections???.