An alternative way of submitting shorebird records to WorldWaders Database: eBird checklist sharing

Written by Gyorgy Szimuly/WorldWaders

WorldWaders is looking for new ways to make the Shorebird Mapping Project more worldwide. Apart of directly submitting data to our database there is another way to add observations of shorebirds by using sharing feature of eBird. eBird is a popular bird data submission website with a lots of nice feature which soon will be introduced in the WorldWaders News Blog. Birdwatchers in the Western Hemisphere favour it and use widely. While WorldWaders have many contributors from the Western Hemisphere there is a room to increase coverage in the Americas.

eBird offers observations to be shared with others by simply adding one or more e-mail address. If a user visits his/her own data (My eBird/Manage My Observations), clicks the Share link on the right, adds the projects@worldwaders.org e-mail address and the data is shared with us. WorldWaders has a resource to enter the data to its database. This is an easy way to share observations of regularly visited sites without doubling data entry effort if time availability is limited.

Observations from frequently visited sites are more welcome than those from the occasionally visited ones however we are happy for every submitted record. More detail and tutorial of eBird observation sharing process visit http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/new-feature-ebird-checklist-sharing.

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Spotted Sandpiper, Cuba. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Pre-publication offer is available on a new shorebird book

Written by Gyorgy Szimuly/WorldWaders

At the end of May a news item was posted to the WorldWaders News Blog about an important shorebird publication, the ‘Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Management’ written by Mark A. Colwell and to be published by University of California Press. The 20% pre-publication offer is available now via the UCP website. Planned publishing date is October 2010.

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Credit: University of California Press

 

Sociable Lapwings embark on an Amazing Journey

Written by Jim Lawrence

BirdLife International, RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and leading optics manufacturer Swarovski Optik have just launched a remarkable new interactive website The Amazing Journey which charts the migration of one of the world’s most threatened birds – Sociable Lapwing.

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© Maxim Koshkin (Conservation Project Leader, ACBK)

The new website enables you to experience the birds’ migration online and witness new discoveries as they happen. It also provides support to a large team of international scientists who are trying to prevent the species from becoming extinct.

Following extensive research, nine Sociable Lapwings have been carefully fitted with tiny, state-of-the-art satellite transmitters, which will track their hazardous 5,000+ km journey from their breeding grounds in Kazakhstan to their non breeding areas in tropical Africa and other, as yet undiscovered, destinations.

The Amazing Journey follows the adventures of Erzhan, Dinara, Svetlana and six other intrepid satellite-tagged lapwings as they fly south for the winter – dodging hunters with guns and falcons and the myriad other unknown threats that await them. 

Andreas Pittl – Head of the Nature Division at Swarovski said, “This is a hugely important and fascinating project which Swarovski Optik is proud to champion.  Wildlife is threatened with extinction for many reasons so finding ways to help such a beautiful and inspiring creature as the Social Lapwing is an important conservation effort we are keen to support. We want to bring people and nature together so they can continue to enjoy brilliant, close-up views of birds like these for years to come.”  

Designed by online marketing experts Digital Spring, The Amazing Journey uses satellite data fed through Google map technology to keep pace with the birds. A mixture of clever, regularly updated maps and video and photo blog reports from the field will follow their progress.  Relatively little is still known about the routes Sociable Lapwings take, so tracking them will provide vital information, enabling BirdLife scientists to monitor and protect the birds and unlock the mystery of their migration. Now, for the first time, those interested in birds, wildlife and conservation can sit alongside scientists, and learn about these extraordinary birds, their migration habits and their conservation.

Dr. Paul Donald, the project’s Principal Conservation Scientist at RSPB said, “We are using the world’s smallest and latest satellite transmitter – weighing just 5 grams – to record this amazing journey.   By engaging with people around the world and inviting them to see this fascinating migration happening live online we believe we can inspire them to play their part too.”

As the Sociable Lapwings progress along a lengthy route through various countries they need to stop every now and again to ‘refuel’ along the way. As they do so they form big feeding flocks (which is how they get their name). Whenever they touch down, precise details of their location are picked up by satellites orbiting high overhead and sent to RSPB scientists. These locations are then passed on to conservation project partners in each of the countries the birds travel through. With detailed coordinates they can quickly locate the flocks of birds, wherever they’ve touched down and take action if they are threatened in any way. The Amazing Journey website will provide regular reports from these scientists in the field keeping us up to date with all the latest news on the birds’ progress.

Jim Lawrence, Preventing Extinction Programme Manager at BirdLife International said, “Protecting migratory species on the brink of extinction like Sociable Lapwings can’t be done without the considerable support of BirdLife Species Champions like Swarovski and RSPB. The Amazing Journey website is a new window on our world where you can see BirdLife International Partners around the globe delivering co-ordinated international conservation solutions.”

Trapping for food threatens rare Asian bird

Written by Richard Thomas/Traffic

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper, one of the world’s most threatened birds, is rapidly heading towards extinction because young birds are being targeted for human consumption.

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Spoon-billed Sandpipers are rapidly disappearing because of trapping for human consumption. Image taken in Khok Kham, Thailand, February 2008. © Richard Thomas/TRAFFIC

Spoon-billed Sandpipers nest only in the far north-east of Russia. In 2000, around 1,000 breeding pairs were known, but by 2009, the number had plummeted to just 120–220 pairs, a decline of 88%.

During that time, adult survival appeared unchanged and breeding success was reasonable, but the recruitment of young birds back into the adult population was zero in all but one of the years studied.

Now an international team of scientists has discovered the apparent reason behind the dramatic decline and why young birds are particularly at risk.

First, the team had to find where the birds spent the winter months.

In both 2009 and 2010, the team located around 200 Spoon-billed Sandpipers—the majority of the world population—wintering in Myanmar, most of them in the Bay of Martaban where local people target wading birds for food.

“For a species with such a small known population, it is likely that hunting in the wintering area is the major cause of the species’s decline,” said Christoph Zöckler of ArcCona, a Cambridge-based Consultancy and member of the international team.

The problem is exacerbated because young immature birds are more likely to be caught and spend the whole of their first year on the wintering grounds.

During the monsoon season (May-September), when adult Spoon-billed Sandpipers are far away on their breeding grounds, birds are particularly targeted by local hunters because fishing becomes difficult.

“The unintentional targeting of young Spoon-billed Sandpipers during the summer months explains the lack of recruitment of new birds into the breeding population,” said Zöckler.

To prevent the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s extinction urgent action is needed, both to find ways to give local people economic alternatives to hunting birds and to persuade hunters to release any sandpipers they catch.

“Without such action, the world will lose one of its most charismatic birds,” said Zöckler.

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Work on indicators shows that a higher percentage of birds used for food and medicine are threatened than those that are not Click graph to enlargeTRAFFIC and IUCN, in conjunction with BirdLife International, have been developing indicators to monitor trends in the status of species used for food and medicine and have published a factsheet on this work.

They show that birds and mammals used for these purposes are generally more threatened than those that are not.

Overall, 12% of all bird species are globally threatened with extinction, but a much higher percentage (23%) of those used for food and medicine are under threat.

TRAFFIC’s work on indicators is being showcased this week at the EcoHealth 2010 Conference, the biennial conference of the International Association for Ecology and Health (IAEH) currently underway in London, UK. 

Reproduced with permission from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network

Sociable Lapwing Tracking ??? RSPB Video

Written by RSPB

Watch this extraordinary video of Dr. Rob Sheldon (RSPB) and Maxim Koshkin (ACBK) fitting one of the new satellite tracking devices to Alia on the breeding grounds, in Central Kazakhstan in June 2010.

Dr Paul Donald (RSPB) narrates – explaining how this high-tech conservation initiative will provide vital new information that will help develop conservation strategies to protect the birds and ultimately lead to a long term future for the species.

Read more stories from The BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

District Court Upholds Designation of Critical Winter Habitat for Piping Plovers Along Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Written by Kurt Repanshek

In an opinion that goes against off-road vehicle interests along Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, a federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service properly designated critical winter habitat for the Piping Plover, a threatened species of shorebirds.

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Piping Plover in Florida. © Jan Wegener

Judge Royce C. Lamberth, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, held that the Fish and Wildlife Service properly considered economic impacts, special management considerations, and off-road vehicle regulations when it set aside 2,053 acres in North Carolina’s Dare and Hyde counties — including parts of Cape Hatteras National Seashore — as critical habitat for the diminutive shorebirds.

The ruling handed down Tuesday was applauded by conservation groups.

“Cape Hatteras is unique. It’s one of the few places on the East Coast that hosts Piping Plover activity all year round,” said Jason Rylander, staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “Critical habitat designation will provide a crucial, additional layer of protection throughout the year.”

At Audubon North Carolina, deputy director Walker Golder called the judge’s decision “a great victory for Piping Plovers and reaffirms the importance of Cape Hatteras National Seashore for this threatened species.”

The ruling comes at the end of a long road of litigation and rule-making. The case at hand can be traced at least to 2001 when the Fish and Wildlife Service first designated critical winter habitat for the birds. Portions of that designation that involved Cape Hatteras were immediately challenged by the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Association, a coalition of off-road and surf-fishing interests.

In 2004 a lower court remanded the matter back to the Fish and Wildlife Service with a direction to re-examine its designation of the four units that fell within both the national seashore and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

While this was playing out, environmental groups — Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society — sued the National Park Service for failing to develop an ORV management plan for Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Fish and Wildlife Service officials published their revised critical winter habitat designations in October 2008, about the same time national seashore officials and the environmental groups agreed to a consent decree mandating that the seashore would develop an ORV plan by April 2011.

While the Fish and Wildlife Service’s revised designation of critical habitat was roughly 1,600 acres smaller than the original designation, and touched on no private lands, the preservation association sued again in February 2009.

In rejecting their claims for relief, Judge Lamberth held that the Fish and Wildlife Service properly and adequately identified why the lands in question were vital to the plovers, which spend 10 months a year “wintering” in North Carolina, and how they need to be managed to benefit the shorebirds.

The ruling (attached below) is only the latest chapter in a long-running saga pitting those who rely on off-road vehicles to enjoy the national seashore and fish from its shores against groups that have maintained the Park Service long has failed to protect threatened and endangered species of birds and sea turtles from those ORVs.

At Defenders, Mr. Rylander said Wednesday that the favorable ruling for winter habitat nevertheless is a smaller piece of the overall puzzle that will provide the necessary protections.

“The Park Service will have yet another reason to do what it’s already obligated to do under the (National Park Service) Organic Act and the Endangered Species Act,” he said from his Washington office. “So, it’s another benefit. But it’s not the entire ballgame.”

The final piece to the puzzle, Mr. Rylander said, will be the adoption of a formal ORV plan for the national seashore.

Bumper Season for the endangered New Zealand Plover on the Coromandel Peninsular

Written by Andy Wills/DOC

The 2009/10 season has been very successful for the New Zealand Dotterel Watch program on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. This program is a partnership between Newmont Mining, Waihi, Department of Conservation, and local volunteer Dotterel Minders. 

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New Zealand Dotter (IOC name is New Zealand Plover). © Steve Barker

This season has produced 98 fledglings from 150 pairs of NZ Dotterel, across 46 monitored sites, making it our most successful season in the last five years. There are a number of elements which have contributed to this. 

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Increase in breeding pairs monitored at 46 sites around the Coromandel Peninsula.

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Productivity value = average number of chicks fledged per breeding pair. P= 0.65* (*current minimum value – chicks yet to fledge @ 1 March 2010). Management is considered effective if productivity values are greater than 0.5 for three consecutive years or longer (Dowding & Davis, 2007). Seventh consecutive season where p>0.5 has been achieved.

The program would not be the success it is without the many Dotterel minders on the peninsula who give up their time to help these endangered birds during the breeding season. They help set up rope fences and signs around nest sites, in educating the public about the Dotterels and sometimes help with trapping. 

The sponsorship from Newmont Mining Waihi, which enables the Department to employ a full-time Dotterel Ranger over the 6 month breeding season. The ranger works in with local minders to provide technical, logistical and operational support for the Coromandel NZ Dotterel Watch Minder Network. 

We have also increased the trapping around the beaches. This has enabled us to catch greater numbers of Hedgehogs, Rats, Stoats and Feral cats which predate on the Dotterel nests.

This year the Thames Coromandel District Council have introduced new Dog bylaws which have restricted dog activity to a number of the main nest sites which has provided further protection to the Dotterels.

Overall we were quite lucky with the weather this year; we didn’t get too many big easterly swells and not many big tides either.  

The NZ Dotterel Watch program has been running since 1998, there is now a greater awareness with the general public, resulting in fewer disturbances to breeding areas. We are continually looking at ways which we can improve on previous seasons.

Habitat creation prompts breeding bonanza among wading birds

Written by WWT

Wading birds on the Ouse Washes have stunned staff at WWT Welney Wetland Centre by turning up in droves to breed thanks to newly created habitat, giving eager visitors the chance to see them rearing their chicks.

In 2008 just five pairs of lapwing bred on the former arable fields just beside the Ouse Washes. This year 67 breeding pairs of waders have been recorded in the same area, including lapwing, redshank, little ringed plover and avocet.

With the support of the Environment Agency and Natural England, WWT converted the two areas of farmland to wet grassland over two years, providing ideal habitat for the birds. The new habitat covers nearly 80 hectares, all visible from the cafe in Welney Wetland Centre.

Leigh Marshall, Reserve Manager at WWT Welney, commented: “That the birds have turned up in such huge numbers just goes to show that there’s a real demand for this type of habitat. Many farms once included wet fields like these but it is estimated about 45% were drained over the 20th century which has undeniably had an effect on wader numbers around the country.

“Our neighbouring farmers have been really supportive, providing livestock to graze the area which has kept the grass in tip top condition for the birds.”

WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray commented: “All around the world, populations of wading birds are declining, largely because their wetland habitats are being ruined. Globally 23 species of wader are red listed and another 20 species are heading in that direction. So we’re hugely proud to be able to report such a successful breeding season. It clearly demonstrates how important habitat is to conservation.”

Roger Gerry, from Natural England, added: “The figures speak for themselves, this is a huge boost to wetland birds in the Fens and for everyone that comes to enjoy seeing them. Natural England hopes to continue giving this project our support through our Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme in the future.”

WWT created the wet grassland by digging a system of ditches, channels and scrapes into the former arable land and seeding it with native grasses. As well as being a success with breeding waders this summer, the habitat has attracted huge numbers of ducks from the Arctic, which come to escape the harsh winter weather. Last winter saw a huge jump in the number of wintering wigeon with 1,600 seen on one day from the cafe, along with 540 other ducks.

But the real delight for staff and visitors alike has been the numbers of breeding waders throughout this spring. 33 pairs of lapwing, 29 pairs of redshank, 3 pairs of avocet and two pairs of little ringed plover have been recorded on the site.

Increase in numbers of breeding birds on new wet grassland at WWT Welney (Wading birds in bold in top four rows)

Bird species 2007
The area is still former arable land
2008
WWT creates wet grassland on half the area
2009
WWT creates wet grassland on the remaining half
2010               
The whole area is wet grassland
Northern Lapwing 1 5 9 33
Common Redshank 7 29
Little Ringed Plover 2
Avocet 3
Tufted Duck 2
Common Shelduck 1 8
Gadwall 1 4
Mallard 1 6 10
Shoveler 6 13
Common Moorhen 2
Eurasian Coot 5
European Skylark 3 12 12 21
Meadow Pipit 3 6 4 14
Western Yellow Wagtail 2 1
Sedge Warbler 2
European Reed Warbler 1 2
Goldfinch 1 1
Linnet 8 3
Common Reed Bunting 4 4 1 2

Corn Bunting

4 6
Ring-necked Pheasant 2
Total 12 27 65 163

Oversummering Spoon-billed Sandpiper discovered in Thailand

Written by Bird Conservation Society of Thailand

On July 19, 2010, a shorebird survey team observed a first-summer individual of the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus at Khok Kham, on the coast of the Inner Gulf of Thailand about 50 km southwest of Bangkok. This is the first record of the species oversummering in its wintering grounds.

The observation confirms what many shorebird biologists had suspected, because other species such as Red-necked Stint spend their first-summer in their non-breeding range. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper breeding grounds are far to the north of Thailand in the Far East of Russia.

The team members Krairat Iamamphai (Head of Bung Boraphet Wildlife Research Station), Thithi Sonsa and Somchai Nimnuan (both from Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation) were also excited to observe the species feeding on the mudflats. “This is also the first confirmed sighting at Khok Kham of Spoon-billed Sandpiper feeding on the mudflats,” said Somchai Nimnuan, who also took photographs of the observation. Khok Kham has become the most reliable site in South-East Asia to see the species from November to March but all previous observations there were from man-made salt pans.

“The numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpipers currently known to occur in the Thailand’s Inner Gulf are very small —perhaps now only around ten birds in total, of which only a proportion will be first-years—while the area of mudflats are vast,” said Assistant Professor Philip D. Round, an ornithologist who is world authority of birds in Thailand and a member of the BirdLife Partner’s Bird Conservation Society of Thailand Conservation (BCST) Committee.

“This finding should spur us to look for more over-summering Spoon-billed Sandpipers, more surveys and studies, and of course more conservation actions. Thailand must do its share to conserve this species through protecting Inner Gulf Coastlines, both offshore mudflats and onshore salt-pans, which the birds are known to frequent for much of the tidal cycle and by preventing the illegal netting of shorebirds for food, which still continues,” added Gawin Chutima, Chairman of BCST.

Source: BirdLife Community