Manomet and Rare Embark on a New Challenge to Conserve Shorebirds

Written by Meredith Gutowski/Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN)

Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and the international conservation organization Rare recently signed a cooperative agreement to formalize their working together to explore and implement social marketing-based actions at Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) sites. Such actions will follow the concept, tools, and methodologies of the “Pride” campaign, a very successful type of social marketing developed by Rare. 

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Fabián Rojizo, Pride campaign shorebird mascot, at San Antonio Bay WHSRN Site, Argentina. / Courtesy of Mirta Carbajal

Between 2008 and 2010, Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Project and Rare facilitated, co-financed, and assisted local partners in carrying out Pride campaigns at three WHSRN sites in Patagonia, all in Argentina. Each campaign promoted the conservation of the rufa subspecies of Red Knot (Calidris canutus), a migratory shorebird species in serious population decline. The species’s plight as well as messages of local pride, conservation, and hope were shared by Fabián Rojizo, a famous campaign mascot. The Pride campaigns achieved very positive results and valuable lessons regarding the protection of critical habitats for shorebirds, removing barriers to conservation, and promoting a sense of pride within communities that live in important areas for shorebirds.

Charles Duncan, Director of Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Project, noted that “The new conservation paradigm compels us to implement new strategies and to provide our partners with innovative tools that allow them to change the way we relate to critical habitats, how we think, and how we act—from communities to decision makers. In that sense, social marketing opens a new window of opportunity.

The new signed agreement gives stability to future joint efforts by Manomet and Rare, capitalizing on the experience and lessons learned from campaigns they worked on together in Argentina.

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Keith Alger, Vice President of Rare for Latin America, explained that “Using the concept of ‘bright spots’ we can find solutions and conservation approaches with demonstrated successes, and replicate them. In many cases, success was possible when communities learned to recognize the value of conservation. Using social marketing techniques, we at Rare and Manomet and our local partners can boost the power of communities to conserve shorebirds throughout the hemisphere, as has already been seen in recent campaigns in Argentina.

Under this agreement, Manomet and Rare will first be identifying the potential scope and opportunities for implementing campaigns targeting shorebird conservation. The focus will be on designing a proposed “cohort” of sites, based on the Pride methodology, which could eventually be applied to a greater set of WHSRN sites, be it by country, regions, or subregions. At the same time, both partners will be exploring ways to raise the funds needed to co-finance this new challenge.

For more information, please use these relevant links:

Social Marketing Workshop in Chile (WHSRNews, June 2011)
Pride Campaigns in Argentina (WHSRNews, September 2010)
Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
Rare Conservation
Shorebird Recovery Project (Manomet)
Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN)

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New WHSRN Site in Argentina: Bah??a Samboromb??n

Written by Meredith Gutowski/WHSRN

During its annual meeting this May, the WHSRN Hemispheric Council unanimously approved the nomination of Bahía Samborombón in Argentina as a WHSRN Site of International Importance. With this designation, we celebrate Bahía Samborombón as the 85th site in the network, and the 5th in Argentina!

The 250,000-hectare site, located on the east coast of Buenos Aires Province, is administered by the provincial government’s Directorate of Natural Protected Areas as the “Bahía Samborombón Wildlife Refuge.” It includes 118 private properties devoted primarily to raising livestock. More than 100,000 shorebirds, including 11% of the global population of Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis), rely annually on the bay’s coastal and grassland habitats during long-distance migrations.

Bahía Samborombón’s designation as a WHSRN Site carries a special significance for us because it fulfills a desire of the late Pablo Canevari, former WHSRN Director and a native of Argentina, who long ago championed the importance of this site for shorebirds. The bay is also recognized as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and contains two designated Important Bird Areas.

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Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). Image curtesy of WHSRN

It is our pleasure to congratulate and welcome our new WHSRN partners at Bahía Samborombón: the Directorate of Natural Protected Areas of the Province of Buenos Aires and its Provincial Sustainable Development Organization; the National Parks Administration; the City of La Costa; and the many private landowners committed to shorebird conservation in and around the bay!

For more information, contact Ricardo Cañete[anp@opds.gba.gov.ar], Director, Natural Protected Areas Directorate of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, (54) 221-4253875. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate listing of Red Knots

Written by Robert Johns/American Bird Conservancy

New Study Confirms Importance of Delaware Bay Stopover to Long-term Red Knot Health

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Red Knots. © Gregory Breese/USFWS

Conservation groups welcomed the news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has decided to speed up the initiation of the process to formally add the highly imperiled rufa subspecies of Red Knot to the list of threatened and endangered species.

The decision follows the release of the 2011 count of the main wintering population in South America, which found a decline from the previous winter of at least 5,000 birds — approximately one third of the population. The decision also coincides with the release of a new study that confirms the importance of an abundant Horseshoe Crab population to the survival of the Red Knot. Red Knots put on weight by stopping on the bay to feed on Horseshoe Crab eggs. Birds with higher weights have a better chance of reaching the Arctic to breed and survive into the next year. The study confirmed the key role of Delaware Bay horseshoe crabs in the survival of Red Knots. 

Last month, American Bird Conservancy organized a group meeting with FWS ESA Program staff, regarding ABC’s longstanding request to list the rufa Red Knot. Because of the information presented (including the 2011 count),  FWS agreed to do a proposed listing of the rufa Red Knot in FY13, with a final rule in FY14. However, while that was good news, last week, because of organized advocacy on this issue, the FWS surprisingly agreed to begin their listing process this year.

A number of recently released studies conducted by a variety of agencies have shown no significant increase in the number of Horseshoe Crabs. Despite this growing evidence of over exploitation of the horseshoe crab population Atlantic States Marine Fish Commission has not reduced harvest in the last 6 years. In fact, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates the Horseshoe Crab harvest, dismantled its own shorebird technical committee after it recommended a moratorium on harvests.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to list the rufa Red Knot, though long overdue, will someday be recognized as the turning point in staving off its extinction” said Darin Schroeder, Vice President of Conservation Advocacy for American Bird Conservancy.

We are pleased the Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized the urgency to begin listing the Red Knot. The Knot has been languishing on the list of candidate species since 2006. This year’s huge decline in wintering Red Knots provides clear evidence that the status quo is not working. Unless action is taken now, Red Knots may be on an irreversible slide to extinction,” said Caroline Kennedy, Senior Director of Field Conservation at Defenders of Wildlife.

New Jersey Audubon commends the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for acting on the science.  Clearly, Red Knots are imperiled and an endangered species listing has provided so many of our nation’s imperiled wildlife a safety net from extinction,” said Eric Stiles, Vice President for Conservation and Stewardship.

The public is deeply concerned about the loss of these amazing shorebirds. There need to be stronger steps taken to protect the horseshoe crabs and Red Knots, and the endangered species listing is a powerful and much needed action” said Tim Dillingham of the American Littoral Society.

Background:

  • Since 2005, four formal requests to list the Red Knot under the Endangered Species Act have been submitted to the FWS. Citing a lack of resources and other priorities, the Service failed to list the bird but placed it on the candidate list in 2006. Since then, Red Knot numbers have continued to fall.
  • The decline of Red Knots and other shorebird species has been caused by a dramatically diminished supply of Horseshoe Crab eggs after millions of crabs were removed from the Bay beginning in the 1990s.
  • When Red Knots leave Delaware Bay in poor condition due to the lack of Horseshoe Crab eggs, they either die before ever arriving in the Arctic or arrive in too poor a condition to successfully reproduce. As a result, adult birds are dying off without being replaced by juveniles, leading to a decline in population.
  • Attempts to rebuild the Delaware Bay Horseshoe Crab population through minimal reductions in harvest quotas have to date been unsuccessful. The State of New Jersey implemented a moratorium on Horseshoe Crab harvesting in 2008. Since that time, the ASMFC has undermined the effect of New Jersey’s moratorium by establishing quotas for Delaware, Maryland and Virginia that allow similar numbers of crabs to be harvested as prior to the moratorium.
  • Governments and scientists from five other countries where Red Knots breed, stopover or winter are studying and working to address the other threats the species faces. At a recent meeting attended by many of the knot experts, they agreed that rebuilding the Horseshoe Crab population at Delaware Bay by implementing a moratorium until recovery occurs is the top management priority.
  • Red Knots are not the only species affected by the horseshoe crab fishery. Other species including Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, and Semi-palmated Sandpipers also depend on an abundant supply of Horseshoe Crab eggs at the Delaware Bay stopover. Each of these species has experienced significant declines as well.

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American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization which conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, Email click here

First Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks hatch in captivity

Written by Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

The first critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper to hatch in captivity in the world was always going to be a spectacular sight, but when a Heritage Expeditions boat docked in Anadyr last night not one, not two, but an incredible 17 tiny, hatched Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks emerged.

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One of the first chicks to hatch. © Martin McGill/WWT

The incredibly ambitious mission to collect eggs from the rapidly dwindling number of nests on the breeding grounds in Chukotka and transport them thousands of miles via land, sea and air to the conservation breeding facility at WWT Slimbridge hatching has reached an important milestone.

Incredibly eight of the chicks actually hatched just as the team were preparing to leave Chukotka.

Describing his elation on docking safely in Anadyr, WWT’s Head of Conservation Breeding, Nigel Jarrett said: “We boarded the boat with the eight newly hatched chicks, 12 fertile eggs, considerable anxiety about the trip on rough seas and a great deal of hope.

“We got off the other end with only three eggs, but an amazing 17 chicks and the remaining eggs poised to hatch any day, so I am as happy as happy can be.

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A spoon-billed sandpiper hatching from its egg. © Martin McGill/WWT

Things have gone as well as could possibly have been hoped for so far, but saving this species is still going to be an uphill battle.

A couple of the hatchlings aren’t quite as strong as the others and we will have to accept that we will lose some.

The survival rate for Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks in the wild is extremely low. On average just four chicks fledge out of around 20 eggs laid and only one of these would survive to recruit into the adult population two years later.

Taking these newly hatched chicks from hatching to fledging will be enough of a challenge on its own. However, even this is dwarfed by the work that we and our partners need to do to tackle the threats to the species in the wild (read more about the Spoon-billed Sandpiper).

Elizabeth Tambovtseva from Birds Russia is part of the team on the expedition. She said: “The excitement from the team when the first egg hatched and a tiny chick appeared was off the scale – we haven’t slept for days with the stress and worry so it was a pretty emotional experience.

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One of the tiny chicks in Nigel’s hand. © Martin McGill/WWT

“All the partners have been working hard as a team to pull off this very important stage of the mission and it’s paid off. I didn’t get a chance to celebrate my birthday last week, but this belated present more than makes up for that!

The conservation breeding expedition, led by staff from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and Birds Russia, has support from the RSPB, BTO, BirdLife International, ArcCona, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force and Moscow Zoo.

The project is funded by WWT and RSPB, with additional financial contributions and support from BirdLife International, the East-Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership, the Convention on Migratory Species, Heritage Expeditions and the Australasian Wader Study Group of Birds Australia.

WWT has launched a public fundraising appeal to save the spoon-billed sandpiper, which you can donate to here.

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Newly hatched Spoon-billed Sandpiper. © Martin McGill/WWT

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Nigel encouraging one of the chicks to feed. © Martin McGill/WWT

Where are the Red Knots of the EAAF during spring and autumn migration?

Written by Chris Hassel/Global Flyway Network

We are asking for your help with sightings of Red Knot in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) between mid-March and mid-September.

The Australasian Wader Studies Group, the Global Flyway Network (GFN), and many other institutions and individuals have been studying the Red Knot in the EAAF for many years. However they are a surprisingly elusive species. We have been unable to get a really good understanding of their use of the Yellow Sea and other areas in the EAAF during northward and southward migration. Early work by Mark Barter and his Chinese colleagues did find reasonable numbers in the late 90’s early 2000’s. Since then GFN, in collaboration with Yan Hong Yan of Beijing Normal University, have worked extensively in the north of Bohai Bay. This small area has proved to be the main staging site in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway for Red Knots, both of subspecies rogersi and subspecies  piersmai subspecies (see http://www.globalflywaynetwork.com.au/reports/GFN-Bohai-Report-2010.pdf. and http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/MU10024.htm).

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Red Knots are given unique colour-band and flag code for survival and demographic studies. © Ian Southey

However what we are unsure about is where (or if) there are other crucial staging sites. Some of our work suggests a that subspecies piersmai makes a direct flight from North-western Australia to Bohai Bay, but our recent 2011 work suggests it does not! Did severe weather make this year unusual? Do one or both sub-species stage somewhere else on their journey to Bohai, if so where? And what happens on southwards migration.

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The ‘piersmai’ subspecies showing the genaerlly dark colouration of the breeding plumage. © Ian Southey

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The ‘rogersi’ subspecies showing the generally pale colouration of the breeding plumgae. © Ian Southey

We are asking for your help in this regard. We are hoping for any information about Red Knot in eastern Asia and Indonesia between mid-March and Mid-September. We are looking for counts, flag sightings, colour-band sightings, images, one-off sightings of big flocks. Of course our hope is for records of flocks of thousands of Red Knots in breeding plumage but really anything you can tell us will be of interest. We are sure there are some mudflats in the southern part of the EAAF full of Red Knot, particularly on spring migration.

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Destruction of the mudflats at Bohai Bay, shorebird habitat being pumped over the seawall to create industrial land. © Adrain Boyle

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Destruction of the mudflats at Bohai Bay, seawall construction. © Adrian Boyle

Thank you in advance for anything you can tell me.

I look forward to your records of 1000’s of Red Knot feeding happily on mudflats we were not aware of!

Chris Hassell
Global Flyway Network
turnstone@wn.com.au
www.globalflywaynetwork.com.au/

BirdLife Species Champions strike gold in Chukotka

Written by BirdLife Community

Heritage Expeditions – a BirdLife Species Champion supporting Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation through the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme – struck gold this week when they, and the passengers they have taken to the Russian Far East, helped discover a previously unknown breeding population of these rapidly declining waders.

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper. © James Gilroy

Searching for breeding Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the vast coastal expanses of Arctic Russia is like looking for a needle in a haystack, so Heritage’s passengers, guides and crew were delighted when they encountered this Critically Endangered species at a remote location on the Chukotka coast. The first sighting they made was of a pair with three eggs and another bird, they found close by, was behaving in a manner indicating it was also breeding there. A further Spoon-billed Sandpiper was found by a second search team at another suitable breeding location a little way along the coast.

These new surveys have been carefully designed to look for breeding birds in coastal areas where scientists predicted they should be present but had previously been unable to explore. As the only access to these remote areas is by sea, the costs of mounting searches have previously been prohibitive and so they have remained unexplored until now. When Heritage Expeditions became a Species Champion for Spoon-billed Sandpiper the opportunity unfolded and so, with careful planning in conjunction with BirdLife, Heritage Expeditions’ vessel – Spirit of Enderby – provided the ideal access solution. Heritage’s passengers and experienced guides, travelling ashore in zodiacs, were valuable and enthusiastic participants searching under the guidance of experts from the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force.

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The Spirit of Enderby is now sailing north to the main Spoon-billed Sandpiper study site at Meinypil’gyno where this year a conservation breeding programme is in progress for the first time.

The conservation breeding team, led by Birds Russia, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), is working there with colleagues from BirdLife International, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), British Trust for Ornithology and Moscow Zoo to protect this species, which would most likely become extinct within a decade if this urgent action was not taken now.

Meanwhile, much advocacy and conservation action remains necessary to address the major threats that the birds and their habitats still face throughout their flyway.

If you would like to support our work for Spoon-billed Sandpiper by also becoming a BirdLife Species Champion please email species.champions@birdlife.org or you can make an online donation here. Please join us in taking action now as time is running out for this most charismatic wader…

You can view a listing of our most recent BirdLife Species Champions here.

In 2012 Heritage Expeditions will run another 15-day ‘In the Wake of Bering – Search for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’ voyage departing from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy on 24 June. If you would like to be part of this amazing conservation-supporting expedition please see details here.

We thank Heritage Expeditions for their considerable support to Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation.

We also thank WildSounds – who stepped up as the first BirdLife Species Champion for Spoon-billed Sandpiper back in 2008, Birdfair– Global Sponsor of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme, The Dutch Birding Association and VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands)The David & Lucile Packard FoundationDisney Friends for ChangeThe CMS SecretariatThe MBZ FoundationSave Our Species, Ed Keeble and the many other generous individuals who have all become BirdLife Species Champions or Programme Supporters under the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme helping this species.

Find out all the latest news on Spoon-billed Sandpiper by visitingwww.birdlife.org/spoonbilledsandpiper