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).


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.


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


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.


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


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


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