News just in from Yangkou, China

Written by Craig Brelsford

News just in from Yangkou, China is that there has been between 5 & 9 adult Spoon billed Sandpipers present this past week. The birds have been seen on the rising tide, the high tide roost and the run off of the tide within a 7km stretch along the shoreline. There is a 3 man international team present, which consists of Simon Buckell, Daniel Pettersson and Craig Brelsford who are also occasionally joined by Zhang Lin of Shanghai birds. You can follow the team’s progress by clicking on the relevant blogs and websites.

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper perching up on a tussock in Chukotka, Russia in June 2011. © Simon Buckell

Also of note is that within the past six months Simon Buckell from the UK has found, viewed and photographed the Spoon-billed Sandpiper on its wintering grounds in the gulf of Thailand, the spring migration grounds of Yangkou, China, the breeding grounds Chukotka, Russia, and on the return autumn migration grounds of, again Yangkou, China. Simon is possibly the first person in the world to achieve this amazing feat and all in the same year of which took him just under six months!

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Spoon-bileld Sandpiper feeding in the mud at Yangkou, China on on Tuesday the 23rd August 2011. © Daniel Pettersson

Daniel Pettersson, also known as Mudskipper because of his willingness to crawl across the mudflats in pursuit of the perfect shooting angle already has an impressive array of bird photos. Daniel is on his second trip to Yangkou.

Craig Brelsford is an American bird photographer living in Shanghai.

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is critically endangered; some estimates place the number of surviving individuals at 200.

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force News Bulletin No. 6

Written by Dr Christoph Zöckler

Please find the recent SBS newsletter:

Thanks to all those who have contributed to this issue and please pass on to those that might be interested to hear more about the latest on SbS conservation and thanks for all your support over the years and for this issue! Enjoy the reading and the pictures!

New Law Protects and Celebrates Shorebirds in Rio Negro Province, Argentina

Written by Meredith Gutowski/WHSRN

This March at the Bahía San Antonio WHSRN Site of International Importance, partners were busy developing some of the activities for the site’s first “Shorebird Festival,” organized by the Inalafquen Foundation. All awaited the landing of a group of more than 2,000 Red Knots (Calidris canutus) in the intertidal habitat of this bay. Meanwhile, in the city of Viedma, the capital of Rio Negro Province, legislators listened to Provincial Deputy María Inés Maza introduce the text of a new law on behalf of these birds. The law, which declares the conservation of shorebirds and their wetland habitats to be in the “provincial interest,” was approvedduring the legislative session on March 17.

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Courtesy of Fundación Inalafquen

In general, the law prohibits the modification of wetlands that are critical for the conservation of migratory shorebirds, and created “Migratory Shorebird Week” which, from now on, will be celebrated annually during the second week of March under the auspices of the Rio Negro Legislature. Deputy Maria Inés Maza noted, “The Rio Negro Province plays a key role in the migration of Red Knots and other coastal shorebird species. It offers extensive marshes and tidal flats that provide birds with optimal conditions for resting and feeding after strenuous travel. This marks the significant value that these environments posses, and the global responsibility we have for their conservation and use.”

This valuable new province-wide recognition follows two previously approved declarations of similar character in 2010: one by the House of Representatives in the Santa Cruz Province and another by the National House of Representatives of Argentina. The latter declared the work being carried by WHSRN regarding the conservation of shorebirds and their habitats to be “of national interest” for the country (2010).

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Shorebirds at Bahía San Antonio WHSRN Site. Courtesy of Fundación Inalafquen

These legal accomplishments were developed and managed under the leadership of the WHSRN Argentine National Council as part of its 2010-2012 Action Plan. Council members have taken the lead on enacting provisions in each of their provinces that promote the protection of shorebirds and the habitats they need along their migration routes.

We applaud the team at Inalafquen Foundation for this great achievement in Rio Negro Province, and express our most sincere appreciation to the director, Mirta Carbajal, for her great leadership!

For more information, contact Diego Luna Quevedo (diego.luna@manomet.org), Southern Cone Program Coordinator, Shorebird Recovery Project, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.

Birds Australia welcomes announcement of new Biodiversity Fund

Written by Samantha Vine/Birds Australia

10 July announcement by the Gillard Government of a new $1 billion Biodiversity Fund has finally lifted the veil on the important role of natural ecosystems in mitigating climate change. Until now, this crucial aspect was not recognised by climate change policy in Australia, but that seems to have been remedied by yesterday’s announcement. By addressing some real conservation issues, the Government’s proposal could secure a win–win opportunity for the environment.

Professor Ross Garnaut’s recent Climate Change Review update paper on ‘Transforming Rural Land Use’ recommended that the Federal Government align its incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon price and complementary measures, including incentives to build the resilience of ecosystems and biodiversity to the impacts of climate change. Professor Garnaut recommended allocating part of the income from a trading scheme to the landscape sector: up to 10% for Kyoto-compliant activities such as tree planting, and up to 6% for non-Kyoto activities such as soil carbon.

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Bar-tailed Godwits over an Australian wetland. © Jan Wegener

Birds Australia welcomed the news of a new Biodiversity Fund of almost $1 billion announced as part of the Clean Energy Future Package.

Despite an abundance of international reports, including the World Bank Report Convenient solutions to an Inconvenient Truth, which substantiate the critical role of large intact natural systems in climate-change mitigation and adaptation, the issue has been almost completely absent from climate responses. That is, until now.” said Birds Australia’s conservation manager Samantha Vine. 

 “The Government has announced that it will provide funding of $946 million over the next six years to undertake projects that establish, restore, protect and manage biodiverse carbon stores” said Samantha. “This will help tackle climate change and its impacts by reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and increasing the resilience of Australia’s diverse natural environment so it can sequester carbon in the long term.

The Fund, which Birds Australia and a number of key environmental NGOs have been advocating, was reported to have made it into the Government Plan with support from the Greens and Independent Tony Windsor. 

Increased investment will not only benefit biodiversity and capture carbon; it will help rejuvenate regional and rural communities, economies and employment, especially in remote Australia” said Samantha. “We have known for a long time that better biodiversity management is linked with sustainable productivity of the land.

The Fund will support restoration and management of biodiverse carbon stores including:

  • reforestation and revegetation in areas of high conservation value, including wildlife corridors, rivers, streams and wetlands
  • management and protection of biodiverse ecosystems, and
  • action to prevent the spread of invasive species across connected landscapes.

The announcement of the establishment of the Biodioversity Fund is especially important, as biodiversity has the most to lose in the face of human-induced climate change. Incredibly, Australia’s biodiversity crisis could actually be worsened by the adoption of simplistic carbon sequestration schemes, such as monoculture plantations at the expense of native vegetation, if the only aim is to increase the amount of carbon captured without taking into account a number of complex, adverse side-effects.

Birds Australia had also lobbied for the establishment of an independent body to oversee the Fund and so is delighted that an independent ‘Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Advisory Board’ will be established to provide advice to Government on setting priorities and reviewing the success of the program.

Birds Australia also welcomes news that the use of biomass from logging native forests will no longer be counted as renewable energy.

WHSRN designation helps communities in Colombia

Written by Meredith Gutowski/WHSRN

There are nine communities comprising approximately 1,000 people within the Iscuandé River delta on the western coast of Colombia. Fishing along the river and collecting mollusks from the mangroves are essential for their subsistence and to the local economy. In a capacity-building workshop coordinated in 2009 by the bird conservation organization Asociación Calidris, the community members identified a lack of basic sanitation as one of the gravest threat to their resources and, in turn, their way of life. During that same time period, the 4,000-hectare (9,880-acre) Delta del Río Iscuandé was designated a WHSRN Site of Regional Importance, further focusing the communities’ attention on the health of the delta for their “avian neighbors” as well. 

The communities made it a priority in the short term to find sanitation solutions that would improve their quality of life and also benefit shorebirds and the delta’s biodiversity. With a grant from the Wetlands for the Future Fund (facilitated by the Ramsar Secretariat, U.S. State Department, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Asociación Calidris worked with fishermen, housewives, teachers, and community leaders to gather baseline diagnostic information on sanitation issues. They also developed educational outreach materials to raise awareness about what individuals could do to help resolve community-wide problems.

Project leaders and communities are now seeing the fruits of their hard work. Environmental conditions and residents’ quality of life within the WHSRN site are improving, and the connection between the two is more tangible than it was just two years ago. Their efforts continue, with goals for building local capacity to implement more technical water treatment solutions and solid waste management.

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Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) resting at Delta del Río Iscuandé, Colombia. Courtesy of Asociación Calidris

In an article about this project on its website, Asociación Calidris reflects on a few lessons learned that may be insightful to partners at other WHSRN sites. When endeavoring to link an  improvement in quality of life with conservation, it is essential to begin with a diagnostic workshop that allows the community to explain and understand the situation for themselves. Providing an educational process through which to identify and prioritize problems together is key to the success of whatever actions may follow. This approach also enables the project leaders to see and understand the situation from the communities’ perspective and, in turn, be able to better assess and discern appropriate solutions.

Read the full article (in Spanish)

For more information, please contact Patricia Falk (pfalk@calidris.org.co), Education Coordinator, Asociación Calidris, or Fernando Castillo (calidris@calidris.org.co), Director, Asociación Calidris and member of the WHSRN Hemispheric Council.

Six foreign bird species receive Endangered Species Act protection

Written by Vanessa Kauffman/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today a final rule to protect six foreign bird species found on islands in French Polynesia and in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

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Artwork of Slender-billed Curlews. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The rule implements federal protections provided by the ESA for the Cantabrian Capercaillie, Marquesan Imperial Pigeon, Eiao Marquesas Reed-warbler, Greater Adjutant, Jerdon’s Courser, and Slender-billed Curlew. Populations of each of these species are small, fragmented, and declining, making them particularly vulnerable to genetic threats associated with small populations and extinction.

This determination follows a thorough review of the best available scientific information, comments from the general public, peer reviews, and any new information received during the public comment period following publication of the proposed rule to list these species.

Significant threats to these six foreign bird species include habitat loss, overutilization and inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms. Information on climate change was available for only one species, the slender-billed curlew; based on this information the Service found climate change to be a potential threat to this species.

Granting foreign species protection under the ESA means that the import or export of any of the species, or their parts or products, as well as their sale in interstate or foreign commerce, is prohibited. Permits for these prohibited actions may be issued for specific purposes consistent with the ESA.

The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on August 11, 2011, and become effective on September 12, 2011.

The ESA provides a critical safety net for fish, wildlife and plants and to date has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species, as well as promoting the recovery of many others. The Service is actively engaged with conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Endangered Species program’s Branch of Foreign Species, visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/international-activities.html.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/usfws, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfwsand download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.