This could be the first and last high-definition video of a Spoon-billed sandpiper chick emerging from its nest.
One of the world’s most critically endangered species, the 6-inch-tall (15 centimeters) bird faces extinction within 10 years, according to a statement from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which released the video. Only about 100 pairs were counted at its breeding grounds in the Russian Far East last year, and the population has declined 25 percent annually in recent years. (There were also 100 juveniles.)
The Cornell Lab sent videographer Gerrit Vyn to Chukotka, Russia, to document the sandpipers’ sounds and behavior at a remote nesting site in 2011. The lab recently released the videos online to draw attention to the species’ plight. John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said in the statement:
The Spoon-billed sandpiper is one of the most remarkable little birds on Earth, and it may go extinct before most people even realize it was here.
We hope that with this priceless video footage we quickly connect people, conservation organizations and governments to these amazing birds, and galvanize an international conservation effort.
First moments of life
One video captures the first moments of life as the tiny, fluffy, brown-and-white chicks stumble out of the nest, pecking for food. “They feed themselves from day one,” Vyn said in the video. [Watch the chick hatching.]
Vyn camped out a tent and a blind, with only a sleeping bag for warmth, waiting for the eggs to hatch. “It was an incredibly exciting time for me, exciting and nerve-wracking waiting for three days in this windstorm for these four eggs to hatch,” he said. Vyn filmed the only nest with eggs in 2011: The other 20 eggs were bred in captivity and the chicks released in Russia to make their 4,971-mile (8,000 kilometer) migration to Southeast Asia.
Much of the little bird’s decline is due to habitat loss from development and subsistence hunting along its migratory path and winter home in Southeast Asia seacoasts, scientists think. For example, the 20-mile-long (32 km) Saemangeum seawall in South Korea cut off 170 square miles (440 square km) of estuary and tidal flats, feeding grounds for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds and a primary stopping site for Spoon-billed sandpipers. And shorebirds are a food source for people living along the coastal mudflats of Myanmar and other nearby countries, the Cornell Lab said in a statement.
Documenting a disappearing species
Common foraging behaviors here on the breeding grounds are surprisingly different from the way they feed on the wintering grounds, according to the Cornell lab. On the breeding grounds, the birds feed on insects, especially midges, mosquitoes, flies, beetles and spiders, as well as grass seeds and berries. On the wintering grounds and during migration, they eat marine invertebrates, including polychaete worms and shrimp.
Another video by Vyn shows a mated Spoon-billed sandpiper pair foraging along the edge of a snowmelt pond in Chukotka.
Vyn also captured rarely seen courtship behavior between adult Spoon-billed sandpipers. This video, shot during the first few days of a pair’s seasonal courtship, includes an attempted copulation and a nest scrape display.
The Spoon-billed Sandpiper population in Russian has been tracked since 1977, when a survey estimated 2,500 breeding pairs in Chukotka. By 2003 the population had dropped to around 500 pairs. In 2008, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed the species as critically endangered on its Red List.
Another saddening shooting issue has come to surface a few days ago which made the shorebird world completely speechless. The duck hunting season started in the mid weekend of March in Victoria’s wetlands with the off-limits to members of the general public before 10am and for 2 hours before sunset unless they have licence to shoot ducks. This restriction is effective for the entire 12 weeks of the duck season.
The majority of Victorians are opposed to duck shooting and want to see the sport banned. Yet the Government has introduced changes to the Wildlife Regulations that ignore the welfare of birds.
In a media release posted prior to the season opening Conservation Manager of BirdLife Australia Dr Jenny Lau said:
So the only people who’ll know what’s going on in the wetlands at prime shooting times will be the shooters themselves. With recent staff cuts, we have no confidence that the Department of Primary Industries will be there to look out for the welfare of our wildlife.
Dr Lau has concerned that native waterfowl is at risk and said the Government has failed to consult with BirdLife Australia about the duck season.
Given the very dry conditions this year, lake levels have dropped dramatically in some parts of the State causing waterbirds to concentrate on remaining wetlands. It’s important that the distribution of waterfowl at wetlands is reviewed to determine whether there are adequate refuges for all wetland species.
Shortly after the media release and first weeks of the hunting season horrible and tragic images posted on BirdLife Australia Facebook Page. Images showed dead Pink-eared Ducks, Grey Teal, Eurasian Coots, Red-necked Avocets, Blue-billed Ducks and Hardheads. Shocked BA statement on Facebook says:
This is what happens when hunters shoot indiscriminately into flocks into flocks – how else could you mistake an avocet for a duck?
During a bird survey of an Important Bird Area (IBA) in north-west Malaysia, Dave Bakewell (a member of the Malaysian Nature Society and bird survey leader) picked out a Spoon-billed Sandpiper from over 10,000 birds on the intertidal mudflats, noticing the bird’s characteristic ‘snowplough’ feeding behaviour through the morning haze.
The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a Critically Endangered species with an estimated global population of only 240-400 mature individuals, so every sighting of the bird is crucial to learning more about the species and the sites it relies upon for survival.
The recent partnership launched between the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS, BirdLife Partner), CEMEX (an international cement and aggregates company) and BirdLife International takes a landscape-scale approach to assessing biodiversity in mainland Penang State, including monitoring of this IBA which is already recognised as a vital site for over 15,000 birds.
Now, the presence of one of the world’s rarest and most threatened shorebirds at the Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda coast IBA – only the second record of Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Penang, Malaysia in nine years – further highlights the value of the CEMEX-BirdLife-MNS partnership, not least the provision of funding to monitor and help conserve this IBA.
Dave Bakewell’s video of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper showing its characteristic feeding behaviour:
Mike Crosby (Senior Conservation Officer at BirdLife International and expert on Asian birds) commented on the significance of the sighting in Malaysia, given the rarity of the species:
It indicates that there might be small numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpiper present in Malaysia during the non-breeding season that are only occasionally picked up during the infrequent waterbird surveys. The support for surveys/monitoring by CEMEX is helping to increase coverage and the chances of locating this and other globally threatened species.
As part of a partnership with CEMEX and BirdLife International, CEMEX Malaysia and MNS launched a collaboration earlier this year to scale up biodiversity conservation in the country. The partnership has an initial focus on a CEMEX quarry site on mainland Penang as well as the wider region, including the Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda coast IBA, seeking to identify ways to better protect and conserve this intertidal site.
With around two more weeks of bird surveys to go in this IBA, Dave Bakewell said:
The CEMEX-MNS-BirdLife collaboration has enabled the first accurate assessment of the site for some years, and it has been heartening to discover that the site still holds large numbers of waders, including a noteworthy roost of up to 63 Spotted Greenshanks (possibly over 10% of the world population) categorised as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The discovery of a Spoon-billed Sandpiper on 25 February 2013 underlines the critical importance of this IBA. CEMEX supports MNS’s efforts to secure conservation of the site, providing hope that the site can be protected in the long-term amid ever-increasing pressure from economic development along the Penang coastline.
Spoon-billed Sandpiper nests in north-east Russia and migrates along the East Asian coast to spend the winter in South-East Asia. All along the flyway, BirdLife Partners are linking up under the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme to help protect and save the species.
It is hoped that further support from partnerships like that between BirdLife and CEMEX can help birds like the Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Malaysia along the whole length of theirflyways.
A public report form, where all sightings of banded American Oystercatchers should be reported.
A feature called “My Oystercatchers” which engages the public with “their” birds by allowing anyone to automatically—without remembering previously reported band codes or emailing the database administrator–view all records for birds they have reported.
The Working Group hopes that this capability will help the public to engage with the lives of oystercatchers, and become more aware of all shorebirds and beach-nesting birds. We ask that anyone working in the oysercatcher’s range be aware of the database, report banded oysercatchers to the database, and help to inform birdwatchers and other members of the public about the database and the existence of oystercatchers.
The website for the public to report bands is http://bit.ly/15VK43N and My Oystercatchers and information about banding is linked to from that page. Questions about the database can be directed to the database administrator, Lindsay Addison (email@example.com).
Manomet is one of the key players in shorebird conservation in the Americas. One of the key programs of Manomet is the Shorebird Recovery Project which is an important link between research and conservation. On 21 March 2013 the board released a news about seeking more members to support their important job for protecting shorebirds and their habitats.
Become a member today and your gift will mean TWICE as much! Thanks to a generous $5,000 Membership Matching Gift Challenge made by Manomet Councilor Peter Brown all new membership gifts of $50 or more, as well as any increased donations by current Manomet members made through April 22 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000. A total benefit of $10,000 to support our scientists and our work! Peter Brown, Manomet Councilor (Newbury, MA) said:
I’ve been supporting Manomet for ten years because they are result-oriented and get things done. Manomet recognizes problems, discovers solutions, and then engages the right people to make a difference. As a result-oriented person, this challenge is my way of getting others engaged in supporting Manomet’s mission. I know that my financial support goes a long way toward protecting the natural resources I value. Please join me by becoming a member today.
Some of the fantastic benefits of becoming a member of Manomet include:
Free subscription to Partnerships magazine, published twice yearly
First-to-know invitations to special events and activities
Free or reduced costs for special programs and events
Free Manomet decal
Double your impact to create a more sustainable world and JOIN or RENEW your support today!
For questions, please contact: Johanna Lawrence, Development and Executive Affairs Manager 508-224-6521, ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Argentina, end of the 1920s. The prosperity of early 20th century Argentina and the vast distances between its cities led to the creation of Aeroposta Argentina, the airmail. The Patagonian route was opened in 1929, flying mail from Bahía Blanca to Comodoro Rivadavia in French-made single-engine, open-cockpit planes. Among the handful of brave and skilled pilots flying th
is route was one Antoine de Saint Exupery who later became known and loved worldwide for his story “The Little Prince.”
Less well-known is Saint Exupery’s chilling novel “Night Flight,” the story of the last flight of Fabien, one of the airmail pilots. Heading north at night to Buenos Aires after taking off from the town of San Antonio Oeste, Fabien encounters a huge storm that covers the entire center of Argentina…
Today, San Antonio Oeste is a popular Argentine summer beach resort town. It is also the most important northbound stopover site for Red Knots in South America, recognized as a Site of International Importance in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Unfortunately, the total disconnect between these two worlds threatened the knots. Beachgoers rode 4-wheelers across sensitive habitat, and local authorities authorized incompatible projects.
Our two organizations realized that what was needed was a way to inform the public, both the residents and the visitors. But even more, we sought to engage them on an emotional, as well as intellectual level, with shorebirds and conservation. We first collaborated on the creation of Vuelo Latitud 40 (Flight Latitude 40), a nature interpretation center with that goal in mind. Manomet raised funds as part of a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation while Fundación Inalafquen provided the vision, design and hard work required to create a place that is both appealing to visitors and effective in delivering its message.
One part of the Center is the Red Knot Club where children can play at being scientists studying shorebirds through participatory activities. We needed a mascot to tell the stories to the youngest ones, and Fabien, the pilot, was never far from our thinking. His lonely journey, buffeted by winds with only a simple compass and, at best, intermittent communication with the ground, reminded us of the needs of the knots. They, too, stop at San Antonio Bay, seeking a safe place to rest, refuel and do a little feather “maintenance” if needed before continuing on the way north, ultimately to the Canadian Arctic.
Soon, we had “reincarnated” Fabien as a rather dapper Red Knot—Playero Rojizo in Spanish–complete with flying helmet and aviator’s scarf. We named him “Fabien Rojizo” and made him the symbol of shorebird conservation at San Antonio Bay. As part of a “Pride” campaign co-financed by Rare and Manomet, a human-sized version of Fabien visits schools, dances on the beach, attends meeting with mayors of other cities, and leads the annual shorebird festival at San Antonio Bay.
And Fabien recently got a new plane! Recognizing the shared interests in the area’s natural, cultural and literary heritage, a partnership developed between Fundación Inalafquen and the 65-year-old Aeroclub San Antonio Oeste. During the upcoming edition of the San Antonio Bay Shorebird Festival, the Aeroclub-SAO will offer flights to get a shorebird’s eye view of the Bay.
Recently, in honor of the shorebird festival and the new partnership, Aeroclub-SAO has named its 4-seat Piper Archer “Fabien Rojizo.” Fabien will continue to fly at San Antonio Bay along with the flocks of Red Knots, telling the story that has joined humans and shorebirds in the same sky for so many years.
As regular readers of the Saving Species blog will know, the RSPB has been supporting work on the Critically Endangered sociable lapwing since 2005, and from 2011 has been acting as Co-ordinator for the implementation of the International Single Species Action Plan for the species under a Memorandum of Cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). We know from extensive research between 2004 and 2012 that sociable lapwings are declining due to low adult survival, which is almost certainly caused by being shot during migration. There is evidence from known stopover sites in north-eastern Syria and some areas in Iraq from 2008 and 2009 that these birds are widely hunted by both locals and visiting falconers from the Gulf States.
The latest reports from the region are the first to confirm the killing of sociable lapwings in Kuwait. The birds appear to have been shot on 12th March. Tim Stowe, the RSPB’s Director of International Operations says:
Regrettably, this is the first confirmed hunting of sociable lapwings in Kuwait, and this latest information is of particular concern as these birds were returning to Kazakhstan where they would have started breed in 6 weeks time.
In May 2012, the revision of the 2002 Action Plan was adopted by the 5th Meeting of the Parties to AEWA (MOP5) in La Rochelle, France (see more details on the Amazing Journey website). This identified the urgent need for action across sociable lapwing range states to implement and enforce effective hunting legislation. Sergey Dereliev, AEWA Technical Officer states:
Although Kuwait is not yet a Contracting Party to AEWA, the Government has expressed its interest in the objectives of the Agreement through attendance at MOP5, and it could play a significant role in the Gulf region in helping to halt the decline of this Critically Endangered species by implementing and enforcing hunting legislation. By improving adult survival by 30% we could see a stabilization of the current population size on the way to a future increasing population trend.
RSPB and Swarovski Optik have been working through the BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Programme to save the sociable lapwing. You can follow our work on the Amazing Journey website. This year we are planning to attach more satellite tags to the birds on their breeding grounds in Kazakhstan and track them to the Middle East. This will further our understanding of the migration route and enable us to target future awareness-raising and advocacy at the right stop-over sites and range states. You can support our work by making a donation via the Amazing Journeys ‘get involved’ pages.
“Only 100 breeding pairs remain in the wild but together we can save it from extinction
The spoon-billed sandpiper is hurtling towards extinction, with fewer than 100 breeding pairs remaining in the wild and a total population that weighs less than a single mute swan. Without urgent action it will be lost forever. Together we can save it.”
This is a nice video about the life cycle of rufa subspecies of Red Knot produced by Parks Canada. Follow this bird, whose population has dropped by 70% since the year 2000, alongside its flyway and discover the disturbances that are affecting its population.
Today a sad image was circulated in Twitter and Facebook of shot Sociable Lapwings. OSME has received this image today of killed adult Sociable Lapwings and other shorebirds. A very brief report posted on OSME’s Twitter feed says “3 Sociable Lapwing (Critically Endangered), 120 Caspian Plover & hundreds of larks shot in Kuwait.”
3 Sociable Lapwing (Critically Endangered), 120 Caspian Plover & hundreds of larks shot in Kuwait.
Hunting in the Middle East is one of the main challenges for bird conservation bodies and increases concerns on high mortality of critically endangered birds. Some news reach the “surface” but the vast majority of cases remain unseen by the public. “Apparently no legislation to prohibit this unmitigated shooting of migratory species.” – OSME said in one of its Twitter feed.
We are eagerly waiting for upcoming updates on this recent issue and actions taken.