American Oystercatcher Tracking Project pairs advance technology, social media and research to further wildlife conservation efforts

Written by Audubon North Carolina

One of the project birds, Arnie in July, after his chick had fledged. © Audubon North Carolina
One of the project birds, Arnie in July, after his chick had fledged. © Audubon North Carolina
Thanks to a mix of wildlife tracking technology paired with an interactive website and some social media savvy birds, individuals are being given a first-class ticket to take flight and share in the life of the American Oystercatcher.
Groundbreaking Research
A new research program developed by Audubon North Carolina (ANC) will further our understanding of coastal bird migration and habitat use. The American Oystercatcher Tracking Project was created as a tool to study the movements of six American Oystercatchers over the course of one year, while engaging and educating an online audience through social media engagement that allows birds to tweet online and off.
Currently, scientists know where American Oystercatchers breed and winter, but little is known about how they move between these sites, and where they may stop along the way.  To better understand the mystery of their habits, ANC has equipped six birds with advanced tracking technology in the form of small satellite devices that fit on the birds like a small backpack. The devices will detail their movements allowing scientists to better study individual birds over an extended period. With the trackers, scientists will be able to study the birds’ migratory pathways, habitat choices, and much more.
Travel with the Oystercatchers All Year Long
There is plenty of activity happening this year that goes beyond a bird with a backpack. On the website, each of the birds has been given a name and personality to tell their migration story. Website visitors can follow the birds individually on a digital map and through their Twitter account – where the birds will be tweeting to keep fans updated as they travel. The site is also a rich resource of in-depth information about oystercatcher biology, habits and habitats. Conservation scientists will also contribute to a blog as well, providing a firsthand account of their work on the project.
Adopt an Oystercatcher
Once visitors have chosen their favorite Oystercatchers, there are even more ways to connect with the birds as they take flight. ANC is giving supporters the opportunity to adopt an American Oystercatcher of their own, contributing to ongoing conservation efforts for the priority species. New parents will receive a certificate of adoption and photo of their bird, and proceeds from the Adopt an Oystercatcher program will go to support on-the-ground fieldwork in North Carolina.
Lindsay Addison, Audubon North Carolina coastal biologist says:
The AMOY Tracking Project is unique in the way it incorporates the research of coastal bird migration, while also engaging the public through social media. Our team is excited to participate in such an exciting project, expanding knowledge of coastal birds for science, conservation and the public.
The American Oystercatcher Project was developed through a partnership with Toyota Together Green, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and North Carolina State University. For more information about the Tracking Project, visit nc.audubon.org/american-oystercatcher-tracking-project.
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Rare sighting of marked spoon-billed sandpiper on migration

Written by BirdLife International
This Spoon-billed Sandpiper was marked in north-east Russia and has now been seen in China. © Michelle and Peter Wong
This Spoon-billed Sandpiper was marked in north-east Russia and has now been seen in China. © Michelle and Peter Wong
A rare sighting of a marked Spoon-billed Sandpiper on migration was reported last weekend from Rudong mudflats north of Shanghai.
The Critically Endangered bird was identified by a lime green plastic flag on its leg marked ‘01’ that was attached by scientists from Birds Russia on its breeding grounds this summer.
Conservationists know that this bird ‘Lime 01’ fathered six fledglings this summer – three that were hand-reared by conservationists and three that he raised himself – which is 10 times the average for the species.
In all, this summer sixteen hand-reared spoon-billed sandpiper fledglings and eight adults were marked with the lime green plastic leg flags. Birdwatchers are being asked to report all sightings of spoon-billed sandpipers.
Rudong mudflats are the most significant known staging post in China for Spoon-billed Sandpipers where 106 individuals were counted last year in October. Demand for land is high in the region, which is only 150km from Shanghai, and land has already been reclaimed from the marshes at Dongling to the southern end.
Pavel Tomkovich of Birds Russia, who caught and marked the bird with Nikolai Yakushev, said:
When I marked “Lime 01” I wondered if anybody would ever see it on its travels, almost a quarter of the way round the world, as looking for Spoon-billed Sandpipers can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Looking for marked birds is even more difficult as we were only able to mark eight adult birds with these unique flags. Thanks to the reports of local birdwatchers, we’re learning their stopover points.”
Lime 01’ was seen leaving the breeding grounds on 4 August and was seen 5,000km away at Rudong on 31 August. Spoon-billed sandpipers can cover as much as 1,000km per day, leaving around three weeks during which it may have been staging elsewhere.
Zhang Lin of the “Spoon-billed Sandpiper in China” Team said:
The first Spoon-billed Sandpiper arrived at Rudong about two weeks ago since when I have been regularly scanning the increasing numbers of waders at the high tide roost at Rudong. When I glimpsed a bird on 31 August that looked like it had a lime green leg flag I knew something exciting was in front of me. On closer inspection it turned out to be ‘Lime 01’. I was over the moon as this is the first time that one of the birds marked in 2013 has been seen in China.
It is amazing to see how these little but Critically Endangered birds are connecting our key sites along the flyway between Russia and China. They are very important as they allow us to track whether efforts to save the species are working.
BirdLife’s project to save Rudong and Minjiang Estuary, two key resting and feeding sites used by Spoon-billed Sandpipers in China, ‘Saving Spoony’s Chinese Wetlands’ is supported by a $100,000 grant from The Walt Disney Company, through Disney’s Friends for Change.
Guidance on reporting spoon-billed sandpiper sightings is available from the East-Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force http://www.eaaflyway.net/spoon-billed-sandpiper.php.