Garden Route Shorebird Conservation Project

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The Remarkable Odyssey of a Semipalmated Sandpiper

Written by Stephen Brown/Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
Just a few days ago, Brad Winn and Shiloh Schulte returned from Coats Island with the first two geolocators from the Semipalmated Sandpiper migration study. We were waiting breathlessly to see what mysteries would be revealed! Ron Porter, who is working on analyzing the geolocator data, downloaded and analyzed the data from the first geolocator over the weekend. He produced the map below, which reveals a remarkable odyssey for a tiny bird, the first glimpse ever into the entire migratory pathway of this species.
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Map of the journey of a geotagged Semipalmated Sandpiper. Courtesy of Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
Map of the journey of a geotagged Semipalmated Sandpiper. Courtesy of Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences

Coats Island Team Recovers Second Geolocator

Written by Brad Winn/Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
Success! Another geolocator in hand. Our second tagged bird proved more elusive than the first. Though initially interested in the playback from the phone, he would not come close to the bow net. The constant wind whipping over the tundra also made a stationary mist net impractical. We settled in to observe the behavior patterns and routine of the bird banded with the colors Orange-White-Orange, our geotagged sandpiper.
Geolocator was successfully recovered  from the Orange-White-Orange Semipalmated Sandpiper. © Brad Winn
Geolocator was successfully recovered from the Orange-White-Orange Semipalmated Sandpiper. © Brad Winn
Geotagged Semipalmated Sandpiper. © Brad Winn
Geotagged Semipalmated Sandpiper. © Brad Winn
Semipalmated Sandpipers are generally not very wary of humans on the nesting grounds, and Orange-White-Orange was no exception. Very quickly he allowed us to approach to within a few meters when foraging around his favorite ponds. Our winning solution to capturing him was a slow and patient stalk while holding a mist net between us. Our strategy was complicated by the lumpy tussocks and mounds that cover the wet tundra. The first time we dropped the net on Orange-White-Orange, he was able to sneak out the side between two tussocks. Fortunately, he did not seem to realize that we were responsible for his near-capture, and he allowed us to approach closely again. This time we chose a relatively open area near the edge of a pond and waited for him to forage his way into the catch zone. Working in close coordination, we flipped the net over the little sandpiper and seconds later had him in hand!
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Five hundred Wrybill with a single catch

Posted by Miranda Shorebird Centre
Wrybill is a very naive bird. It evolved in New Zealand when there were no introduced mammalian predators and consequently it has no appropriate behaviour to respond to the threats of predation. It is not the least bit shy when it comes to human beings either. When it comes to cannon netting this is a good feature! At Pukorokoro Miranda a significant proportion of the New Zealand, and also the world population overwinters. Other northern harbours, particularly the Manukau have overwintering populations. The birds arrive at Pukorokoro Miranda when the South Island breeding season is complete, around Christmas time. There are always non-breeding birds present at Pukorokoro Miranda any time you visit.
With this catch an amazing 10% of the world population were trapped.
With this catch approximately 10% of the world population were trapped. © Bartek Wypych
Wrybill ringed on the South Island caught again on the North Island. © Bartek Wypych
Wrybill ringed on the South Island caught again on the North Island. © Bartek Wypych
On 21 June over 500 Wrybill were caught using cannon net by a team of volunteers and researchers.
The Wrybill is one of the most unique shorebird species in the world. © Bartek Wypych
The Wrybill is one of the most unique shorebird species in the world. © Bartek Wypych
It is in the South Island breeding sites that the species is at greatest threat. Braided river systems carry water from the mountains and, at low flow braids of flowing water are separated by large areas of rocks and gravel derived from the Southern Alps. These areas are where the bird breeds and it is ideally camouflaged to avoid visual detection. Ideally peak flow events prevent vegetation becoming established. Mammalian predators hiding in this vegetation are the major threat to nesting birds, second to this 4WD vehicles using the wide expanses for recreation.
The Wrybill with laterally-curved bill specialized to feed on insect larvae under riverbed stones. © Bartek Wypych
The Wrybill with laterally-curved bill specialized to feed on insect larvae under riverbed stones. © Bartek Wypych
Controlled water flows resulting from hydro schemes and reduced flow due to water extraction result in conditions that cause vegetation build up. Some rivers do still remain where the scouring effects of seasonal flood events keep the braided rivers in peak condition. However, this is a species that now depends upon human management for its long term survival.

Is there still hope for the Slender-billed Curlew?

Written by Marko Šćiban/Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia
On 3 April 2014 in pastures around natron lake Rusanda in north Serbia (Banat region) I observed a strange-looking curlew species with my colleague, Radislav Mirić. It was among a flock of around 400 Whimbrels and 40 Eurasian Curlews. Bird had a little thinner bill than the surrounding Whimbrels, it was around the same size of Whimbrels or just slightly bigger. It was coloured similarly to Whimbrels/juvenile Slender-billed Curlews, with small spots on a whitish-yellowish background. What made it different from other Whimbrels, was a clearly whitish head without typical dark stripes on the head of Whimbrels. Unfortunately, several minutes after these photos were made, the bird flew up in a direction of a Sun so we did not manage to see it in flight. Pictures are not of a good quality, but at least others can look at it and a discussion can be started. To me it looks like a very good candidate for a Slender-billed Curlew or some odd hybrid between Eurasian Curlew and Whimbrel.
Bellow a few digiscoped images showing the bird in question.
© Marko Šćiban
© Marko Šćiban
© Marko Šćiban
© Marko Šćiban
© Marko Šćiban
© Marko Šćiban
© Marko Šćiban
© Marko Šćiban
© Marko Šćiban

5th Annual Shorebird Festival, San Antonio Bay, Argentina

Written by Meredith Gutowski Morhouse/WHSRN
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The San Antonio Bay Shorebird Festival in Rio Negro, Argentina, has become one of the biggest local events to have a major impact on the country and even the Southern Cone. The festival is renowned both for the originality of its activities and the degree of coordination among the local actors, as well as for its artistic materials and call to action. San Antonio Bay is a WHSRN Site of International Importance and a critical resource during the long migration of rufa Red Knots (Calidris canutus rufa), a subspecies of high conservation concern.
The nongovernmental organization Inalafquen Foundation, in collaboration with various public and private institutions, merchants, and neighbors, welcomed the community to join in celebrating the bay’s 5th Annual Shorebird Festival last weekend, 22 and 23 March. Most activities took place in the Plaza Luis Piedra Buena in the village of Las Grutas.
The festival’s many interesting activities are listed below, but you can see the entire program and schedules on the public Festival Facebook page (no account required).
MIGRATION: A reading and writing workshop for adults.
FLYING BIRD: Aerial trip. Win a trip for 3 people to see San Antonio Bay as the shorebirds do – by air!
PAINTING THE SKIES: A collective mural-painting workshop.
FOOTPRINTS: Mosaic and sculpture workshop for kids 7–11 years old. We will work on a story and paint it on tiles.
FLIGHT WITHIN FLIGHT. “Stop Motion” video workshop for kids 10 and older. The resulting video from this activity will be sent to kids at other festivals.
GAME BOOTHS: 10 stations with themed games to learn all about shorebirds: what are they, the different species, migratory routes, feeding, molting, banding, etc. Includes raffles and prizes.
SHOWS: Theater performances, puppets, and music in the square.
NATURE WALK AND BIRDING: We will walk along the wetland towards Flight Latitude 40 Nature Center to visit a birding area and have a guided tour.
Three lucky festival-goers won a shorebird’s-eye view of San Antonio Bay this weekend!
The winner artwork of the 'Concurso Internacional de Ilustración' entitled 'Arribos' (Arriwals) made by a 22 years old Argentinean artist, Natalia Raquel Bogado. Image copyright of Festival de Aves Playeras Bahía San Antonio
The winner artwork of the ‘Concurso Internacional de Ilustración’ entitled ‘Arribos’ (Arriwals) made by a 22 years old Argentinean artist, Natalia Raquel Bogado. Image copyright of Festival de Aves Playeras Bahía San Antonio
Additionally, and for the first time, an art contest was held prior to the festival, with the theme “Flights that inspire, skies that connect.” An international jury, chaired by renowned Argentine artist and illustrator Aldo Chiappe, selected 24 works which were exhibited at Las Grutas Cultural Center from 22 to 24 March. Surpassing all expectations, the contest rules and shorebird materials were sent to over 3,500 applicants and a total of 425 pieces of art were submitted from around the world! Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, United States of America, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Bulgaria! The winner was Natalia Raquel Bogado, a talented 22-year-old artist from Argentina, for her piece entitled “Arrivals”. ¡Felicitaciones!
Please visit and “Like” the public Festival Facebook page to see all the news from this year’s event.
For more information, contact Ms. Mirta Carbajal (diapontia@gmail.com), President, Inalafquen Foundation, San Antonio Oeste, Argentina.

Boris & Irina reunite in Azerbaijan

Written by The Amazing Journey Team

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After spending the winter far apart in Eastern Sudan and Western Saudi Arabia respectively, Boris and Irina (two of our satellite-tagged Sociable Lapwings) have apparently reunited in Azerbaijan during their long journeys home to Kazakhstan.
Boris's track is in purple and Irina's in torquoise.
Boris’s track is in purple and Irina’s in torquoise.
In our last update on March 15th, we had followed Boris (on his rapid migration north from Sudan) to a location in Syria close to the Iraq border which he arrived at on Monday, March 10th. We now know he stayed there until the morning of Friday, March 14th but then travelled on, and by the afternoon of Sunday, March 16th, he’d arrived in Eastern Azerbaijan, near the west coast of the Caspian Sea.
We had also followed Irina, who stayed longer on her wintering grounds (in Saudia Arabia) than Boris but she set off from there on March 6th and by March 10th, she had arrived in Iraq near the Syrian border. We now know she stayed there until Friday, March 14th but then pressed on and by the afternoon of Sunday, March 16th, she too had arrived in the same area of Azerbaijan that Boris was in.
While it will require further survey and monitoring in the future, it looks highly likely that we have now discovered an important Spring migration staging site for Sociable Lapwings in Azerbaijan.
Historical records in our database have indicated that this area of Azerbaijan might be a last Spring stopover site for Sociable Lapwings before they cross the Caspian and head on to the Emba valley in Kazakhstan. Our knowledge of regular Spring staging sites is very restricted but now this location in Azerbaijan and another site in Syria where c. 2,000 birds were located in 2007 appear to be regular staging sites. As indications are that both Boris and Irina passed close to or through this area of Syria this year, it is indeed possible that they might have stopped at the Syrian location for a few hours before moving on non-stop to Azerbaijan too.
It is likely that there are not many large stopover sites for Sociable Lapwings on their Spring migration back to Kazakhstan. The journey home is rapid and the entire route through Central Asian semi-deserts in Spring is much wetter throughout, offering extensive suitable resting and feeding habitat that is unavailable in the Autumn.
As of Monday, March 24th, Boris and Irina are both still staging in Azerbaijan on the East Caspian coast.
The great image at the head of this post by Philipp Meister is of a flock of Sociable Lapwings encountered at Gobustan, Azerbaijan on 6th April 2006.
The shores of Lake Hadzhibagul in Azerbaijan. Image Courtesy of The Amazing Journey Team
The shores of Lake Hadzhibagul in Azerbaijan. Image Courtesy of The Amazing Journey Team
In February this year our Sociable Lapwing Study team received news of another important Sociable Lapwing migration discovery, from the same area of Azerbaijan, that was made in Autumn 2013.
On 20th October 2013 Pedro Romero Vidal recorded a flock of 45 Sociable Lapwings at Lake Hadzhibagul and on November 7th he found another flock of 15 there. Pedro regularly counts waterbirds at the lake to record their numbers and diurnal activity patters for his MSc thesis at Greswald University, Germany. On both occasions the birds he encountered were feeding on muddy ground with small pools.
Of great interest to us was that among the 45 birds he encountered on October 20th, no less than four were colour-ringed. One carried a blue and a white ring, but in general, viewing conditions were not sufficient to read the full combinations. However, as the majority of birds carrying rings now must come from the Korgalzhyn region of Kazakhstan, and as four ringed birds were seen together, it seems likely that these birds were ringed in Central Kazakhstan near Lake Tengiz.
This is another piece of the jigsaw in our quest to reveal the Sociable Lapwings’ migration routes. It suggests that some birds, and perhaps only in some years, do not take a detour around the North shore of the Caspian, but cross it directly from the West Kazakhstan or North Turkmenistan coast.
Until now this has only been proven for the bird’s Spring migration route.

Manomet Center names director of major hemispheric shorebird network

Written by David McGlinchey/Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences

The Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences has named Dr. Rob Clay as the new director of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) Executive Office.

Dr. Robert Clay is the new director of WHSRN. Image courtesy of Manomet
Dr. Robert Clay is the new director of WHSRN. Image courtesy of Manomet
WHSRN is a voluntary consortium working across the Americas to protect and manage the hemisphere’s most important habitats for migratory shorebirds. The Network currently includes 88 sites in 13 countries, and over 250 organizations from Alaska to Argentina.
Dr. Clay has been working on the conservation of birds throughout the Western Hemisphere for over 20 years. Prior to joining Manomet, Clay worked for Birdlife International as Senior Conservation Manager in the Americas Secretariat, where he supervised the development, management, and fundraising for conservation programs. He focused on the conservation of migratory birds, particularly grassland birds and globally threatened species, and worked regularly with the WHSRN staff and partners. Clay also served on the WHSRN Hemispheric Council. He will begin his new role in May and will be based in Asuncion, Paraguay, where he has lived for 15 years.
I am very excited to be joining what is widely recognized as one of the most successful flyway-scale site networks in the world,
Clay said.
Working with the many WHSRN partners throughout the Americas, I’m optimistic that together we can redress the worrying declines in so many shorebird populations.
Many shorebird species have shown sharp population declines in the past two decades. WHSRN uses science and the cooperation of its members in an effort to halt the declines and to ensure the long-term survival of these birds. WHSRN provides training, capacity building, and visibility for all member sites. The Network’s immediate goals include supporting existing sites and enrolling new qualifying sites, especially in Central and South America.
We are delighted to have someone of Rob’s experience and stature taking over the leadership of WHSRN, and look forward to great progress advancing shorebird conservation with our partners across the Hemisphere,
said Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Program Director Stephen Brown.
With headquarters located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences has more than 30 scientists and support staff working from the north slope of Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina. Through research and collaboration, Manomet builds science-based, cooperative solutions to environmental problems.
Originally founded as the Manomet Bird Observatory, the Center is celebrating 45 years of conserving the natural world for the benefit of wildlife and human populations. For more information or to learn how to become involved, visit www.whsrn.org or www.manomet.org.
For more information, please contact:
David McGlinchey
Communications Director
Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
508-224-6521508-224-6521 ext. 232
dmcglinchey@manomet.org

Shorebird Illustration Competition: 28 February 2014

Written by Meredith Gutowski Morehouse/WHSRN
San Antonio Bay, a WHSRN Site of International Importance, will celebrate its 5th Annual Shorebird Festival on 22–23 March 2014 in Las Grutas, Rio Negro, Argentina. The Inalafquen Foundation and the festival’s organizing committee have launched an International Illustration Competition to encourage artwork that depicts the subject of shorebirds and illustrates the contest’s slogan:

Flights that inspire, skies that connect.

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The deadline is 28 February 2014, and winners will be announced 14 March 2014. A maximum of 2 entries per participant. The top prize is a cruise to Antarctica!, departing from and returning to the City of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, during the 2014-2015 season. The jury will also select a second- and third-place winner, and three honorable mentions.
For all other details and information on the contest, visit the International Illustration Competition web page.
Good Luck!

Proposal for the World Shorebirds Day

Written by Gyorgy Szimuly/WorldWaders
There is no better time to set the bar for the next level in raising global public awareness about the conservation of and research on shorebirds than today. About half of the world’s shorebird populations are in decline, and the rate of habitat loss is worse than ever before.
Healthy populations of shorebirds mean healthy wetlands, what thousands of human lives depend on. Actions on a global level need to be organised to get people connected with shorebirds, their spectacular life and their habitats.
To celebrate shorebirds around the world, one commemorative day should be set, World Shorebirds Day, dedicated to special events.

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Here is my proposal to launch the World Shorebirds Day for the first time in 2014. You are more than welcome to comment or review it and share it within your network.
Note: this is not a confirmed event! The final decision to be announced widely.