Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey: Making wintering shorebirds count

Written by Point Blue Conservation Science
MGilbert2-photo_by_Steve_German

Citizen scientists and partner biologists are helping us figure out how large-scale environmental changes, like urbanization, extreme weather, climate variation as well as agricultural flooding, wetland restoration and management, are affecting shorebirds and their habitats throughout the Pacific Flyway. We still have a lot to learn about species population trends, which species are at greatest risk, and which habitats they most depend upon. To answer these questions Point Blue is leading the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey.
Western and Least Sandpiper. © Ryan DiGaudio
Western and Least Sandpiper. © Ryan DiGaudio

Filling in the Gaps

Past surveys of shorebirds in the Pacific Flyway, led by Point Blue and others, provided a valuable snapshot of population and habitat conditions through the 1990’s, but do not reflect more recent landscape level changes. Our revived annual Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey strives to fill existing information gaps and provide guidance to resource managers on how best to conserve shorebird habitats in the face of environmental change.

Data Innovations

The Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey is a coordinated multi-partner monitoring program led by Point Blue Conservation Science designed to guide the management and conservation of wintering shorebirds in the Pacific Flyway. Data is collected by both professional biologists and citizen scientists and is stored online at the California Avian Data Center. Within this Data Center, state of the art analytical approaches are providing partners with robust annual summaries of incoming data as well as interactive tools to visualize results, including population trends, spatial distribution of birds, and the relative abundance of birds by habitat type or location.
migratoryshorebird_Colombia_askMatt
© Steve German

Get Involved!

Visit our project website to learn how to volunteer and explore our findings.
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Spring shorebird surveys continue to count

Written by Bryan Watts/Center for Conservation Biology

On 6 June, Bryan Watts from CCB and Barry Truitt from The Nature Conservancy along with pilot Carter Crabbe completed their 6th week of aerial shorebird surveys for the spring of 2013. Documented along the barrier beaches were peak numbers of Dunlin (12,900), Red Knots (6,200), Ruddy Turnstones (820) and several other species. Together the crew has flown more than 75 aerial surveys of the study area and documented the location and identification of more than 1.5 million shorebirds since 1994. Consistency in approach, coverage, and surveyors has allowed for the evaluation of long-term trends in the number of shorebirds staging within the area, the timing of passage for the various species, the distribution of birds within the study area, and the use of foraging substrates. Over the years, several species have declined dramatically, concentrations have moved throughout the landscape, and substrates used for foraging have fluctuated widely.
Crop duster and long-time survey pilot Carter Crabbe flying over the Delmarva Peninsula toward the survey’s starting location on Assateague Island. Carter has flown the shorebird survey since its initiation in 1994. © Bryan Watts.
Crop duster and long-time survey pilot Carter Crabbe flying over the Delmarva Peninsula toward the survey’s starting location on Assateague Island. Carter has flown the shorebird survey since its initiation in 1994. © Bryan Watts
The survey was established in April of 1994 during a time when shorebirds were emerging as a bird community of global conservation concern. Information was needed to document population trends and to identify important staging sites to focus conservation efforts. The survey was designed to cover the active beach zone of all Virginia Barrier islands, one of the most pristine chain of barriers remaining in the Western Hemisphere. A set of 10 transects was also established across the vast mudflats within the lagoon system. Weekly aerial surveys have been flown during the period of primary spring migration from the last week of April through the first week of June. The Cessna 172 is flown below 50 feet along the surf zone to flush birds for identification and estimation.
A small flock of dunlin flushed from a patch of intertidal peat on Cedar Island. Peat is a critical foraging substrate along the barrier islands and appears in the surf zone when the island roles back over the marsh during major storm events. © Bryan Watts
A small flock of Dunlin flushed from a patch of intertidal peat on Cedar Island. Peat is a critical foraging substrate along the barrier islands and appears in the surf zone when the island roles back over the marsh during major storm events. © Bryan Watts
Watts and Truitt initiated the survey to learn more about how shorebird species were using the mid-Atlantic Coast during spring migration and to understand how this unique landscape fits within the broader Atlantic Flyway. Information from the survey has been used widely within the conservation community and has led to many follow-up ground projects focused on moving shorebird conservation forward.
Partners over the 20-year effort have included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Eastern Shore Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and The Center for Conservation Biology.

 

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.

Red Knot isn’t only shorebird facing decline

Written by Richard Degener/pressofAtlanticCity.com
Every spring, David Mizrahi sees fewer of the tiny shorebirds arriving to eat horseshoe crab eggs on the Delaware Bay. His expeditions to South America are documenting a similar decline on their wintering grounds.
But the bird is not a Red Knot.
A volunteer from the Cape May County Department of Mosquito Control releases a red knot during a banding operation along the Delaware Bay near Kimbles Beach in Middle Township.
A volunteer from the Cape May County Department of Mosquito Control releases a red knot during a banding operation along the Delaware Bay near Kimbles Beach in Middle Township.
Mizrahi, vice president of research and monitoring for the New Jersey Audubon Society, is tracking a shorebird called the semi-palmated sandpiper. He began studying it in 1995, when he was working toward his doctorate, and he continued his studies after being hired by the society 13 years ago.
The red knot, a state-endangered bird under consideration for federal listing, migrates from South America, stopping locally along the Delaware Bay to eat horseshoe crab eggs to gain enough weight to continue its trek to Arctic nesting grounds. A decline in its numbers, from perhaps 90,000 birds in the 1980s to just 26,000 today, gets most of the media attention.
Read more…

 

(Book) Arctic Shorebirds in North America: A Decade of Monitoring

Arctic Shorebirds in North America
A Decade of Monitoring

Jonathan Robert Bart & Victoria Helen Johnston
Hardcover, 320 pages
ISBN: 9780520273108
September 2012
University of California Press
Price: $80.00, £55.00
http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520273108

9780520273108

Each year shorebirds from North and South America migrate thousands of miles to spend the summer in the Arctic. There they feed in shoreline marshes and estuaries along some of the most productive and pristine coasts anywhere. With so much available food they are able to reproduce almost explosively; and as winter approaches, they retreat south along with their offspring, to return to the Arctic the following spring. This remarkable pattern of movement and activity has been the object of intensive study by an international team of ornithologists who have spent a decade counting, surveying, and observing these shorebirds. In this important synthetic work, they address multiple questions about these migratory bird populations. How many birds occupy Arctic ecosystems each summer? How long do visiting shorebirds linger before heading south? How fecund are these birds? Where exactly do they migrate and where exactly do they return? Are their populations growing or shrinking? The results of this study are crucial for better understanding how environmental policies will influence Arctic habitats as well as the far-ranging winter habitats used by migratory shorebirds.
Reviews:
“This is a massive coordinated effort to gain a robust understanding of the population dynamics and trends of arctic nesting shorebirds. Highly recommended.” — Choice
“This volume represents a major milestone for the monitoring of wader populations in the Western Hemisphere. . . . It will serve as a point of reference for those developing new monitoring initiatives in North American Arctic and elsewhere.” — British Trust Ornithology (BTO)
Arctic Shorebirds in North America represents a study that is one of the remarkable achievements of wildlife fieldcraft, like those done by Aldo Leopold in the 1930s and by the Craighead Brothers in the 1960s. To conduct a study of this scientific caliber in the great expanse and harsh climate of the Arctic makes it one of the great wildlife investigations whose value will only grow with time.” – Larry Niles, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey
“It is most timely that Jonathan Bart and Victoria Johnston have gathered information on shorebirds that breed in the Arctic regions of North America. Data on these birds is generated at a wide range of locations by many different individuals and teams, and this book puts it into perspective. It is particularly valuable to have this treatise when so many shorebird species worldwide are in marked decline.” — Clive Minton, Australasian Wader Studies Group
“When the PRISM program for pan-Arctic shorebird monitoring was introduced, everyone agreed with its laudable aims, but it seemed impractical. How could shorebird biologists with limited time and resources acquire robust data on the size and trend of shorebird populations across the American Arctic? Now, the credibility gap has been bridged. Arctic Shorebirds in North America presents the rigorous, practical methods that will be the foundation of Arctic shorebird monitoring for years to come. I look forward to Arctic PRISM becoming the keystone of shorebird conservation in the Western Hemisphere.” — Humphrey Sitters, editor of Wader Study Group Bulletin

A new breeding season: Time to map shorebirds

Nesting Piping Plover. Image courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Nesting Snowy Plover in Florida. Image courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
In some regions of the Northern Hemisphere breeding season is well under way. Shorebirds started to build nests and incubating eggs while further south chicks have already hatched. The WorldWaders Breeding Shorebird Mapping Project aims to map every shorebird species of the world by adding historical as well as actual data. This citizen science project is supported by hundreds of volunteers which has to grow for a better coverage on species as well as on geographic level.
No complicated information requested. After an easy registration data submission could be started straight away by finding the location on the map and filling out some data fields in the online form including the number of pairs. The result is immediately visible on the map!
In the next couple of months the website will be refreshed by new features. Users will be able to see the records for any species on the map and statistics will be available for each species even on location level.
Submitted breeding sites of Piping Plovers in North America. © WorldWaders.org
Submitted breeding sites of Piping Plover in North America. © WorldWaders.org
Distribution of one of the most abundant breeder, the Northern Lapwing in Europe based on the submitted records to the WorldWaders Breeding Shorebird Mapping Project. © WorldWaders.org
Distribution of one of the most abundant breeder, the Northern Lapwing in Europe based on the submitted records to the WorldWaders Breeding Shorebird Mapping Project. © WorldWaders.org
All time data submissions of breeding shorebirds on a global level. © WorldWaders.org
All time data submissions of breeding shorebirds on a global level. © WorldWaders.org
By looking at the maps you can see what the coverage is around your hometown or in your region. You probably know about shorebird breeding sites which you cannot see on the map. Think about login now and submit those records to get a better coverage.
Small Pied Avocet breeding colony in northwest Hungary. Breeding numbers have been submitted to WorldWaders Breeding Shorebird Mapping Project. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Small Pied Avocet breeding colony in northwest Hungary. Breeding numbers have been submitted to WorldWaders Breeding Shorebird Mapping Project. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Surprise Spoon-billed Sandpiper sighting at Malaysian IBA highlights importance of CEMEX’s new support

Written by Shaun Hurrell/BirdLife Community
Spot the Spoon-billed Sandpiper with its characteristic spoon-shaped bill; support for bird surveys/monitoring are important for conserving Critically Endangered species. Photo: Dave Bakewell
Spot the Spoon-billed Sandpiper with its characteristic spoon-shaped bill; support for bird surveys/monitoring are important for conserving Critically Endangered species. Photo: Dave Bakewell
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 spotted amongst over 10,000 birds at Teluk Air Tawar IBA, Malaysia, where CEMEX and MNS are embarking on conservation efforts. Photo: David Bakewell
Spoon-billed Sandpiper spotted amongst over 10,000 birds at Teluk Air Tawar IBA, Malaysia, where CEMEX and MNS are embarking on conservation efforts. Photo: David Bakewell
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.
For more information on the sighting, visit: www.mns.my; and Dave Bakewell’s blog.

New Study Sheds Light on Diademed Sandpiper-Plover

Written by Dave McGlinchey/Manomet
Diademed Plover. Image courtesy of Manomet
Diademed Plover. Image courtesy of Manomet
One of the world’s least-known and scarcest shorebirds may be at serious risk from climate change and increased anthropogenic pressures, but a new study is shedding light on this enigmatic species.
There are estimated to be as few as 2,000 Diademed Sandpiper-Plovers in the world. The species is endemic and dependent upon high elevation Andean wetlands from southern Bolivia and Peru into central Argentina and Chile and is near-threatened as a result of small population size, suspected declines, and restricted range.
Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Project supported a team of researchers from Chile and the U.S. to study the ecology of Diademed Sandpiper-Plovers and implement education and outreach efforts during 2010–2012. That initial effort received a boost late last year when the Rufford Small Grants Foundation approved over $10,000 to support another season of research.
The endemic shorebirds of South America, like the wonderful Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, are so intriguing and potentially so threatened that they deserve immediate attention,” said Charles Duncan, director of Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Project. “Nonetheless, exactly because they don’t migrate to North America, most foundations do not include these species in their grant making. We’re delighted that the two years of seed funding that we were able to provide not only yielded important scientific findings but also positioned the research team to compete successfully for new funding.
So far, the project has succeeded in providing the first comprehensive descriptions of habitat use and nesting ecology, estimating demographic rates, and identifying threats in the Yeso Valley, Chile. The team includes Andrea Contreras Sepulveda and Fernando Díaz Segovia from Chile, and Jim Johnson, Bob Christensen, and Brad Andres from the Shorebird Conservation Fund. Johnson, Christensen, and Andres donated their time to the effort.
The Diademed Sandpiper-Plover is one of the most iconic species associated with Andean wetlands, and perhaps one of the most threatened,” said team member Fernando Díaz Segovia. “Our efforts in the Yeso Valley will continue to focus on providing ecological information necessary for developing effective conservation strategies for the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover and other wetland-dependent species. We believe that our work within this relatively small but critically important valley will serve as a model and impetus for developing research and conservation efforts throughout the species range.
To learn more about this study and find out how you can help, please e-mail Fernando Díaz Segovia at chorlito.cordillerano@gmail.com.

Tragedy strikes Critically Endangered New Zealand shore plover population

Shore Plover chick. Image courtesy of DOC
Shore Plover chick. Image courtesy of DOC
Written by Wildlife Extra
World population of just 200 birds
When Helen Jonas, New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) team leader for the Shore Plover recovery on Portland Island visited late last year, she discovered the island population had been reduced to a quarter of what it was, and now just 20 birds remain. The total world population has been reduced to about 200 birds. “This has a huge impact on the viability of the species” said Ms Jonas, as Waikawa was considered to be a safe and stable population.
The privately owned island has been a safe sanctuary to the shore plover for the past thirteen years. The numbers had built up to a point where the population was contributing eggs to other predator free islands. This season’s planned egg translocation turned into a rescue attempt.
Unknown cause
We didn’t know what the issue was and unfortunately we still don’t know” Ms Jonas said. It could have been disease, predation by gulls or hawks, mustelid, rat, cat or even a dog that’s come over with a visitor to the island. As a precaution 12 Shore Plover eggs were removed from the island and taken to Mount Bruce Pukaha in Wairarapa and Isaac’s Wildlife Centre in Christchurch for incubation. The juveniles are planned to be released on Mana Island next month.
We are throwing everything we possibly can at the island to ensure this does not happen again” she said. “We’ve undertaken disease screening, and have sent dead birds over for autopsy and DNA testing. We have had specialised stoat tracking and rat tracking dogs and have put cameras in place. Nothing has turned up so far.”
Just 1 chick fledged
The remaining birds on Waikawa, including the sole fledged chick from this season, are now being protected by more regular pest monitoring and control efforts by Onenui Station owners. It is hoped that the island will be safe for Shore Plover again soon“, Ms Jonas said.
The remaining Shore Plover on the island appear stable and are still nesting and successfully producing chicks. Visitors to the island are reminded to check their loads to ensure they haven’t got any unwanted travellers with them.