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.
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.
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.
Written by BirdLife International
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.
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.
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.
Arctic Shorebirds in North America
A Decade of Monitoring
Jonathan Robert Bart & Victoria Helen Johnston
Hardcover, 320 pages
University of California Press
Price: $80.00, £55.00
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.
“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
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.
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.
Written by Shaun Hurrell/BirdLife Community
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.