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!
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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.

Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey: Making wintering shorebirds count

Written by Point Blue Conservation Science
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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.
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© Steve German

Get Involved!

Visit our project website to learn how to volunteer and explore our findings.

Oystercatchers see strength in numbers

Written by Vineyard Gazette

A coalition of 35 conservation groups formed five years ago to protect habitat and aid recovery. © Myer Bornstein
A coalition of 35 conservation groups formed five years ago to protect habitat and aid recovery. © Myer Bornstein

The American oystercatcher population is recovering following a decline documented a decade ago, a Cape Cod science center said.

A comprehensive aerial survey of the oystercatcher population done last year from Long Island to the Mexico border found the population had increased steadily since 2009.

A coalition of 35 conservation groups formed five years ago to protect habitat and aid recovery. — Lanny McDowell
Ten years ago the harlequin-colored shorebirds were in a decline. Habitat loss and human encroachment were blamed. A survey that year showed there were about 10,900 oystercatchers and that the population was dwindling. In 2009 a coalition of 35 groups from Canada to Texas formed to protect the birds, calling itself the American Oystercatcher Working Group.

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Sociable Lapwings found wintering in The Negev

Posted by BirdLife International The Amazing Journey Project

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Sociable Lapwing has become an increasingly scarce winter visitor to Israel, so news of at least 35 wintering there in 2013 brings us great cheer this Christmas.

Jonathan Meyrav of The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (BirdLife International’s national Partner in Israel) brings us this news and provides a recent historical perspective…
Ever since I started birding in the late 1980’s, small numbers of these elegant waders wintered at various sites throughout the country. Back in those days Israel was much less heavily populated and a few small groups of ‘Sociable Plovers’ – as they were then known – could usually be found wintering in agricultural areas – some even on the outskirts of Tel Aviv as well as at more regular, remoter sites in Israel’s Eastern Valleys and the Western Negev region.
Jonathan Meyrav - SPNI. © David Callahan
Jonathan Meyrav – SPNI. © David Callahan
For the past 30 years Sociable Lapwings have continued to winter in Israel each year but in ever-decreasing numbers. In good years we usually found several flocks of 10-20 birds, though winter counts for the whole country rarely exceeded 55-60 individuals. I also recall a few occurrences in the late 80’s when exceptional flocks of around 100 Sociable Lapwings were reported, in most cases in the West Negev.
During the 1990’s and early 2000’s the numbers of Sociable Plovers wintering in Israel gradually dropped. We assumed this had to do with the obvious reasons of habitat destruction and development mainly in Central Israel, and with the loss of several major wintering sites in the Hula and Bet Shean Valleys. In retrospective though, these were also the years that the Sociable Lapwing population was probably affected so dramatically on the breeding grounds and elsewhere.
In the early 2000’s Sociable Lapwings had nearly disappeared from Israel and only very small numbers (down to 5 birds in some years) were reported, mainly from the Negev. In recent years however, there has been a slow but steady increase in Sociable Lapwing numbers again, both on passage and on the wintering grounds. In 2009-2011 just five Sociable Lapwings were reported on migration with around 12 remaining to winter. Last year 14 Sociable Lapwings wintered in The Negev, and single birds also wintered in the Bet Shean Valley and possibly the Hula Valley as well.
One of the wintering lapwings. © Jonathan Meyrav
One of the wintering lapwings. © Jonathan Meyrav
In 2013 there have been quite a few spring and fall records of Sociable Lapwings (involving around 15 individuals) and now, for the first time in 20 years, 31 Sociable Lapwings are wintering in the Negev again – in two different flocks. At least four more birds are also wintering elsewhere in Israel, including one remarkable bird at a site just 20 KM north of Tel Aviv.
This is encouraging and may imply that the population wintering in Israel has taken a turn for the good, with these elegant birds still hanging on after having been close to the brink of extinction.
The beautiful header photo of two Sociable Lapwings wintering in Israel was taken recently by Yoav Perlman.
Elsewhere, our three satellite-tagged birds are giving strong signals which indicate they have all moved very little in the last month.
Irina is currently still near Tabuk in Saudi Arabia, Boris is still near New Halfa in eastern Sudan and Ainur is still near Lake Hamel in southern Pakistan.

Job Opportunity: Director, Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Written by Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences

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Would you like to lead one of the world’s largest and most successful conservation networks? The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) is seeking an energetic Director to provide vision and leadership to its Executive Office and throughout the Network.
Read more…

Now Available: Wilson’s Plover Conservation Plan

Written by Meredith Gutowski Morehouse/WHSRN
An adult male WIlson's Plover hunts fiddler crabs and other invertebrates in the marsh on Cumberland Island National Seashore. April 2012. © Lauren Deaner
An adult male WIlson’s Plover hunts fiddler crabs and other invertebrates in the marsh on Cumberland Island National Seashore. April 2012. © Lauren Deaner
In response to the conservation priorities established in the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan, the WHSRN Executive Office continues to work with shorebird experts in partner organizations to develop action-oriented Species Conservation Plans. Today, we proudly announce the completion and publication of  the Conservation Plan for the Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia) by dedicated scientist and author Margo Zdravkovic, with support from Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Coastal Bird Conservation (CBC)/Conservian, Inc., National Audubon Society, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The 170-page, peer-reviewed plan summarizes what is known to date about Wilson’s Plover ecology, status, updated population estimates, habitat needs, threats, and important sites throughout the Western Hemisphere. It also identifies and prioritizes conservation actions needed in the short term to recover the species’ population for the long term. The plan further offers new data and insight from CBC into the complicated, cooperative ways that the otherwise territorial pairs of breeding Wilson’s Plovers will work in groups to defend a wider breeding territory. Recognizing and understanding this and other behavior is essential to conduct more accurate survey– and monitoring-related conservation efforts. In addition, the plan discusses the impact and effects of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster on this species and its habitats along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Range map of the three subspecies of Wilson’s Plover: Charadrius wilsonia wilsonia (yellow), C. w. cinnamonius (orange), C. w. beldingi (green) / © Conservian
Range map of the three subspecies of Wilson’s Plover: Charadrius wilsonia wilsonia (yellow), C. w. cinnamonius (orange), C. w. beldingi (green) / © Conservian
We applaud and appreciate Ms. Zdravkovic’s tireless dedication in developing this plan and her commitment to the species. We also are grateful to the many shorebird biologists and conservation partners who contributed their data, time, and/or feedback during its development.
Male and Female Wilson's Plover at Cumberland Island National Seashore. © Lauren Deaner
Male and Female Wilson’s Plover at Cumberland Island National Seashore. © Lauren Deaner
The Conservation Plan for the Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia) can be viewed or downloaded at the WHSRN Species Conservation Plan webpage, along with a Spanish executive summary, and our 19 other species plans published and being implemented to date. Also available on this page is our interactive GoogleEarth map file of species-specific important areas, updated with Wilson’s Plover sites.
For more information, please contact Margo Zdravkovic (MargoZ@Coastalbird.org), Director, Coastal Bird Conservation/Conservian, Inc., or Meredith Gutowski Morehouse (mgmorehouse@manomet.org), Conservation Specialist, WHSRN Executive Office, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.

Timekeeping birds unlock early migration mystery

Written by Planet Earth Online
The remarkable timekeeping of birds could finally explain how some bird species are able to respond to climate change by migrating earlier and earlier each year.
Black-tailed Godwit. © Andreas Trepte
Black-tailed Godwit. © Andreas Trepte
According to a new study, individual Black-tailed Godwits migrate at more or less the same time every year. But the migration of the population as a whole seems to be happening progressively earlier.
Dr Jenny Gill of the University of East Anglia, who led the research, explains:
The only explanation that’s left, is that new birds are hatching and migrating earlier. As the older birds die off, the population fills up with early migrators.
Climate change is likely to be driving this change because Black-tailed Godwits nest earlier in warmer years. Birds that hatch earlier are likely to have more time to gain the body condition needed for migration, and to find good places to nest in the winter.
The team have monitored a population of Black-tailed Godwits for over 20 years. The citizen science project relied on the help of more than 2,000 bird-watching volunteers across Europe.
In winter, the wading birds can be found in estuaries all the way down the west coast of Europe, as they flee the harsh Arctic conditions of their Icelandic home.
It’s long been known that birds tend to return to the same place each time they migrate: that’s why many of the characters in your garden will be familiar to you.
But the new study, published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to show they also return at the same time, within just a few days. Dr. Gill says:
They can tell the time. I have no idea how, but they can.
We thought that individual birds might migrate earlier or later in response to the weather. But it seems that, whatever the weather, they migrate at almost exactly the same time every year; it’s quite remarkable.
If you think about it from the bird’s point of view, it makes sense. You know that the place you’ve been to before will be available, and you know that it will be available at that time.
Other studies have shown that birds which migrate over longer distances have found it difficult to adapt their migration cycles to a changing climate. Many of those species are also suffering rapid decline. The study could explain why those birds are struggling to respond. Dr. Gill also added:
Many long-distance migrants arrive so late on to the breeding grounds that they only have a short time in which to mate and nest. They simply don’t have time to respond to warming conditions by nesting earlier.
Reference: Jenny Gill, Jose Alves, William Sutherland, Graham Appleton, Peter Potts and Tomas Gunnarsson, ‘Why is timing of bird migration advancing when individuals are not,’ Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2013

Action Alert: PA House Targets Endangered Species

Written by Audubon Action Center

Some PA legislators want to to remove special protection for the Piping Plover and many other bird species that are disappearing in Pennsylvania. © Myer Bornstein Photo Bee 1
Some PA legislators want to to remove special protection for the Piping Plover and many other bird species that are disappearing in Pennsylvania. © Myer Bornstein Photo Bee 1

Pennsylvania’s endangered and threatened species program is in trouble!  House Bill 1576 would force unnecessary bureaucratic red tape into Pennsylvania’s endangered and threatened species program, taking the program out of the hands of biologists and giving it to politicians.

The bill would make protection of habitat far more difficult, and allow lawmakers–not scientists and resource experts–to invalidate protection for rare plants and animals. It would tie the hands of agencies in charge of species protection, and allow developers to further fragment and destroy our most precious songbird nurseries.

Send an email to your House legislator and ask that he or she oppose HB 1576!

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