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Posted by Prof. Les Underhill/Animal Demography Unit, South Africa
This news item is part of the ADU’s celebration of World Migratory Bird Day, this weekend 8???9 May.Post doc Magda Remisiewicz has made numerous expeditions from Cape Town to the Barberspan Bird Sanctuary for her fieldwork over the past three years: “We have just returned from our last trip to Barberspan this spring-summer season and achieved this expedition’s main goal of ringing and examining Little Stints to check their fat deposits and the development of their breeding plumage just before they depart on migration to the northern breeding grounds in the Siberian tundra. “The Little Stints we caught were nearly double their usual body mass, weighing 40g???42g. I have never seen birds so tightly packed with fat. The fat deposit under the Little Stint???s thin skin formed a massive cushion extending over the underparts from the furculum, over the pectoral muscles and the belly to the base of the hind limbs. Once these birds took off, they should certainly have made it to Kenya or further in one flight. The Little Stints had put on almost complete breeding plumage, with soft white edges to their chestnut-and-black body feathers. You rarely see them that white, because these edges wear away by the time the Little Stints reach the breeding grounds and they look much darker, the cryptic design they need in the tundra where they will be breeding in about six weeks’ time. “Barberspan was Kittlitz’s Plover heaven as usual. We saw eggs and chicks as well as flocks of immatures a few months old feeding alongside adults on the swarms of minute biting flies, which were in turn feeding on us. Many recaptures of Kittzlitz’s Plovers and of other waders ringed during the SAFRING Ringers’ Conference in March provided excellent data. The surprise was a catch of about 30 Crowned Lapwings mist-netted at full moon. During the past six months we have followed the seasonal changes in bird numbers and species composition. At any time of the year Barberspan Bird Sanctuary is a fantastic ringing and birding site. The winter visitors such as Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Crimson-breasted Shrike are now arriving in numbers.”
The Animal Demography Unit (formerly the Avian Demography Unit), or ADU as it is mostly known in the vernacular, is a research unit of the University of Cape Town. Initially it was built on the nucleus of the South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING) and the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP). The ADU was established in December 1991 within the Department of Statistical Sciences at the University of Cape Town. Over the years, the ADU has grown far beyond its starting point. In January 2008 the ADU was formally transferred to the Deparment of Zoology. The mission of the Avian Demography Unit is to contribute to the understanding of animal populations, especially population dynamics, and thus provide input to their conservation. We achieve this through mass participation projects, long-term monitoring, innovative statistical modelling and population-level interpretation of results. The emphasis is on the curation, analysis, publication and dissemination of data. For more details please visit our website at http://adu.org.za/.
Posted by Naomi Klouda/Homer Tribune, USA
In the brief window of time when thousands of the world???s shorebirds flock to Kachemak Bay, a team of birders become citizen scientists and use designated monitoring spots to take counts.
The 20 or so bird-watchers are trained to take faithful roll call of the birds at the 15-foot tide level in George Matz???s Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Program. They do this two hours a day, every five days on the same tidal level.
???We begin monitoring at 15-foot tides because science likes consistency,??? Matz said. ???During high tides, (21-16 feet) the birds often disappear to an island or we aren???t sure where they go. Low tide isn???t suitable either, because it stretches a mile or more out,??making shorebirds hardly visible.???
Homer Tribune File Photo – Shorebirds and enthusiasts gather along the Homer Spit during last year???s Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival. This is the 18th year of the festival, which started as a way to prevent development in the sensitive shorebird ecological areas.
The Semi-palmated Plover, Golden Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Western Sandpiper, the Dunlin and the Dowitcher ??? just some of the 30 shorebird species that routinely come here ??? feed on a tiny clam called macoma, as well as other invertabrates.
???This is the optimal time in the tide for them to get at the tiny clams,??? explained U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Park Ranger Carla Stanley. ???It???s after high tide, when mud is the wettest and easiest to get at the clams. This should be when most of the birds are available for counting.???
Matz???s shorebird monitoring study, now in its second year, seeks to gather data that can help understand why shorebird numbers are so much lower today than in the past. His data will compare to an earlier Bay study of the birds by Biologist George West in the late ???70s and early ???80s. Now retired, West lives in Arizona and turned over his data to Matz.
???According to the first??year of data, there has been a significant drop in shorebird population numbers (arriving in the Bay) now,??? Matz explained. ???The difference appears to be more than just sampling error. This gives us motivation to continue the effort.???
Matz has added aerial surveys once every three days for 15 days during the peak of the migration to obtain further data. The Kachemak Bay Birders received a grant from the Forest Service to hire a local pilot to fly Matz and other bird-viewing volunteers on surveys stretching from the Spit to Seldovia. Saturday???s excursion over the Fox River Flats valley and coves in between yielded only a couple of small flocks of shorebirds. However, Sunday morning turned up several hundred at Mud Bay.
Do the shorebirds go to the upper part of the Bay before coming to the Spit?
???In this case, they didn???t. We would have seen them if they first stopped in the upper Bay,??? Matz said. ???One thing we learned last year is that shorebirds arrive in stages.???
Matz said the Yellowlegs arrive first, then the four species of Plovers, sandpipers and godwits.
But seldom does the same event happen exactly the same way twice in nature, he added.
When an annual shorebird festival was conceived 18 years ago, it was in response to a potential ecological disaster: the City of Homer had intentions to fill in the Mariner Lagoon to make an RV Park. The city, which still owns the land and the estuary, operates a small RV park today, but the old plan was to gravel and dirt in wetlands to just below the Lighthouse Village.
In furious and fast response, Scientists Sue Matthews, Jack Lentfer and George West produced a paper about the ecological value of the area to hundreds of thousands of shorebirds.
???A lot of people didn???t realize we had this number of birds coming through town every year,??? recalled the USFWS???s Poppy Benson. ???Then, as the public read their report, enthusiasm grew for starting a festival to help prevent the development and to celebrate the migration.???
Benson put forth the festival as a way to improve the ???shoulder??? tourism season of early spring. Then Chamber of Commerce Chairman Johnny Bushell ???jumped right on it and ran with it.??? The main motivation, however, was to gain attention for the shorebird???s sanctuary.
Had the RV park plan been carried out, the Bay would have lost a major refuge for flight-weary shorebirds en route to points north. This area, as well as Mud Bay and the Fox River Flats, have since been recognized by the??Western??Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network as an area of??international importance to migrating shorebirds.??
???Below (Starvin Marvin???s) Pizza place is one of the best shorebird viewing stations ??? a lot of shorebirds can be seen in that whole area,??? said Benson, who was the festival???s first keynote speaker and remains involved nearly two decades later.
The dates chosen for the festival were based on George West???s data that indicated the bulk of the migration arrived around May 8. The four days of the weekend closest to that date were then selected for the festival.
Willy Dunne, the USFWS Visitor Center Manager, was instrumental in organizing the event, along with Dale Chorman, Buzz Scher, Dave Erickson and Rich Kleinleder.
From a Mother???s Day breakfast at the Elks Lodge where Benson delivered the first keynote address, the event grew in scope and attracted more and more visitors.
???We???ve come a long way from that first festival when we can have a Peter Harrison,??? Benson said, referring to world-renowned pelagic shorebird expert and author Harrison, set to give the opening address 4-6 p.m. Friday at the Pratt Museum.
How to monitor
The monitoring project that utilizes ???citizen scientists??? is looking for information on the birds??? status by identifying all shorebird species using Kachemak Bay during spring migration. It defines the seasonal period and annual timing of when shorebirds migrate through the area in the spring, and estimating the abundance and distribution of the species in the Kachemak Bay area.
Matz points out that this approach to using ordinary residents ??? rather than trained biologists ??? is long-established in events such as the annual Christmas bird count, which has continued for more than 100 years.
Useful information from those counts helps scientists understand bird population changes and response to other??factors such as climate change.
???People like to watch birds,??? Matz said. ???If they can contribute to a study, it draws more interest.???
If an agency were to fund that many individuals conducting a survey at regular intervals, it would prove costly and wouldn???t receive the same kind of coverage.
That isn???t to say it???s less scientific. The shorebird survey follows scientific protocol modified from the Lower 48 to fit Alaska conditions, Matz said. He worked with Rick Lanctot Ph.D, the USF&WS shorebird specialist for the Alaska Region and National Shorebird Coordinator Brad Andres Ph.D, who lent scientific support and advice.
Future plans are to coordinate this effort with other agency work, such as Kachemak Bay Research Reserve studies of the Kachemak Bay shoreline and Fish and Game???s study of invertebrates in inter-tidal zones.
???Their work complements our work,??? Matz said. ???In terms of the bigger picture, it is looking at how healthy the Bay is, and if things are changing, how are they changing????
ring Kachemak Bay???s relatively pristine status to other marine habitats could mean shorebird visitors here are demonstrating stresses from other parts of the globe.
Biologist Stanley says she has noticed that, over time, the seawall below Ocean Drive Loop has changed the tidal energy and how sand moves.
???I personally have noticed the difference in Mariner Park Lagoon. More sand is going into the lagoon. You still get a nice variety of birds, but not huge numbers,??? Stanley said. ???Kachemak Bay is one of richest estuaries in the world. They really like the mud there, and it doesn???t have huge wave action. That allows little worms to survive. On high-energy beaches, you don???t get that.???
The food is crucial for allowing the shorebirds to ???bulk up.??? By May 15, most will be gone.
Since these species arrive from warmer places in the world, a realization strikes Matz as providing an interesting juxtaposition in global navigation.
???A light drizzle ??? almost wet snow ??? fell toward the end of the session,??? Matz reported of Friday???s beach monitoring. ???And shorebirds left the tropics for this. While true Alaskans relish winter, it always amazes me that the coldest part of a shorebird???s life is when it comes here in the summer to breed on the tundra ??? which seldom gets as warm in summer as a cold winter day in the tropics.???
To read the complete 2009 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Report, go to http://www.kachemakbaybirders.org
Posted by Gyorgy Szimuly/WorldWaders, Hungary
International Wader Study Group is holding its Annual Conference in Portugal between 2-4 October 2010. The conference will be hosted by the Natural History Museum of the Lisbon University. While registration is not yet possible for participants abstract submission has already opened. Deadline for abstract submission is 15.06.2010.?? Registration will be open from mid May.
This year no specific workshop will be held and Monday, the 4th of October, is set for the conference excursion. Please visit IWSG’s website now and then for the opening date of registration, as the number of participants is limited to 120.
The International Wader Study Group (http://www.waderstudygroup.org/what-is-iwsg.php) is a non-profit organisation with wader focused amateurs and professional researchers aiming at a better understanding of shorebirds and their life cycles, organising co-projects by making a link between both amateurs and researchers.
Posted by Robert??Johns/ABC, USA
* ABC has several recognized experts on the potential impacts of the oil spill who are available for interviews. Included among those experts is Dr. Michael Fry who is Chairman of the Federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) Environmental Studies Advisory Committee. MMS regulates and manages the development of energy and mineral resources in the Federal waters off the nation’s shores. To arrange for an interview, call Bob Johns at 202-234-7181.
Washington, D.C. ??? April 30, 2010) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today released a list of key bird sites they say are most immediately threatened by the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. The sites have been previously designated as Globally Important Bird Areas by the organization, and are directly in the path of the advancing oil slick.
“This spill spells disaster for birds in this region and beyond,” said ABC President George Fenwick. “It is ironic that next weekend is International Migratory Bird Day. At a time when we should be celebrating the beauty and wonder of migratory birds, we could be mourning the worst environmental disaster in recent U.S. history.”
The Gulf Coast is extremely important for hundreds of species of migrants, which variously breed, winter, and rest here during migration. The population effects on birds from this spill will be felt as far north as Canada and Alaska, and as far south as South America.
The complexity of the Gulf coastline, with numerous bays, estuaries, inlets, marshes and creeks, will make cleanup extremely difficult; impacts could last for decades for much of the habitat, and some species may suffer significant long-term population declines.
“This spill tells us that we cannot take our coastline for granted. A re-assessment of our approach to offshore drilling is required in the light of this disaster that includes the development of no-go areas for oil,” Fenwick said.
ABC has produced a map of the 500 Globally Important Bird Areas in the United States, 149 of which are coastal or have a coastal component that could be affected by this and future marine oil spills. A portion of these sites are in immediate danger from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
A complete list of all ABC-designated Globally Important Bird Areas is available at http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/domestic/sitebased/iba/ibalist.html
“There are costs to wildlife and their habitats for every form of energy generation, whether it is coal, oil, wind, nuclear, or any other form. Those costs must be re-assessed, not by economists, industry, or energy experts, but by biologists, ecologists, and environmental experts. The stakes are simply too great to leave to chance. We must stop playing Russian roulette with the future of our environment,” said Fenwick.
All coastal nesting species (herons, terns, skimmers, plovers, gulls, rails, ducks) are currently present on the Gulf Coast, including several species on the U.S. WatchList of birds of conservation concern. The impact to these species depends on how long the leak lasts and what happens with weather and currents. The leak could persist for weeks or months, and end up being the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
For species with long lifespans and low reproductive rates (e.g., Reddish Egrets, Least Terns), acute mortality events such as this can have long-term population-level impacts if they affect a large proportion of the breeding population. This is because the adults that survive do not produce young quickly enough for populations to recovery quickly. Species where large proportions of their populations concentrate in a few, discreet locations (e.g., species with only a few breeding colonies and species that concentrate en masse during migration stopover) are particularly vulnerable to these events.
Compounding problems for songbirds, not normally directly affected by oil spills, is the smoke billowing skywards from the burning oil that was set alight to try to minimize damage to marine life.
“Millions of our songbirds are crossing the Gulf now, and will arrive Stateside perilously weak and undernourished from their journey. The smoke may well compound their precarious situation and potentially lead to birds failing to make it to shore, or arriving so weakened that they are unable to survive,” said Fenwick.
The top ten sites at most immediate risk from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Gulf Coast Least Tern Colony
One of the world’s largest colonies of the threatened Least Tern
Lower Pascagoula River ??? including the Pascagoula River Coastal Preserve
The coastal marshes at the mouth of the river support Yellow and Black Rails, Snowy Plovers, and endangered wintering Piping Plovers
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Hosts thousands of wintering shorebirds, including endangered Piping Plover, Wilson???s Plover, and American Oystercatcher, as well as Brown Pelican, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, and Black Skimmer.
Largest tern colony in North America, predominantly of Sandwich, Royal, and Caspian Terns. Also American Oystercatcher, Brown Pelican, Reddish Egret, and endangered Piping Plover. Also an important wintering area for Magnificent Frigatebird, and stopover site for Redhead and Lesser Scaup. Dauphin Island
An important stopover site for migrant birds including shorebirds, gulls, terns, herons, and rails. Fort Morgan Historical Park
An important stopover site for migrant birds including shorebirds, gulls, terns, herons, and rails. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
An important stopover site for thousands of trans-Gulf migrants. Eglin Air Force Base
Best known for its inland population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Elgin also has significant coastal habitat for shorebirds and wading birds Delta National Wildlife Refuge
Large numbers of wading birds nest here, including White Ibis, Snowy Egrets, and herons; thousands of shorebirds use the mudflats in winter and during migration, including Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Western Sandpiper, as well as endangered Piping Plover. Baptiste Collette Bird Islands
This artificial barrier island, created from dredge spoil is one of the many Louisiana coastal islands that could be affected. Birds found here include Caspian Tern, Brown Pelican, Gull-billed Tern, and Black Skimmer.
Map of Oil Spill in Relation to Globally Important Bird Areas (?? American Bird Conservancy)
American Bird Conservancy conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity of the bird conservation movement. ABC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.
Posted by Gyorgy Szimuly/WorldWaders, Hungary
Our idea to set up a community or better to say multi-collaborated blog has came into reality. Good number of sites deal with shorebirds locally or regionally but WorldWaders aims, as its name suggests, to cover shorebird news from around the world regardless of species. Posterous’s service offers a possibility to post news by anyone who is on our contributor list. Our target to have a good number of contributors to feed the blog by new and relevant news on shorebirds, their breeding, migration, conservation, sustainable habitat management as well as education, public awareness or about research project results understandable for the public.