2007 News Snippets
The Journal of the Victorian Wader Study Group was released at the Annual General Meeting of the VWSG in October. The contents can be seen by section by clicking on the relevant title below (note page numbers beside section titles)
Index 2 Mission Statement 3 VWSG Office Bearers 4 Summary of VWSG Activities to September 2007 9 Total number of waders caught - VWSG 2006 10 Total waders caught by species 1975 - 2006 - VWSG 11 New and retrapped waders caught each calendar by VWSG 12 Total waders caught each six months 1979-2006 - VWSG 13 Location of waders caught in Victoria and SA 14 Number of waders processed by VWSG each month to Dec 2006 16 Number of waders leg-flagged in Victoria (orange) 17 Number of waders leg-flagged in SA (orange/yellow) 18 VWSG Field Work Programme 2007 (see "Calendar/Events page") 20 Recoveries of waders banded in Victoria 26 Recovery of waders banded in SA 28 SIghtings of waders leg-flagged in Victoria. Report No 14 34 Sightings of waders leg-flagged in SA. Report No 7 38 Tern recovery report 2006/07 42 Tern breeding and banding report 2006/07 44 Sightings of Victorian flagged Terns 2006/07 46 Inter-colony movements of the Crested Tern (Sterna bergii) as a result of food resource quality and availability. Abstract from Honours Thesis, University of Melbourne 47 South Australia Team Report July 2006 - June 2007 51 King Island Report 2007 55 Shorebirds (and other birds) seen during a trip to southern Africa 57 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - Calidris acuminata 58 The History and achievements of the Victorian Wader Study Group 75 Australasian Shorebird Conference Newcastle, NSW- conference outcomes 76 Conservation Report 2006/07 80 Saemangeum - Republic of Korea - one year on 82 Publications and presentations of VWSG data 85 VWSG Financial Report & VWSG Membership List
A paper copy of the VWSG Bulletin can be obtained by becoming a member of VWSG.
Contact our Treasurer to become a member.
Note that there are several tables and a graph of data on leg-flagged wader totals, by year and species, recoveries as well as catch totals from various sites across Victoria and South Australia that can be found on the "About Us" page under the 'Catching Totals -Cannon and mist netting' and 'Leg Flagged Waders in Victoria' headings.
Next Shorebird Id & counter training day, WTP (Werribee), Sun 20 th Jan - Jo Oldland, Shorebirds 2020 Programme Manager reports that they are planning on having another shorebird ID & counter training day done at the WTP atWerribee on Sunday 20th Jan.
They also hope to have a schedule of count dates and sites throughout Vic for Jan/Feb 2008 and will be getting people to allocate themselves to a site(s) to assist with counting.
The details aren't finalised yet but Jo thinks high tide is at 12:30 pm so they'll probably meet down there a couple of hours beforehand. They have then organised to use the WTP Discovery Centre facilities for a couple of hours in the afternoon to have a bit of an ID and counting workshop/presentation.
It should be great, hope you can all make it!
Keep an eye out for E5, a Bar-tailed Godwit carrying a satellite transmitter. Last seen doing well on the NSW Central Coast.
Clive Minton has written a comprehensive history of the Victorian Wader Study Group and its achievements since its inception. The paper has been published in Stilt Vol 50, 2006. The full article can be viewed by clicking here. Congratulations Clive on capturing this valuable information and recording it for all to use and learn from.
Time to tune in again (see March 2007 posting for earlier news) to the migrations of satellite-tagged Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica)! As part of the Pacific Shorebird Migration Project, godwits were tagged recently in New Zealand before starting their migration to Alaska. Hopefully many of you will have seen the fantastic 10,000 km flights some of these birds made from NZ to the Yellow Sea (on http://www.werc.usgs.gov/sattrack/shorebirds/overall.html). For those who haven't, now is a good time to start looking. Two birds have just started the next leg of their migration after a refuelling stop at Yalu Jiang, the godwit hotspot in the Yellow Sea just west of the China/North Korean border. The birds appear to be riding westerly winds towards and past Japan, where they will pick up the back of a high pressure ridge that should provide good winds as they head towards Alaska. The batteries are holding out well on these birds so hopefully we can track them right to their breeding grounds. Files are updated daily on the usgs website, so please check in regularly and see what develops!
Phil Battley, Massey University, NZ
Bob Gill, US Geological Survey, USA
Nils Warnock, PRBO Conservation Science, USA
Clive Minton has provided some preliminary results on breeding success based on the percentage juveniles caught in south-east Australia (SEA) and north-west Australia (NWA) for the 2006/07 season. The results for SEA are complete but there is still some further data to be incorporated into the NWA figures before they are finalised. Later this month the data in the attached tables will be incorporated into a paper for publication, as usual, in the Arctic Birds Newsletter, Stilt and the VWSG Bulletin.
The data comes from catches made between the 15th November and the 25th March (28th February for Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper) at various locations along the coast of Victoria and, as usual, in the southeast corner of South Australia. This year, for the first time, part of the Ruddy Turnstone sample came from King Island, in Bass Strait.
For the wader populations which spend the non-breeding season in SEA 2006 was the year we "had to have"! After a very good breeding season in 2005 (except for Red-necked Stint) it always seemed a possibility that 2006 would have the opposite result. And it did, though as usual there were exceptions.
Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling and Great Knot had an almost total breeding failure in the Arctic summer of 2006 - the worst outcome ever recorded for all three species. Curlew Sandpiper also fared poorly (yet again, unfortunately). Red-necked Stint appear to have had an average breeding season, which is an improvement on the two previous successive poor outcomes. The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper result was also average. It is several years now since they had a poor breeding season.
The only good results in SEA in 2006 were from Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, where both had quite good breeding success. It is interesting that these two species breed in the northeast part of the wide breeding range from which birds come to SEA - the Red Knots in Chukotka and the Bar-tailed Godwits in Alaska. We shall be looking in due course to see whether weather conditions/predation levels in these regions were relatively more favourable than elsewhere.
Most of the data was collected at Roebuck Bay, Broome, and at 80 Mile Beach during the November 2006 NWA Wader and Tern Expedition. It is supplemented by two subsequent cannon-net catches at Broome. Data from a third (much larger catch) is still to be incorporated.
The breeding success of most wader populations which spend the non-breeding season in northwest Australia was average to poor overall, though only Greenshank fared as badly as the worst species in SEA. Curlew Sandpiper, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone and Oriental Plover all seem to have had poor breeding seasons in 2006. The results for Great Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Terek Sandpiper and Greater Sand Plover were all very close to the average for the previous eight years.
Grey-tailed Tattler stood out as being the only species which experienced a good breeding season in 2006. This result (almost twice the normal level of juvenile birds in catches) was consistent in catches at both Broome and 80 Mile Beach - a total of eleven samples. Again we will be looking closely to see if we can identify a reason for Grey-tailed Tattler breeding success being so different from other species and so good overall.
Note that the results for Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit differ markedly from those for the same species in SEA. The NWA populations come from different breeding areas - in the New Siberian Islands and in Yakutia respectively. Overall Conclusion With just three exceptions, the wader populations of SEA and NWA experienced an average to very poor breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere summer of 2006. Overall it was probably the poorest breeding season for Australian waders since comprehensive percentage juvenile monitoring began (in 1979/80 in SEA and in 1998/99 in NWA), except for the worldwide disastrous year in 1992.
The dedicated efforts of the large numbers of people who took part in fieldwork in SEA and NWA over the November to March period is enormously appreciated. These results would not have been obtained without the repeated, targetted, efforts to obtain satisfactory samples for all the main species monitored annually.
To see details of an opportunity for volunteers to join the next AWSG Expedition to north-west Australia (Broome & 80 Mile Beach) to catch waders click here.
The following is a summary of the results from research on the effects - predicted and actual - of the loss of a wader habitat (in this case by reclamation), which appeared in the March 2007 edition of "British Birds". The original article is from "Ecological Applications".
"For a long time we have tended to assume that when waders are displaced from a habitat, by some major change which makes it unsuitable, they redistribute themselves in other adjacent habitats. We also assumed that overall numbers would gradually be reduced due to consequent higher mortality and/or lower breeding success, so that in the end the net effect was a loss to the world population equivalent to the number of birds displaced from the lost habitat. Also, in some actual or proposed habitat changes, proposals have been made for creating or managing other areas in a way which would partially, or completely, offset the expected negative effects."
This new publication (Ecological Applications 16(6), 2006. pp 2115-2222) details the development of an earlier model which was used to try and predict the effects of habitat change on populations of Oystercatchers in the UK. John Goss-Custard and his team have now tested the new model using data on Redshank displaced from Cardiff Bay in South Wales when a controversial barrage was completed in 1999. This resulted in a loss of inter-tidal feeding habitat that had been regularly used by 200 Redshank. Almost all the birds in this population had been previously marked with individual colour band combinations.
After reclamation all the birds moved to an adjacent area of mudflats, where the population rose from 300 to 500. The model predicted that the mortality rate of the combined population would increase by 3.65%. Monitoring over subsequent years showed that it actually increased by 3.17%, very similar to the predicted level. Further simulations helped to demonstrate that mortality was density dependent and that it had risen both as a result of increased interference between feeding birds and because of the reduced amount of available prey in the mudflats.
Another interesting finding was that if a proposed offset area, equivalent to only 10% of the area of lost mud flats in Cardiff Bay, had been created and managed appropriately (with tidal dwell times) it could have provided enough food for all the birds displaced from Cardiff Bay and ultimately lost to the world population.
This predictive model and proof that it is realistic is going to be of considerable value in helping to mount future cases against destruction of important wader habitats. I'm sure that those involved, for example, in the Saemangeum lost battle and now fighting the new Geum Estuary proposed reclamation in South Korea will be utilizing this new information to the full. And it allows us to more confidently say that the net long-term effect of the loss of feeding habitat for waders is a loss to the world population equivalent to those birds which were occupying that habitat. Whilst in the example quoted here it was thought to be mainly due to increased mortality it is more likely that at key stopover locations (such as the Yellow Sea) much of the loss may be caused via reduced breeding success.
Data from a recent South Australian trip shows that both Sanderling (only 0.5% juveniles) and Ruddy Turnstone (4%) experienced very poor breeding seasons in the 2006 Arctic summer. These are the lowest figures every recorded for either species in 15 years of monitoring. However, the group was able to generate a huge number of retraps (218 Sanderling and 47 Turnstone) and these will be extremely useful in helping calculate survival rates.
Clive Minton received news on March 27 that the experiment of putting satellite transmitters on Bar-tailed Godwits in New Zealand to track their northward migration has been a resounding success.
One bird has just reached Yalu Jiang, at the northern end of the Yellow Sea in China, in a non-stop flight from Miranda Nature Reserve, in the Firth of Thames in North Island, New Zealand. The distance between these two locations is 9575 km. but the actual track flown by the bird was 11,026 km. This is the longest known non-stop flight of any bird. The flight took approximately nine days.
At least three other Bar-tailed Godwits also appear to have reached the Yellow Sea after non-stop flights from New Zealand. Several others are still in flight and following the same track. Only two (out of 12 satellite-tagged birds which have so far migrated) appear to have not made their intended goal. One diverted westwards and has stopped in the Philippines. The other only reached Papua New Guinea and, after moving to two other locations there, has now tracked south to Queensland.
These hugely exciting results are a reward for the perseverance and development effort put in by the Alaskan/New Zealand team over the last three years. It appears they have now really developed a satellite package which is not significantly affecting flight capabilities. We are thus seeing results which are typical of what really happens when birds are migrating.
Only 10 to 15 years ago people were sceptical that godwits and knot from north west Australia fly 5,500 km. non-stop to Chongming Dao in the Yangtse Estuary. Then in the last ten years it has gradually become more apparent that Bar-tailed Godwits fly up to 11,000 km. non-stop on southward migration from Alaska to New Zealand and Australia. But that was considered to be aided by birds taking off from Alaska in weather conditions which gave them an extremely strong tail wind in the early stages of that flight. To have now shown that Bar-tailed Godwits are also capable of flying a similar distance on northward migration, without apparent exceptionally favourable wind conditions, is fantastic. We have long suspected that the very high weights reached by Bar-tailed Godwits, and several other species, before they leave south east Australia in March/April indicated an intention to try and reach China in a single non-stop flight. It would have been impossible without satellite telemetry to prove that this really can be achieved.Check the flights on the web by clicking here http://www.werc.usgs.gov/sattrack/shorebirds/overall.html
These results are a huge step forward in our understanding of the flight capabilities of migratory waders and therefore of the migratory strategies they employ. Congratulations to the whole US/NZ team on this hugely successful exercise.