2010 Wader Studies News archive
Nov 27, 2010
The wader gallery has had an update with more waders and the addition of terns and oystercatchers, some showing leg flags and transmitters fitted to birds.
Go to the gallery from here or through the 'about us' page of the website.
Nov 25, 2010
A team of five VWSG members (Doris Graham, David Wilbraham, Steve Johnson, Roger Standen and Clive Minton) visited King Island from 4th to 10th November, with the prime objective to recapture Ruddy Turnstones carrying geolocators (devices that record location over time by measuring daylight/night on a light sensor - see reports for April 20 and Jan 20 below for more detail on geolocators) so that these could be removed for downloading. The Victorians were joined in fieldwork by King Island residents Mavis and Nigel Burgess, Margaret and Henry Bennett, Margaret and Graeme Batey and Don Robertson. Clive prepared a brief report on this trip.
Four days were spent trying to catch at Manuka (mid-west coast). A catch of 18 Turnstones (plus one Pied Oystercatcher) was made at North Manuka on 6th November, followed by 31 and 22 at Central Manuka on 7th and 8th November. We failed to catch during another attempt at Central Manuka on 9th November. Overall 14 different Turnstones carrying geolocators were observed (out of 38 put on in March). Each bird with a geolocator also carried a unique alpha-numeric marked flag that can be read with a scope, enabling individual birds to be identified.
Six geolocators were retrieved - three British Antarctic Survey (BAS) units and three Swiss-made units. Downloading and preliminary analysis of the BAS units by Ken Gosbell has shown that the two BAS Mark12 units recorded full information on both the northward and the southward migrations, and both units were still working when taken off the birds. Unfortunately the BAS Mark 10 unit seems to have failed only three days after it was placed on the bird on March 18th. The Swiss units are on their way back to the Swiss Ornithological Institute for decoding, so it will be a little while yet before we have information from them.
An initial outline of the downloaded BAS Mark 12 data indicates that one bird left King Island on 20th April and the other on 27th April. Both appeared to fly non-stop to the Taiwan area (about 7800km) in six days. After an approximately two week stopover they proceeded north-eastwards to a second stopover in the Yellow Sea (one seemingly in North Korea). The final leg of their northward migration was across the Sea of Okhotsk with one subsequently stopping at Magadan.
The recording of location in June and much of July was not possible because as the birds entered the Arctic region they ran into the area of continuous daylight. Data collection did resume on around 23rd to 25th July when both birds were still in or near their breeding areas in the northern Yakutia coastal region of Northern Siberia.
The southward migration of one bird followed a relatively similar pattern to the northward migration, with a long non-stop journey from the Taiwan area to a stopover near Eyre on the coast of South Australia, and a final move back to King Island. The other appears to have used a more easterly route, entering Australia via Cape York and possibly making a stopover on the coast of eastern Victoria. Fuller details are still being developed by Ken and more information will become available in due course. But we've certainly got some excellent results with our first round-trip migration data for Ruddy Turnstones, except for the Flinders bird which returned in 2009 via the central Pacific.
It is interesting that there were already quite a number of juvenile Turnstones in King Island. Twelve of the catch of 31 on 7th November were juveniles, suggesting a possible second consecutive good breeding season for this species. That is what is badly needed to help turn round the population decline caused by two of the previous three breeding years being complete failures, and probably because of major habitat losses over a prolonged period at stopover locations in Asia.
There was not time during the visit to go to all the regular Turnstone locations on the west coast of King Island and therefore no comprehensive count was possible. But several locations visited had not yet got any Turnstones present and at the main Manuka and Burgess Bay (Currie Golf Course) locations numbers were only 50-75% of those present in March. So presumably there are quite a few more Turnstones still to arrive back in King Island from the north. However in contrast there were 105 Turnstones present at Dripping Wells, a site where 30-50 is more commonly encountered. The attraction was larger than usual accumulations of seaweed full of maggots and flies (as were seaweed accumulations at all other locations visited).
Nov 24, 2010
In the latest edition of Vic Babbler, Clive Minton reported on recent activities by the VWSG. These notes are reproduced here.
VWSG finally won a round in our "battle" with the Oystercatchers. Whilst they outwitted us for most of the winter, Roz Jessop and Susan Taylor made a superb catch of 52 Pied Oystercatchers and 5 Sooty Oystercatchers at Barry Beach on the 14th of August.
An attempt to finish off the Oystercatcher season well at Stockyard Point in mid-September was thwarted by the Oystercatchers deciding to roost elsewhere (probably on Barrallier Island). However an unusually good early opportunity to catch Curlew Sandpipers there presented itself, and Roz Jessop led a team making a total catch of 537 small waders. The 171 Curlew Sandpipers was the largest ever September catch by the VWSG of this species.
The retrieval of geolocators from Ruddy Turnstone started at Flinders on Nov. 1st, after a 24 hour delay caused by torrential rain. Two geolocators were retrieved from nine turnstone caught, but we do not have information back yet on what journeys they have made since being marked in mid-April. Unexpected news was that six of the nine turnstones were juveniles, suggesting a much-needed possible second consecutive good breeding season. At least 6 more juveniles were present in a flock of 18 birds seen there the following day.
Lots more reports have been received of banded and flagged birds as they return through the flyway to their non-breeding areas in Victoria. Of relevance to the above, a turnstone carrying a geolocator was present for several days in late Sept. on the NSW coast near Sydney. It had been marked at Barwon Heads in mid-April and had also been seen in Taiwan in early May. We await its return to Barwon Heads so that we can retrieve the geolocator and find out where it has been on all the other days. Meanwhile, another turnstone with geolocator has been seen and photographed on King Island, just in time to rendezvous with a team of five VWSG members flying over from Melbourne. Five turnstones flagged there have also been seen in Roebuck Bay in north-west Australia, compared to just one record previously (and that was of one of these birds, seen there exactly a year earlier). These birds were presumably on their way back to King Island.
Movements don't just relate to northern-hemisphere migrants. Oystercatchers from along the Vic, SA and southern NSW coasts, and from the Bass Strait islands, tend to congregate in flocks along the Victorian coast during autumn and winter. Each year we start to get reports of birds returning to their breeding areas from early August, and these are perhaps most noticeable on the well-watched shores of King Island. Here four Pied Oystercatchers, from four different Victorian locations, were seen by one observer recently.
Also recently reported was the first of this season's crop of second-year Bar-tailed Godwits which have moved to New Zealand. It was banded in Corner Inlet as a first-year bird in June, and the engraved flag was read on the bird near Auckland in early October. It is now well established that many Bar-tailed Godwits and Red Knot spend their first year in SE Australia before moving across the Tasman in their second year to become established as New Zealand citizens. Given that we had an extremely good catch of immature godwits in June this year we expect many more reports of sightings in New Zealand by the eagle-eyed wader watchers there over the next few months.
Sept 13, 2010
Further to our report on July 22 by Ken Gosbell about breeding Banded Stilt, Maureen Christie from Friends of Shorebirds, SE in SA reported on what she found in the Southern Lagoon of the Coorong. "Fat Cattle Point, Woods Well, Stony Well, Thompsons Bog, Parnka Point - nothing! Perhaps we should go a little further north? In the next bay I spotted something suspicious away in the distance - how could we get closer?. Driving in along a limestone ridge we overlooked a low marshy inlet that was cut off from the Coorong proper. It was a windy day, and the Coorong water had been grey and choppy. But this backwater was beautifully calm. What was that smudge on the water? Much to our amazement, it was a flock of roosting Banded Stilt, with more flying in as we watched. The majority were packed together in a tight flock and so extremely difficult to count. We made an estimate of 1,000, with an estimated 10% juvenile."
"There have been several other reports of Banded Stilt. Felicity has sent two photos: on 24th Aug there were about 50 in Laura Bay, 20km south of Ceduna; and 18 on Googs Lake which is about 100km north of Ceduna. Reece and Travis have checked out Bird Lake in Port Augusta - on the 3rd Sept there were 100+, and on the 5th there were 206, of which only 4 were adult."
"Where are all of the others? Off breeding again?????"
Aug 30, 2010
The VWSG AGM was held on Saturday Aug 28 where chairman Clive gave a comprehemsive summary of the year's activities. Two of the major features included exciting news about breeding success and the knowledge that is coming from new technological advances in satelite tracking and use of geolocators to help understand movements of birds around the globe.
Clive reported that "we were hoping that the arctic breeding season of 2009 would be a good one after the very poor breeding season our waders experienced in 2008. Our prayers were answered with a bumper crop of young birds of many species in the wader populations throughout south-eastern Australia in the 2009/10 non-breeding season.
Overall it was probably one of the best breeding seasons ever, with only Red-necked Stint apparently missing the bonanza. It was particularly welcome for Bar-tailed Godwit as it was the second consecutive good breeding season for them, being the only species which had enjoyed reasonable breeding success in 2008."
He went on to say "The fabulous results obtained from our first deployment of light sensor geolocators on Ruddy Turnstones are detailed in an article in this Bulletin and have already received worldwide publicity. With so many more geolocators deployed on Ruddy Turnstones in southeast Australia in March/April 2010 we are in for a really exciting time when these birds return from the Northern Hemisphere from October onwards - providing of course we can catch them to remove the geolocators for downloading of the stored data. Being able to know where an individual bird was on every day of its life over a period of months - including two migrations and an arctic breeding season - is indeed an unbelievable advance on the information obtained by banding/flagging alone."
To read more about Clive's summary and the year's activities download the latest Bulletin No 33 here. The Bulletin contains all the results from banding activities for the past year and much of the historical data in a range of tables that allow ready acces to this important information, plus numerous other articles relating to waders and tern studies and activities.
July 22, 2010
A fantastic breeding event by Banded Stilt has been observed by VWSG and others as detailed by Ken Gosbell who has filed a brief report. Keep a look out for some orange/yellow leg flags on the left tibia of any Banded stilt you see (and report them in to the VWSG please) as they managed to band about 50 of the youngsters from the second brood. Where will they turn up?
May 24, 2010
Another role performed by the VWSG, in conjunction with others, is to undertake studies of Ruddy Turnstones on King Island as part of longer term studies on this species. Clive Minton produced a technical report on the most recent (March 2010) trip that saw over 800 Turnstones counted on the island. Details on the sites, birds counted and banded.
May 1, 2010
The new calendar of events from May to Dec has been posted on the calendar/events page so check out when you might be able to join us. Remember to contact the organisers of each event before going to make sure there have been no last minute changes to the program.
April 20, 2010
Further to the January posting from Ken Gosbell on the Ruddy Turnstone geolocators, Ken has produced a more comprehensive report that outlines the exciting results from this work. All four birds (with recovered geolocators) flew nonstop 7,600 km. from Flinders to Taiwan in just over six days. These results show how much new technology can fill in some of the understanding that is missing about the waders lives that will in turn help us to contribute to their conservation. Unfortunately my ability to master the technology behind this website has meant the great maps (thanks to Google) showing the journeys taken by the Turnstones have not come through with the report. If anyone wants a copy with the maps, send me a request and I'll email a copy of the report to you.
Feb 4, 2010
The VWSG has produced an Induction Manual that explains much of the terminology and outlines the steps involved in cannon-netting. It is useful for new participants to have a read of the manual before they arrive at the catching site to make them more familiar with the process.
A copy of the Induction Manual can be downloaded here (be aware the file is nearly 10MB so it is suggested to only tackle this if you have broadband access). If you are considering coming to a banding session, have a look at the manual before you come so you can be more prepared.
Jan 20, 2010
Ken Gosbell reported on some exciting developments in uderstanding wader migration.
Last March the VWSG used some relatively new technology by attaching geolocators to eight Ruddy Turnstone; six of these were placed on birds captured at Flinders and two were placed on birds in SE of South Australia. These instruments, weighing 1.1g, record light levels and when the information is downloaded, they provide a record of the spatial movements of the bird with time. It was hoped that this would provide us with significantly more knowledge of the migration and breeding movements of these birds. However, to get this information, the bird needs to be recaptured and the instrument removed for downloading.
Hence, the return of the birds to Flinders and SA was anxiously awaited. One bird with a geolocator was caught on 20 October 2009; unfortunately this malfunctioned when the bird was in the Sea of Okhosk in Eastern Russia but some very useful information was recovered from it. This placed additional pressure on capturing the other instrumented birds.
After plenty of persistence in monitoring the movements of the birds, all three birds with geolocators were caught in a catch of 14 Ruddy Turnstone at Flinders, much to the jubilation of all.
The geolocators will now be sent off to Cambridge for downloading and we will keep you informed of the outcomes when they are received.