2011 archives for What's New on the VWSG website
Nov 5, 2011
A modified program of events for the remainder of 2011 and the new program for the first half of 2012 has been posted on the Calendar of Events page and can also be found in the VWSG FIELDWORK PROGRAMME June 2012.pdf. Note that the leaders of the field work should always be notified if you considering joing the team on any of the field work (in case of late changes to the program). New participants in the filed work are always welcome. If considering getting involved, there is an induction manual that gives new people an insight to what will happen and how to get the most out of your experience.
Nov 1, 2011
Clive Minton, the father of wader study in Australia, has been acknowledged for his untiring work encouraging others to become involved in his passion for waders by the Linnean Society of New York that has awarded Clive the 2012 Eisemann Medal.
The Eisenmann Medal is given to people who have achieved in Ornithology as evidenced by publications, but who, in addition, have helped and worked with amateurs or students to interest them in Ornithology. This work must be a personal effort and not part of a job. For example, a teacher/professor deals with many students and probably publishes, but would not necessarily qualify for the medal unless they had made an extra personal effort to work on projects with students.
Clive has has accepted an invitation to speak at their annual dinner on 13 March 2012 in New York.
Congratulations Clive, your energy and application to wader studies is endless and your positive support for others in their involvement with waders is a large part of your being awarded this medal.
Clive has passed on the following thoughts regarding his nomination:
"I'm particularly pleased that this award relates to the activities of volunteers/amateurs and especially in organising and involving them in ornithological fieldwork. This is the way I have operated throughout my life and it's only through the enormous effort and dedicated support of huge numbers of people that I've been able to achieve so much over the years."
"The VWSG and the AWSG (especially the north-west Australia expeditions) are two long-standing tangible examples. I think they have consistently been the largest wader banding operations in the world over many years. This award is therefore very much to all who have been involved with me in fieldwork during the last 33 years in Australia, before that for 25 years in the UK, and during the whole period at various other locations around the world."
Thanks to Roz Jessop for compiling most of these notes about Clive's well deserved award.
Nov 1, 2011
Looking for a great experience among thousands of waders and one of the most wonderful places in Australia? Consider becoming a Broome Bird Observatory Warden.
Oct 20, 2011
Some great news hot off the press has come from Clive Minton and Ken Gosbell relating to the migration and breeding of Eastern Curlew that has resulted from capturing three birds with geolocators earlier this month. This shows the continual advances being made throught the deployment and testing of new technology in relation to better understanding the migration of our intriguing shorebirds.
Aug 30, 2011
Another AGM has come and gone. Held in lovely weather, the days's maintenance, meeting and presentations all went very well. The annual report is presented in our publication the 'VWSG Bulletin' along with all the data and papers produced by the group for the past year.
Aug 28, 2011
Clive reported to the Birds Australia Victorian Newsletter Vic Babbler the recent hapenings by VWSG.
May 17, 2011
The Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG) has just announced the next Wader and Tern Expedition to north-west Australia (Broome and Eighty Mile Beach) from February 18 - March 10 2012. If you interested in joining this expedition the details are available in the "AWSG NWA Expedition 2012.pdf". These expeditons are a great experience and are very valuable in obtianing missing data about the birds. The specific objectives of this Expedition are to:
obtain an estimate of the relative breeding success in the 2011 Arctic breeding season of all the main species of migratory waders. This is achieved by measuring the proportion of juveniles in catches.
catch additional samples of species which are less frequently caught in NW Australia, e.g. Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Greenshank, Oriental Plover, Eastern Curlew, Little Curlew, Oriental Pratincole.
continue the program of putting individually lettered/numbered Yellow leg flags on all the main medium/large migratory wader species caught at Broome.
This is to facilitate the collection and calculation of survival rate data in the future. The use of engraved flags has also been extended to some "freshwater" species of waders mist netted at Roebuck Plains.
May 5, 2011
All the VWSG publications have now been added to the website and can be accessed as pdf files on the publcations page. This page can also be accessed from the Home page.
May 1, 2011
The new timetable of VWSG activities has just been loaded to the website for the period May to December 2011. This can also be found on the Calendar /events page.
By becoming a VWSG member, you will also be notified of changes and additions to this proposed program of activities.
The AGM will be held on August 27th this year.
Apr 28, 2011
Clive and team have released their report on the 2011 expedition to North West Australia. It was very successful and the next trip will again be in late February-March (of 2012) so get in early with your expressions of interest to participate.
Apr 28, 2011
Some snippets from the autumn visit to King Island by VWSG members to continue the long-term study of Ruddy Turnstones on the island include:
The eight catches at seven different sites provided sufficient data for a good estimate of the 2010 breeding success. At 14.7% juveniles this was close to the previous year (14.2%) and indicated a welcome second consecutive year of good breeding success.
Population counts were made as part of the study trip and when sites are compared the data shows a slow annual decline over recent years in the Turnstone population. However the 1985 data (recently brought to light) suggests that this may have been going on for a prolonged period as the 2011 count is less than half that of 26 years previously. This also mirrors the marked population declines detected over a 15 year period at Flinders on the central Victorian coast and some decline in the population on the coast of the south-east of South Australia.
With no perceived cause of this decline in Australia it is suspected that it is associated with changes in the available habitat at the Turnstones' migratory staging locations in Asia.
A good proportion of the birds caught were again retraps (38% vs. 42 and 44% in the previous two years). Most were at the same site where they had originally been banded but a small number were at different locations.
Not surprisingly, given the late date of this visit, the highest ever average weights were recorded for catch samples. In three catches the average weight exceeded 170 grams - with a peak of 173.1 grams on 11th April. This is a higher average weight than previously recorded for Ruddy Turnstone anywhere else in the world.
These King Island trips are successful because of the contributions by VWSG members making the effort to get over there for the week and the input in logistics and peoplepower from the interested locals. The information gained from here will be an important part of an update analysis of movements/migration of Ruddy Turnstone that is now being.
Apr 18, 2011
The following was sourced from Clive's latest notes to Tattler regarding a spectacular recovery. "As you know, every day brings us in new flag sightings of our birds and, less frequently, recoveries through the bird banding office (when the metal band number is known).
"We've just had information via Mikhail Soloviev and Pavel Tomkovich that an orange flagged Red-necked Stint, marked in Victoria, was seen last northern summer (June 2010) breeding at a location in northwestern Siberia further west than any previous record of a nesting Red-necked Stint. It was in the southwest Taimyr at 69 deg N, 92 deg E, a distance of 12,700 km from the Victoria central coast. Not surprisingly, this is a record distance moved by a marked Red-necked Stint.
Also noted by Clive in relation to last year's breeding success was that while data is still being put together "...overall everything is good news! For the second consecutive year (unusually) most of the wader populations had good or even very good breeding success, as measured by the percentage of juvenile birds in catches in the November to mid March period.
"This result will primarily be because of low predation levels in the Arctic (it was expected to be a good lemming year in 2010 in the main breeding areas used by our waders) and because of favourable weather conditions (particularly at the time of hatching).
Given the major declines in the populations of so many of our waders this second consecutive year of above average breeding success is particularly welcome and beneficial.".
Clive also reported that geolocators have been put onto Eastern Curlew (24 at Inverloch, Victoria, in February - also see note Mar 21 below) and on Sanderling (also 24, in the southeast of South Australia in late March). "This is the first time geolocators have been used on these species. We now await the return of all the birds now carrying geolocators in September/November this year".
Apr 14, 2011
I have just finished reading Keith Woodley's book 'Godwits long-haul champions' and what a great read it was. A very comprehensive story written with much research and personal experience woven together. The whole breadth of history, local non-breeeding and far-away breeding areas, nesting and of course migration are all thoroughly covered. I found it very interesting and informative. Some fascinating tidbits that I gleaned from it include that:
up to 55% of the bird's weight can be fat before they leave on migration
Godwits don't dehydrate on their long flights as they catabolyse protein to get water and this is why they need to build protein as well as fat before migration
newly hatched young need fresh water until they develop their salt glands
the effort to fly the huge distances (over 11,000km in about eight days) requires an estimated metabolic rate of between 8-10 times the basal rate. This is unprecedented in animal literature according to Woodley.
The book was published after the recording of the satellite logged route of the now famous female Godwit E7 that had the first complete record of non-stop flight to the Yellow Sea from NZ and returning from Alaska to NZ following breeding in 2007. This is well worth the effort to read for an insight into the detailed world of shorebirds through the specific eyes of Bar-tailed Godwits.
Mar 21, 2011
Update on Banded Stilt by Maureen Christie (SA) who made the exciting discovery on Saturday 12th February that the Banded Stilts were nesting again on several islands in Lake Torrens (at a location further north than last year). Iain Stewart had been advising in previous days that the satellite pictures showed lots of water flowing into Lake Eyre and Lake Torrens from the west, and that Lake Callabonna was full, as a result of the drenching which the area received from the tail end of the Queensland cyclone.
Clive Minton thinks that this is the first time that Banded Stilts have been recorded as nesting (in either South Australia or Western Australia) in two successive years. This is great for the long-term population level.
Maureen flew from Roxby Downs on the Saturday morning and then went in on foot (a 2km. walk in shallow water) on the Sunday morning. She estimates at least 50,000 Banded Stilts were present. Many empty scrapes had already been made and on one island there were 50 nests each with one egg - presumably laid that morning.
So these Banded Stilts had got to that stage of breeding within eight days of the rain event, which occurred on 4th/5th February. It seems almost unbelievable that they can react so quickly to find a location, select a mate and a nest site, mate, and grow and lay eggs in just a few days. Exactly the same thing happened in March 1995 at Lake Ballard in Western Australia when Cyclone Bobby soaked the interior and the first Banded Stilts laid eggs eight days later.
Mar 21, 2011
Twenty-nine Eastern Curlew were caught at Inverloch in mid-February and 24 of these had geolocators attached. Many birds had already changed into breeding plumage and all were putting on significant weight prior to their expected departure in early March (weights 1.1 to 1.3kg compared with 0.8 to 0.9kg normal weight) so they should be on their way now.
It's now up to these Eastern Curlews to successfully make their migration to south-east Siberia and then return to Inverloch from late July onwards. We will need to return to try and recapture them and retrieve geolocators from September onwards to obtain the valuable information contained in them.
Feb 14, 2011
The Cannon Netting Induction Manual has had a minor udpdate and the new version has been uploaded to the website. It can be found in the page 'About Us' under the section on cannon netting, or could be downloaded here. Be warned the file is about 10MB. If you can't download it and want a copy, email me here to request one.
Feb 5, 2011
Ruddy Turnstones keep turning up new infromation. Amazingly, the researchers from the Victorian Wader Study Group have just recaptured a Ruddy Turnstone which has completed a 27,000 km round trip migration for the second time!
This is the first time a wader has been tracked with a geolocator on its complete migration in successive years.
The bird had a one gram light sensor data logger (geolocator) attached to its leg. This device recorded where the bird was each morning and evening. In each year the device was attached to the bird in mid April on a beach at Flinders, Victoria, in southeast Australia.
Ruddy Turnstones are a small wader weighing less than 100 grams and spend the (austral) summer months on many of the beaches around Australia. They are one of the family of waders that migrate huge distances to Siberia in Russia to breed.
Researchers have used these data logging devices over the last two years (as previously reported here - see entries below) to find out the key stopover locations which are so important for the birds to refuel on their long journey.
Members of the study group include Dr Clive Minton, Ken Gosbell, Penny Johns and Prof Marcel Klaassen (of Deakin University).
"This is a fantastic result for our study group, which is also supported by a fantastic group of volunteers," Dr Minton said.
"The data retrieved so far shows that the birds generally start their northward migration with an initial nonstop flight of around 7,600km in six days to Taiwan or adjacent regions.
"There they refuel on the tidal flats before moving north to the Yellow Sea and northern China. They then make a flight of over 5,000kms to the breeding grounds in northern Siberia, arriving in the first week of June.
"One of the interesting findings is that after breeding, the return journey shows considerable variation, no two birds following the same route. Some return through Asia while an amazing alternate route has been demonstrated by these new results.
"This is a trans-Pacific route where the bird moves east to the Aleutian Islands off southwest Alaska before making the huge journey across the Pacific, stopping only once or twice before reaching Australia in early December."
The first record of this flight was in 2009 when the bird spent nearly two months in the Aleutians before setting off southward over the Pacific Ocean and making a nonstop flight of 7,800kms to Kirabati (formerly Gilbert Islands), where it stayed for six weeks before making the 5,000km trip back to Flinders, Victoria. In 2010 the same bird undertook a similar incredible journey, this time stopping off in the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu in the Pacific before returning to Australia.
Turnstones live up to 20 years and such a bird following this 27,000 km trans-Pacific route would have flown over 500,000 kilometres in its lifetime.
Scientists from the Australasian Wader Studies Group of Birds Australia and Deakin University are still puzzling over why individual Ruddy Turnstones from the same breeding and non-breeding population should use such widely differing routes for their annual migrations.
The study shows the importance of key regions within the flyway. Scientists are concerned about the ability of these and similar birds to cope with the massive habitat changes occurring as a result of large reclamation and urban development projects.
Jan 29, 2011
The catching program for the Victorian Wader Study Group for Jan-May 2011 can now be found on this website at the Calendar page. So once again, check out when you might be able to join us. Remember to contact the organisers of each event (listed on the program) before going to make sure there have been no last minute changes. This is especially important this year as there have been some significant changes to where birds are turning up due to the phenomenal rainfall that has occurred and is still occurring across Australia.