2013 News Snippets
December 19, 2013
Red-necked Avocet news has been interesting over recent months. Maureen Christie has written about it in her latest newsleter for the SE of SA so I'll use her words
"On the 24th November a flock of 6 Avocet was sighted at the Amata Sewerage Ponds. One was wearing engraved yellow flag CP. News of this sighting hit my in-box at the same time as an email from Chris Hassel which had this link. I don't usually click on links, however, I could not resist Chris's covering note - 'A world record catch of Red-necked Avocet captured on film as well as in the net!'. And yes, I watched CP and 200+ others as they were caught at Crab Creek, Roebuck Bay, on 7th August! Just a few days prior to this catch Adrian Boyle saw an Avocet banded in Victoria (see note dated July 23 below for details). And now, this sighting at Amata, right in the middle of Australia (in the Pitjantjatjara Lands not far from the SA/NT border), about halfway on a direct flight from Broome to Westernport!!!"
Thanks to David for sending in the sighting of CP and contributing this important link in the movements of avocets.
December 15, 2013
Well Thompson Beach has proven too good for the team who went over to catch Red Knot (see note on catching teams below). Despite getting up in the middle of the night, day after day, all attempts to catch these birds (we saw them when the weather was calm and prior to high tide) failed and we came home empty handed. We need to understand more about where they go when the wind gets up (30-40km/hr winds changes both tide and bird behaviour considerably in the gulf) to have a chance of catching in a range of conditions.
However, the King Island team were more successful with a great recovery of six geolocators from Ruddy Turnstone there. This will provide us with some really good information on migration stopover sites and breeding attempts/success that can be assessed from temperature recordings from the new geolocators.
November 3, 2013
The field work program for the first half of 2014 has just been posted on the CALENDAR/EVENTS page. Please check it out and pencil in some trips with the group over the summer when we are actively working with the grey waders.
November 3, 2013
There is plenty of work being done by various VWSG teams at the moment with retrieval of 10 geolocators from Great Knot, Red Knot and Greater Sandplover up in Broome. Results for these will be reported as the downloaded information becomes available.
Five satellite transmitters have just been placed on Little Curlew by the AWSG in Broome, which will hopefully (there are many things that can thwart success with these harnes applied transmitters) provide valuable information on the movements of these elusive birds, whose migratory movements are not well understood.
Attempts will be made over the next week to place engraved leg flags on Red Knot in SA to determine whether they are from the Rogersi (south-east Australian race), or Piersmai (north-west Australian race). To determine this, the marked birds need to be seen in full breeding plumage in the Yellow Sea as they stopover there on northward migration. The races breed in different part of the Russian arctic.
Another team is busy on Yorke Peninsula in SA catching Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling, after recovering a geolocator from a Ruddy Turnstone in SE SA last week.
Another team is heading to King Island to continue the study of the Ruddy Turnstone there and, hopefully, retrieve some geolocators.
Sept 26, 2013
Reece Peddler has alerted the birding world to kep an eye out for Banded Stilts carrying a blue flag on their left leg (on the tibia, which is above the ankle, or 'knee').
Reece said.."in recent weeks several thousand banded stilt chicks have dispersed from Lake Torrens SA and are turning up at a range of southern sites. Thanks to the efforts of the VWSG and a team of other local volunteers, 947 of them are sporting blue leg flags!"
"Some blue-flagged Lake Torrens chicks have been observed at Price, Yorke Peninsula earlier this week. They have also seen in small groups at Port Augusta and between Snowtown and Redhill in mid north of SA. In each of these flocks up to 10% of the chicks have been wearing blue flags and nearly half of these are engraved with individual numbers/letters, making it well worth the effort of stopping to scan through a group of stilts with the telescope."
Reece is really interested in any sightings you may have (he is currently doing his PhD on Banded Stilt) so please let him know of any sightings by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org him, or reporting the sighting through the AWSG leg flag report form, on the AWSG website at http://awsg.org.au/wp-content/themes/AWSG/reportform.php. By getting an idea of the proportion of flagged juveniles in dispersing flocks we can estimate the fledging success from this breeding event as well as document the dispersal patterns of the flocks and movements of individual stilts with unique numbered flags.
However, there are also Banded Stilt wearing other flags to watch for and report. Orange /yellow combinations, some clipped and some not so look carefully for where on the bird the flags are, what colours and whether they are clipped, as the differences relate to times and locations of when the birds were banded. Thanks to all of you who do get out and search for flags even if you don't find any.
August 27, 2013
Unlike most of our grey waders that are returning from their arctic breeding experience for this year, one species is just heading off for their breeding season. These are the Double-banded Plovers that migrate east-west rather than north-south and are returning to New Zealand over these weeks.
A few of the last to go were photographed at Flinders ocean beach yesterday. They were in varying degrees of breeding plumage and were happy to spend their last days in Victoria with a small group of Red-necked Stint, most of which probably had overwintered here with them, being first year birds.
A few photos have been added to the gallery page.
August 18, 2013
The VWSG had a great AGM yesterday at Clive and Pat Minton's place where, as usually happens, the better part of the day is taken up with equipment maintenance, followed by the AGM, with a series of presentations after that. Of course there was plenty of socialising while mending the nets, firing equipment and keeping cages and while enjoying sumptuous meals. The annual journal, the VWSG Bulletin (its 36th), can be found here.
For future reference, the Bulletin can also be found on the Publications page that is accessed from the Home page.
A significant occasion was experienced by all present when Ken Gosbell moved a worthy motion that Clive Minton, the inaugural Chair of the VWSG, be made a Life Member. The members passed the motion with a loud cheer and applause - well done Clive.
July 23, 2013
Some exciting news about Red-necked Avocet movement has just come to light thanks to the leg-flag program run by the VWSG and the dilligent scanning of flocks of birds by Adrian Boyle in Broome.
One of a flock of about 175 avocet banded at Yallock Creeek in Western Port Bay on January 2, 2012 that had the engraved flag 'ABW' was seen by Ady on 19th July.
This is a 3000km trip that is an unprecedented trip for a Red-necked Avocet - right across the continent. We have had several records of the Western Port banded avocet moving up the NSW coast to the Hunter region, but never the sort of distance that 'ABW' has gone. Good rains accross the NW may have triggered the movement.
Keep scanning the flocks of birds you are seeing as at any time, there may be flagged birds there that can add to our understanding of bird movements.
July 29, 2013
For those interested in looking at high quality footage of waterbirds, including shorebirds, this video on the Alaskan Yukon Delta Wildlife Refuge is worth a watch. The Yukon Delta is the latest addition to the Flyway Site Network coordinated by the EAAF Partnership.
July 8, 2013
This press note was triggered by the publication recently in "Proceedings of The Royal Society B" of a paper by the University of Queensland team who are looking at the consequences for shorebirds in our Flyway of habitat loss due to sea level rise (and also, separately, from reclamation). Clive Minton summarised the principal conclusion to be that the effects of habitat loss are significantly magnified for many species because they preferentially use those areas of shoreline which will be most affected by changes from these causes.
He went on to note that the fundamental basis for determining the areas of shoreline in the Flyway principally used by each species were largely determined from an examination of the recoveries and flag-sighting data generated by AWSG and VWSG banding. This data was examined and "brainstormed" by a group of those most knowledgeable in this area at a meeting which took place at the BirdLife Australia HQ a couple of years ago. Outline maps of the northward and southward migration were constructed for each species with estimated proportions of the population using each stopover location. This was based on a rough quantitative examination of the volume of leg-flag sightings and recoveries at each place.
In all our conservation actions therefore we need to be aware that in most species the adverse effects of habitat loss are generally magnified in relation to the actual amount of habitat loss. A simple example to illustrate this would be the Red Knot. With some 60% of the population using Bohai Bay as a stopover on northward migration more than half of the total of Red Knot population in the Flyway will be affected by the changes taking place to the shoreline in that area, which in itself is only a tiny fraction of the total shoreline in the Flyway.
Clive thought AWSG and VWSG members would be particularly interested to see the way in which their data has been utilised for conservation purposes - EVERY flag-sighting and recovery counted. As he says, "it is the quantitative data we are now obtaining for flag sightings which is now the most important element of our on-going flagging programme" (now that this has given us a good outline of the migration route/main stopovers of most of our regularly banded species).
July 8, 2013
Pavel Tomkovich from Chukotsk Peninsula in north-east Siberia recently sent Clive Minton this a picture that shows a Raven stealing an egg from the first clutch of Red Knot eggs laid in his study area.
It was taken by an automatic nest camera. It shows the beautiful Arctic tundra on which the birds nest and the snow-covered mountains in the background.
June 12, 2013
The field program has been set for the remainder of 2013. If you are interested in coming to any of the outings, please contact Penny Johns or Rob Patrick (see the bottom of the field progam for their contact details) before attending as they are co-ordinating catching teams.
The on-going banding and measuring program is important for many reasons, including to produce data for analysis of survival rates and flagging continues to fill gaps in knowledge about stop-over sites on migration.
Please consider joining us on an outing to experience first hand the marvel of these amazing birds. You wiill be warmly welcomed, given guidance and no experience is necessary. The induction manual provides an insight as to what happens on catches.
June 7, 2013
Geolocators continue to generate new information on migration, this time from the Arctic Tern. The website Birdguides recently reported that the remarkable new study, published in the Dutch ornithological journal Ardea, has revealed that Arctic Terns breeding in the northern part of The Netherlands are following previously unknown routes to their wintering grounds in the Antarctic.The study showed that they flew past our doorstep on the way to their non-breeding grounds. Read this page to find out more.
May 3, 2013
It is easy to think that all the progress being made in our understanding of the birds across the flyway is coming from the new technology of engraved leg flags, geolocators and satellite transmitters, but a note from Maurice O'Connor, an Australian volunteer in China was a timely reminder that not all of the technology used is the latest. He described the catching of waders in Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve:
"At 6.30am the next morning we headed out on the mud to meet with Jin Weiguo, the chief catcher who had already set up with his clap net and indeed with the first half dozen birds in his cage. His method of catching is truly a step back to another time but certainly no relic. He makes it look deceptively simple as he stands or sits crouched behind a prone umbrella blowing an amazing number of bird calls on his home made whistle. As he spots particular waders flying nearby he concentrates on that call. His net is laid out on the wet mud with 6/8 home made stategically placed decoys and he sets it off by yanking hard on a 20 metre cord as the birds fly over or land within catching distance. His net is staked along one edge and by means of a bamboo pole cantilever contraption swings through 180 degrees either catching the birds in flight or just on landing. We stayed with him for about 2 hours slowly freezing but still in awe of the experience."
We should think of this next time we see a wader with black/white leg flags.
May 2, 2013
In relation to the threats to habitat that occur at stopover sites, we in Australia can't comprehend the scale of the pressures from development that are happening in the highly populated (human) Yellow Sea, bounded on the west by China and the east by Korea.
A list of developments planned for the area, some on available land, but some to be placed on future reclaimed land was sent in by an observer searching for leg flagged waders in northern Jiangsu where there is a new port planned (Green Binhai Port):
New railway; Aluminium smelter; Coal handling facilities; LNG terminal; Wind farms on both land and sea; 4 x 300MW power stations; 6 x 100MW power stations; 2 x 1000MW power stations.
This development is worth well over $15Billion.
The sign issued by the Commission for Coastal Protection shows the priorities: "Construct the firm coastal defence as Great Wall - ensure the healthy development of economy".
This illustrates how important it is to have good science and evidence to base our arguments on while also showing how big and complex these development decisions are.
April 29, 2013
Having sharp-eyed observers across the flyway makes for interesting sightings coming in during the northward migration over our autumn period.
One that was noticeable to those involved in an expedition to Thompsons Beach, north of Adelaide in SA, last November was the sighting of one of the Bar-tailed Godwits that were flagged there.
As the bird was carrying an engraved leg flag 'AKK' we know exactly which bird it is.
Adrian Boyle, who saw the bird in the Yellow Sea and sent in a photo, reported that the male godwit was in 75% breeding percentage as it made its way to the breeding area.
The knowledge that we are now building due to the engraved leg flags being seen along the flyway is substantial and gives strong scientific backing to arguments to protect stopover sites along the migration route.
April 29, 2013
Clive Minton reported that a Sanderling that was originally banded at Brown Bay, in the south-east of South Australia, aged 2+ on 19.1.98, was retrapped there on Aprl 13, making it at least 17 years old. It still carried its orange flag on its right tarsus put on at that time and was also retrapped there in 2002, 2003 and 2010.Clive noted that this is equivalent to the oldest British Sanderling and older than any Sanderling from elsewhere, that he is aware of, including in the USA.
What a great age for a bird that weighs in around 60gm.
February 4, 2013
The 2012 edition of The Buletin (our VWSG Journal) is now available on the publications page. This page has all editions of the Bulletin going back to the first edition in 1980.
Also on the publications page is the Induction Manual that is useful to get an understanding of the process undertaken at catching activities, and the information from signs used in SA to alert people to the needs of beach nesting birds.
January 31, 2013
Ken Gosbell recently reported some amazing results from the geolocators retrieved in SA (see entry Dec 5, 2012).
Ken was able to download 13 of the 14 Intigeo units to provide excellent data. The 2 BAS loggers were also downloaded and each of these gave tracks of 2 years of migration, 2011 and 2012. Thus we have 17 migration tracks which are in the process of being analysed. However Ken wanted to provide some feedback on 2 particular cases.
There is an extensive program of leg flag scanning and counting that Chris Hassell, Ady Boyle and team undertake during northward migration at Bohai Bay, China, on behalf of the Global Flyway Network and AWSG. This program has demonstrated the vital importance of this area as a staging location for Red Knot and several other species. Last year (2012) Chris and team reported seeing several leg flagged Sanderling, two of these were carrying geolocators. Miraculously, these 2 were among those retrieved in December, namely 6Y and X3.
The following is some feedback from Ken on the tracks of these two birds. He noted that these are very typical of many of the other Sanderling examined to date. The attached map is very preliminary, but provides a simplified track of the northward and southward migrations of these birds. These are the smallest wader we have tracked using geolocators; these 2 birds were 52 and 54gm at the time of deployment although their migration weight would be more likely be 85 - 95gm. In general these birds make more stopovers than the Ruddy Turnstone we have previously tracked. However, one of these birds, 6Y, made a 7,100km non-stop flight from Canunda SA to Hainan in southern China in 5 days. This exceeds the previous long distance flight by a Sanderling reported in 2009 for a bird that flew from Norway to Ghana, 6,000km in less than 5 days. They use the China coast of the Yellow Sea extensively and many make stopovers in the Bohai Bay area similar to these 2 birds reported here who spent between 8 (X3) and 15 (6Y) days in Nanpu, Bohai Bay.
Remarkably the geolocator records showed both of these birds departing Bohai Bay late in the day on 2 June headed for their next stop on the Sea of Okhotsk. This confirms sightings by Chris, Ady and Matt who witnessed a departing flock of Sanderling on 2 June; this flock probably contained both geolocator birds. What an amazing coincidence!
In common with our previous geolocator studies we cannot obtain fixes once the bird gets north of the Arctic Circle. However the recent 'Atlas of breeding waders in the Russian Arctic' suggest the new Siberian Islands (approx. longitude 140E) as a likely location of breeding for Sanderling. Incubation records from the geolocators indicate that 6Y may have attempted to breed but was unsuccessful while X3 did not attempt to breed.
We were able to obtain fixes again when birds departed the breeding grounds in late July, early August. Both birds returned to the China coasts of the Yellow Sea before heading south - X3 through Philippines, Indonesia and NW Australia while 6Y appears to travel south along the coast of WA. Ken has emphasised that fixes for the southward migration after leaving China are problematic due to the equinox effects. X3 may have spent some time on the west coast of South Australia (Streaky Bay maybe?) before returning to Canunda. Birds returned to the original beach at Canunda around 7 and 28 October respectively.
These 2 birds alone have enabled a huge increase in our knowledge of migration strategies for this little understood species. Through the cooperation of Chris and team in Bohai we have been able to ground truth our analysis which gives us confidence in analysing the remainder of the retrieved geolocators. Thanks indeed for all the team that contributed to the success of this project.
January 31, 2013
Two scheduled fieldwork activities in the VWSG calendar have been cancelled. The first is tomorrow at Sandy Point (Fri Feb 1). We have an adequate sample of Sanderling for this season from our catching in SA.
The second is Stockyard Point scheduled for Tuesday 14 Feb. This was added to the programme to target Curlew Sandpipers but the recent catch of 253 at Yallock Creek has largely filled this requirement.