Victorian Wader Study Group

Aphae Island Spring 2017 with additions of Mokpo Namhang
by Andreas Kim

This little summary gives the most important facts about Bar-tailed Godwit flag sightings for the spring migration period 2017 on Aphae Island (South Korea). These are birds originally banded in Victoria as well as Queensland, NW Australia and New Zealand.

Beside Bar-tailed Godwits there had been no other species seen with an orange flag this year. The last flagged birds we saw on May 18; the visit on May 20 showed only 6 unflagged Godwits. We saw three different individuals on Aphae Island with a plain orange flag seen on several vistits although not continuously. One individual with a plain orange flag was seen regularly at Mokpo Namhang between April 20 and May 15, a site about 20km east of Aphae Island.

Bar-tailed Godwit with plain flag Bar-tailed Godwit with plain flag Bar-tailed Godwit with plain flag Bar-tailed Godwit with plain flag
Spring 2017: Aphae Island: 3 Bar-tailed Godwits with plain flag; Mokpo Namhang: 1 Bar-tailed Godwits with plain flag
© Andreas Kim (click on an image to enlarge)

This spring the overall number of birds was lower than the last two years so we did not see as many flagged birds. We had 23 different orange ELF, 21 green and 8 white, plus three individuals with a white flag and color bands. Looking for flags was again very challanging. At high tides the birds choose to roost on two concreted roads; either the birds stood very close and flags could only be seen on birds that stood on the outer lines or the birds were just too distant and "packed" (see the third picture below: small birds like Dunlin in the front, then Oystercatcher and Godwits in the far back).


Spring 2017: Bar-tailed Godwits on the roost © Andreas Kim (click on an image to enlarge)

Like the years before there were birds that were seen only for a short period (like AU, a bird that winters in New Zealand, arriving in the last week of March and already moves on in the first week of April), and also a few birds that stay for the complete staging period. Two examples are the now famous TO, who arrived on April 5 and was seen last on May 18. Or the not so famous 8R which, like TO was also banded as a first year bird and also seen for all its now six migrations here on Aphae Island. 8R was seen first on April 12 and last on May 16. Both birds definitely belong on the list of highlights with now seven and six years, respectively, seen in a row at the same staging area.

This year we had eight new orange ELFs recorded at the site, the most important of them is HXR, banded as a first year in July 2016 and already on the long migration as a second year bird (seen on April 15 and 18).

Bar-tailed Godwit TO Bar-tailed Godwit 8R Bar-tailed Godwit HXR
Spring 2017: Bar-tailed Godwits TO, 8R and HXR © Andreas Kim (click on an image to enlarge)

Another bird that is interesting this year is CJY. It was seen between April 11 and 18 on Aphae Island and between April 29 and May 04 in Mokpo. It is now the sixth individual that had been seen at both sites. The sightings over shorter but similar periods is a clear indicator that some birds use several sites in the region. From a conservation point of view it is important to find out which sites these are.

Also worthy of mention is the sightings of a few broken flags, two of them having the flag part completely lost but one was seen with one character left (__K) and the flag hadn't changed and so it was possible to tell that this bird had also been on Aphae Island the last year.

Bar-tailed Godwit CJY Bar-tailed Godwit __K broken flag Bar-tailed Godwit broken flag
Spring 2017: Bar-tailed Godwits CJY, __K and broken flag © Andreas Kim (click on an image to enlarge)

Not seen this year was TM, a bird that had been seen the six previous years. A reason could be that it might had lost the flag, last year we saw it with one flag part already lost. Also not seen again was 51 which had been seen over between 2011 and 2015.

Interestingly, other Australian flagged birds are green EC and PR, both flagged in 2013 and seen all years from 2013 on. Both birds are also staying the complete spring on the site and like last year, were the last flagged birds seen. And a Terek Sandpiper sighting is worth mentioning; it was seen in Mokpo, originally banded in Broome. Yellow flagged birds are rare visitors and normally stay only one or two days, but LUX stayed almost two weeks and was seen between May 2 and 13.

Bar-tailed Godwit green EC Bar-tailed Godwit green PR Terek Sandpiper yellow LUX
Spring 2017: Bar-tailed Godwits green EC and PR, Terek Sandpiper yellow LUX
© Andreas Kim (click on an image to enlarge)

Another three birds worthy of mentioning were banded in New Zealand: a Godwit white BNA, this year seen the sixth year in a row, a Godwit that now only has a green flag left on the left tibia. This bird was of special interest two years ago when it appeared on Aphae Island with a white band and green flag part, which later could be closely seen as a green flag that had the white band part from a flag slipped over the green band part of the flag. This year it was possible to make a picture of the metal band and the bird could be identified, banded in October 2000 in the Tasman Bay region. This is definitely one of the older birds in the flyway. The third bird is a Ruddy Turnstone with white ELF CMK, seen for 5 days. The last NZ-flagged Turnstone seen in Mokpo was 9 years ago.

Bar-tailed Godwit white BNA Bar-tailed Godwit white-green Ruddy Turnstone white CMK
Spring 2017: Bar-tailed Godwits white BNA, white-green and Ruddy Turnstone white CMK
© Andreas Kim (click on an image to enlarge)

Details of all flag sightings can be found in the flagging section of my website.