See below the Project Introduction for updates.
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The Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board want to find out more about how migratory shorebird species use the Gulf St Vincent during their non-breeding season. To address this, a collaborative project between the Board, Friends of Shorebirds South East (FoSSE) and the Victorian Wader Study Group (VWSG) has been supported by funding from the Australian Government and the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board.
Many species of waders use the gulf and at times they number in the thousands. To better protect and manage the habitat the birds use, it is important to know which areas they are and when these areas are used. To this end, satellite transmitters have been applied to Grey Plovers in order to track their movements around the gulf while they are here.
Little is known about the migration of Grey Plover to and from Australia, apart from a limited number of sightings of Australian flagged birds in Japan, the Yellow Sea and Taiwan. Despite this, there is no information to confirm where the Grey Plover from Australia breed. Grey Plover are known to breed on the tundra north of the tree-limit in Russia, but where ours breed we don’t know – yet. These satellite-carrying birds will hopefully reveal this answer as well as showing what areas of the gulf they use and any stopover sites in-between.
Interestingly, almost all Grey Plover that come to Australia are females, so presumably their male counterparts stay further north than here for the non-breeding season.
As these birds weigh about 200-250g, a 5g transmitter is well within accepted weight ratios for equipping birds with tracking devices.
The satellites will be active for 10hours every two days so details of their movements will be able to be monitored on a regular basis.
Shorebird banding work at Thompson Beach has been undertaken by experts and volunteers from the VWSG and FoSSE since 2012. Volunteers from Birdlife Australia and Birds SA also monitor local shorebirds and habitat as part of a National Shorebird 2020 programme.
There is a Facebook page that Tony updates that covers this material plus more that can be found at: Facebook - Grey Plover
Last update on male Grey Plover CAU 25 April 2018
After overwintering at Bald Hill during 2017-2018, CAU departed on migration after 19th of April 2018 tracked north-west over the Tanami desert on the 22nd. The transmission was lost over Sulawesi, off the north east coast of Sabah, Malaysia on the 25th April 2018.
CAU on April 19, 2018
Grey Plover with Crested Terns at Bald Hill Beach this morning. CAU looks destined to spend another austral winter here.
Three days later (April 22), 200 knots were still at Thompsons Beach. A tangle of Greats and Reds were photographed by Paul Taylor frantically feeding.
March 12, 2018
Grey Plover CAU still at Bald Hill!
In Gulf St Vincent, many of the overwintering Grey Plovers appear to roost and feed in a very small “home range” during the southern summer. Grey Plover CAU has remained within the Bald Hill area since returning from the Kimberley and overwintering in the Gulf. The back lagoons and salt pans appear to play a very important role in the gulf for shorebirds such as Grey Plover with some large groups using these areas as high tide roosts.
September 8, 2017
Grey Plover CAU still at Bald Hill
The male Grey Plover CAU remains feeding and roosting at Bald Hill, Gulf St Vincent in South Australian. The latest satellite transmission was received on the 7th September. The last high quality fix was received on the 31st August 2017. The transmitter was deployed on this bird in December 2016. The bird had previously departed Bald Hill on the 17th April, where it had spent the summer. Sometime after the 15th of May, the male Grey Plover CAU, departed the Kimberley coast and has flown back to, returning to its previous site at Bald Hill by the 22nd of May 2017. Local birder Paul Taylor regularly photographs shorebirds at Bald Hill. He again photographed Grey Plover CAU at Bald Hill on the 6th September with what appears to be a recently arrived bird and 3 other overwintering Grey Plovers.
August 3, 2017
Plover CAU over-winters in South Australia.
CAU is now hanging out at Bald Hill along with 4 other Grey Plovers who are in non-breeding plumage and so presumably sub-adult. CAU could potentially be a younger bird (now in it's 3rd year), but it could equally be an adult that decided not to migrate all the way north. It does occasionally happen to adult shorebirds – presumably reflecting poor condition at migration time, although nobody knows for sure.
Whilst satellite transmitter fixes are of varying levels of accuracy, with the best accuracy being less then 250 metres, fixes for CAU combined with observations from Graham and Paul, who both visit Bald Hill regularly, will enable us to build up a picture of how over-wintering Grey Plover use the Gulf.
May 29, 2017
He's back! Plover CAU returns to South Australia.
Sometime after the 15th of May, the male Grey Plover CAU, departed the Kimberley coast and has flown back to Gulf St Vincent in South Australian, returning to its previous site at Bald Hill by the 22nd of May 2017.
Not much appeared to have happened in the period between the last update, apart from daily passage over the tidal flats. On the 27th of April a poor quality signal was giving a position that Male Grey Plover CAU may have departed the Kimberley coast, however better quality signals indicated that the bird remained off the Prince Regent River coast of the Kimberley.
The bird had previously departed Bald Hill on the 17th April, where it had spent the summer. The transmitter was deployed on this bird in December 2016.
Signals from our other Gulf St Vincent birds have not been received since April. This may be due to transmitter failure, loss of the harness or loss of the bird.
As of the last transmission on the 25th of April, Grey Plover CAS was approaching the island of Panay in the Philippines, some 1000 kilometres from its stopover site on northern Sulawesi from where the bird left sometime after the 23rd April. The plover had flown over 5530 kilometres since departing Bald Hill South Australia sometime after the 7th of April transmission cycle.
Transmission for Grey Plover CAR was received again on the 21st April after a break since the 14th April. This female bird still appears to be stopping over on the western shores of the Gulf of Boni. The Plover was on the coast and amongst rice paddies of a small river delta near the town of Benteng, Pakkasalo, Sibulue in the Bone Regency of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. CAR had travelled over 3,700 kilometres from Bald Hill in South Australia.
The last position received for CMN was 4th April west of Kupang Indonesia, over Faifua in East Rote, East Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia, having made over 3,000 kilometres from Thompson Beach. It appears transmission for the bird has been lost.
April 24, 2017
Plover CAU makes a stopover on Kimberley coast; two birds in Sulawesi Indonesia.
The Male Grey Plover CAU departed Bald Hill, sometime after the last transmission cycle on the 17th April, and as of the 19th April the plover had travelled some 2,560 kilometres and was near Collier Bay on the Kimberley Coast, Indian Ocean. The bird has followed the coast and since the 21st to 23rd of April, appears to be stopping over off the Prince Regent River area of Kimberley Coast, Western Australia, with good quality signals received from this stopover site.
As of the last transmission on 23rd of April, Grey Plover CAS was still stopping over in northern Sulawesi. The bird was in the area where it had made landfall after the 14th of April. The bird was using rice fields around a small river delta near Leboto, Kwandang in North Gorontalo Regency, Indonesia. The plover had flown over 4,460 kilometres non-stop since departing Bald Hill South Australia sometime after the 7th of April transmission cycle.
Transmission for Grey Plover CAR was received again on the 21st April on the western shores of the Gulf of Boni, after no transmission since the 14th April. The Plover was on the coast and amongst rice paddies of a small river delta near the town of Benteng, Pakkasalo, Sibulue in the Bone Regency of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. CAR had travelled over 3,700 kilometres from Bald Hill in South Australia.
There have been no further transmissions from CMN.
April 15, 2017
Update on South Australian Grey Plovers
As of last transmission 14th of April Grey Plover CAS had progressed over 4,460 kilometres after heading off from Bald Hill sometime after the 7th of April transmission cycle, and was over Dambalo, Kwandang in Gorontalo in Northern Sulawesi in Indonesia. Grey Plover CAR may be headed north again after its stopover on the western shores of the Gulf of Boni. The Plover appears to have been roosting the last few days amongst rice paddies of a small river delta near the town of Benteng, Pakkasalo, Sibulue in the Bone Regency of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. CAR has travelled over 3,700 kilometres from Bald Hill in South Australia.
The Male Grey Plover CAU was still in the Bald Hill area with transmission received on the 14th April feeding on the tidal flats and roosting on shore or in the samphire sabkas The last position received for CMN was: 4th April (09:15 GMT) west of Kupang Indonesia, having made over 3,000 kilometres from Thompson Beach. It appears transmission for the bird has been lost. This may be due to transmitter failure, loss of the harness or loss of the bird.
April 5, 2017
Gulf St Vincent Grey Plover tracking has started again!
In December 2016, 4 Grey Plovers were flagged (with engraved flags CAU, CAS, CAR, CAT) and fitted with satellite transmitters at Bald Hill, about a hundred kilometres north of Adelaide. In March 2017, an additional Grey Plover CMN was caught at Thompson Beach and also fitted with a transmitter. Two birds CAR and CMN have started their long haul migration from Gulf St Vincent and the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary on their way to Arctic breeding grounds. At their last tracked positions, there were flying over the western Timor Sea, over the Australian territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands.
A male Grey Plover CAU started heading north over Gulf St Vincent around the same time, but has since turned back to Bald Hill. Grey Plover CAS is still in Gulf St Vincent. We lost transmission from Grey Plover CAT, but the bird has been resighted, minus harness and tracker, and is feeding with other plovers in the area.
To see previous years' grey plover news, please click on the following:
This project is being managed by Maureen Christie, from FoSSE/VWSG
Tony Flaherty, Natural Resources Adelaide & Mt Lofty Ranges
Clive Minton can be contacted for matters relating more broadly to the VWSG