News & Events

November 11, 2019

Vale Dr Clive Minton

We are immensely saddened by the passing of Dr Clive Minton, who was killed in a car crash on 06/11/2019 at Dunkeld in Victoria, Australia.

Clive trained as a metallurgist but is best known for his work with waders. Clive Minton has been described as a father figure in global wader studies. His early wader studies were in England with the Wash Wader Ringing Group (founded in 1959). Early catches of waders used rocket nets, but soon the group developed the cannon net – their first catch being in 1967. Clive moved to Australia in 1978 where he introduced cannon netting and played key roles in the Victorian Wader Study Group and the Australasian Wader Studies Groups (formed 1981), as well as the Royal Australasian Ornithologists’ Union.

Clive has been one of the great movers and shakers of shorebird research and colour flagging in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway and in other flyways over the last many decades. Clive was the key initiator of the North-west Australia Shorebird Expeditions. This field work dramatically increased knowledge of the importance of Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach as key non-breeding habitat of many species of migratory shorebirds. This work has continued annually or biannually for over 35 years and involved many people for Asia and Europe. It provided inspiration to young shorebird conservationists in Australasia and from across the EAAF. It has led to the development of the largest morphometric and movement data set for migratory shorebirds in the Flyway. This work also led to the establishment of Broome Bird Observatory and this continues to be a legacy to the passion Clive had for migratory shorebirds.

Clive’s work was recognised by a number of awards, including the BirdLife Australia’s John Hobbs Medal for outstanding contributions to ornithology as an amateur, and the Linnaean Society of New York’s Eiesenmann Medal for ornithological excellence and encouragement of amateur efforts in ornithology. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for ‘services to ornithology, particularly the study of migratory wading birds in Australia.

A memorial service to commemorate Clive’s life and achievements will take place sometime later in the year. More information will be circulated once arrangements have been made.

September 25, 2019

Oldest leg-flagged oystercatcher recovered in Inverloch

Victoria’s oldest leg flagged Australian Pied Oystercatcher was found dead on 25/9/19 a high tide beach wash not far from the Inverloch jetty by a local resident exercising their dog. A necropsy was performed and it appeared the bird had died of natural causes. The bird was first captured and banded on 15th May 1988 at Pt Smythe Inverloch, and was fitted with “Green over Green” leg colour bands by the Victorian Wader Study Group. It was classified a 2+ year old bird at the time and must have enjoyed the Inlet habitat as it was recaptured by the again on 11th August 2013 again at Point Smythe. Now a 25+ year old bird it was reflagged “Blue A4” and became a local celebrity with its story featuring in the Sth Gippsland Sentinel Times newspaper. its banding to recovery age was 31yrs 4mth 10days. Adding its age at first capture, it was approximately 33yrs old when it was recovered.

A4 Blue photographed by Steve Johnson at Pt Smythe on 18/10/2017

August 30, 2019

VWSG wins the Virgin Coastcare Award for 2019

The VWSG was nominated for the Victorian Landcare Virgin Coastcare Award by Bethany Hunting from DEWLP (the new CoastCare officer for Gippsland).

Rob and Prue were very excited to receive the “Virgin Coastcare Award” on behalf of the VWSG at Government House in Melbourne on August 30. They received the award at a ceremony at government house in the presence of the governor and Lily D’Ambrosio. This is a great tribute to the hard work of members of the VWSG and the many hours spent catching birds and all the preparations that go into making our catches. It is good to know that our work is demonstrated to have benefits to the wider environmental community.

Prue and Rob at the Victorian Coastcare Awards

The Virgin Coastcare Award acknowledges a community group or network that has contributed to the significant improvement of a coastal or marine environment. This may include estuaries, coastal and marine wetlands, river systems and salt marsh ecosystems. The Coastcare activities may include sand dunes restoration, the protection of threatened species, removing invasive species that are imposing on native flora, plastics and waste removal, education and volunteer engagement, and mitigating urban impact on marine environments like storm water pollution or the control of access to sensitive and vulnerable areas. State winners go forward to the National Landcare Awards later in the year.

August 24, 2019

First ever Inaugural Clive Minton Medallion awarded to Dr Roz Jessop

The Clive Minton medallion is a newly established award for a VWSG member in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the group inline with the group’s objectives. The medallion has been awarded this year to Dr Rosalind Jessop.

Roz has been an active member of the VWSG for almost as long as it has been in existence. Whilst field activities have been reduced in recent years, in the early days of the group she was always in the field. Roz became a qualified cannon-netter very early in the piece and was attending catches regularly for decades. Roz has been leading catches in her own right, leading processing teams and training many people in the appropriate way to handle and measure birds and how to age birds through assessing moult.

Her knowledge on catching and processing waders is enormous and her insights and experience are often called upon when in the field and to call on when planning catches. She is happy to share her knowledge and her dry wit make her a valuable member of any team. Flagging parties were mostly held at her house in the early days with people camped out all over her house for the weekend to get the thousands of flags done that were needed.

Roz has carried an enormous backroom workload over several decades. These roles have included:

  • Committee member since 1993.
  • Editor of The Bulletin for 23 years (1994-2017).
  • Keeper and maintenance of the oystercatcher database before David Trudgen took it on.
  • Since state permits became more complicated over the last ten years, Roz has handled all document preparation, renewal of permits and ensured our reporting requirements have been met. We have scientific, ethics and public land owner permits within each of the three states we catch in, plus the project permit with ABBBS and a permit to catch threatened birds listed under the EPBC Act. Without her input to this, we could not have functioned. This has been a huge workload and responsibility that she has carried. Roz has been Deputy Chair of the VWSG since 2004 giving stability to the group.
  • Regular email communications to members have been channelled through Roz for decades.

Roz has made these significant contributions to the VWSG continuously over the period of her involvement, all the while working full time. Roz has been a co-author of a myriad of papers and has made many presentations on waders, particularly of oystercatchers, over the years to a range of groups and audiences.

Roz makes a very worthy winner of the Clive Minton Medallion as there is no doubt that she has made an outstanding contribution to the group.

July 05, 2019

Yellow Sea shorebird habitats secure World Heritage listing

At the World Heritage Committee meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan on July 5, key sites along the Chinese coastline of the Yellow Sea were granted World Heritage status. This decision has significant and positive implications for the conservation of 17 globally threatened migratory shorebird species that rely on these habitats. It follows tireless advocacy from BirdLife Australia and reflects China’s role as a leader in global conservation.

Read more about this Phase I nomination at UNESCO World Heritage Centre website, and also on the BirdLife International website.

A huge congratulations and thanks to the 62 NGO representatives and experts globally who signed an NGO intervention statement in support of the nomination.

June 26, 2019

A duck is not a duck is not a duck

New open access research published by Michelle Willie Virome heterogeneity and connectivity in waterfowl and shorebird communities draws on samples taken during VWSG catches and tells an important story about virus evolution and maintenance in complex multi-host communities. Five duck and four wader species were the focus of Michelle’s data collection.

The article can be freely downloaded from the ISME Journal website.

June 13, 2019

VWSG presentation at the Marine and Coastal Forum, Melbourne

VWSG Chair Roger Standen presented an overview of the group’s achievements in the last forty years and how much has been discovered about the miracle of wader migration, thanks to these years of effort. Roger began by talking about how so little was known about ‘our’ waders at the start of that period. The VWSG started with just banding and then moved to the deployment of coloured leg flags. This resulted in a coordinated process across the EAAF, which has provided so much more knowledge about stopover sites.

Roger Standen giving a presentation

With the introduction of engraved leg flags came information about individual birds. This led to a much greater udnerstandingabout migration schedules, time spent at stopover sites (using examples like Curlew Sandpiper H0 and Bar-tailed Godwit T0) and more about survival. In more recent years, the VWSG has moved to deploying geolocators, which has allowed the remarkable tracing of Ruddy Turnstone to their breeding grounds. This is information that was virtually impossible to obtain from sightings of leg flags as almost nobody visited these areas. Finally the group started satellite tracking, focusing on Eastern Curlew from Yallock Creek currently in China (plus being able to track one bird’s flight around a cyclone and back to its austral base).

Emaciated godwit just arrived in NZ. Photo Phil Battley

Roger highlighted the Yellow Sea dependency impact on counts and left the audience with a stunning image (see above – courtesy of Phil Battley) of a completely emaciated godwit just arrived in NZ on its first southward migration flight. These birds endure so much just to go through their natural lifecycle, that it is beholden on all of us to make their feeding and roosting sites in Australia secure.

Jennifer Fraser, one of the Marine and Coastal Council Members, did a recap on Day 2 to all 200 delegates and highlighted the key points from Roger’s talk the previous day, reinforcing the importance of the VWSG’s (and others’) achievements.