Oriental Pratincole

This project is one of several AWSG wader tracking projects, that VWSG contributes to.

July 02, 2020

The bad news and the good news

We will start with the bad news; it is likely now that the Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs) on SEP and SEC have stopped transmitting signals. The last signal received from SEP was on the 18th April, this PTT has been underperforming since around August 2019. SEPs last known location was on the 2019 breeding grounds in Karnataka, India. There has been no sign of SEC since 2nd May with its last known location being 12km south of 2019 and 2020 breeding location in Prey Veng Province, Cambodia.

The good news is that SHE is still transmitting regularly.

2020 tracks from Eighty Mile Beach, Anna Plains Station to breeding grounds

And so it seems that SHE has, for the second year running, completed a successful breeding attempt, having spent 105 days at the Tonle Sap Lake breeding site. Leaving this area around the 10th June SHE has moved approximately 175km southeast arriving in Prey Veng Province around the 11th June.

Once again SHE has followed the 2019 itinerary and has now been in this area for 16 days. Last year SHEs movements and length of stay at this site suggested that a second breeding attempt might have been a distinct possibility. It will be very interesting to see how this story reads in 2020.

SHE – A comparison of movements 2019 (green track) and 2020 (yellow track).

June 03, 2020

And then there was one

We seem to have one remaining functioning satellite tag left. SHE is still transmitting regularly Tonal Sap Lake Biosphere Reserve. But SEC seems to have ceased all transmissions, with the last signal being received on the 2nd May and there have also been no signals received from SEP since the 18th April. There is always frustration in not knowing exactly why the satellite tags cease throughout a tracking project but with a lifespan of around 18 months it could be that SECs tag has ceased sending signals. A quick look into other known failures of electronic tags shows a variety of possible reasons such as harness failure, faulty transmitters, hunting of birds by humans, death by non-human predators (possibly bird of prey). These causes rely on resighting birds (dead or alive) in the field or being informed of hunted birds for human consumption and/or recreation. For birds that simply ‘disappear’ we are left wondering. However, there have been cases of tags failing to transmit any signal for months and then suddenly start functioning once again so we haven’t given up hope for either SEC or SEP just yet.

2020 tracks from Eighty Mile Beach, Anna Plains Station to breeding grounds

May 02, 2020

Busy breeding

As of the 29th April 2020, our tagged Oriental Pratincole SEC and SHE remain on their respective breeding grounds in Cambodia hopefully they are tending to nests or chicks. SEP is now officially on the breeding grounds in Karnataka, India, with one signal being received on the 18th April.

Three birds, two flyways

April 18, 2020

Time to focus on breeding

Although overall data has been quite poor over the last two weeks when compared to previous tag performance, we do have enough information to suggest that SHE and SEC are still on their breeding grounds. From the raw data it is difficult to say confidently whether they are actually in nesting phase or are still choosing a suitable patch to make a nest. SEP has likely made his way to his 2019-breeding site in the last week or so – Yes, from feather samples taken at the time of fitting the satellite tag, we can confirm that SEP is a he, (SHE and SEC DNA sexing not yet completed). Many thanks to Marcel Klaassen and his team from Deakin University for their assistance with DNA sexing analysis for this project.

Tracks of Oriental Pratincoles SHE, SEC and SEP 14 April 2020

News from Taiwan

As an extra special addition to this update our Taiwanese colleagues have provided us with information of a nesting attempt in the Xinying District, complete with photos and video footage. Many thanks to CHEN Chien-an for providing these.

Pratincole nest with 2 eggs discovered on harvested Sugarcane. Photo: CHEN Chien-an
Nesting site, recently harvested Sugarcane field. Photo: CHEN Chien-An

March 12, 2020

Where are the oriental pratincoles now?

I start this report with an apology to all who have been following this amazing project; it has been too long between reports. I am fully responsible for the delay and I will ensure updates are issued fortnightly once again. This project continues to produce fantastic results. We still have three birds with functioning Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs), SHE and SEC are currently on location on their 2019 breeding sites, and from the data it seems they have returned to the exact location. Despite continued infrequent transmissions, we have enough information to confidently locate SEP in Sumatra at the time of this report.

Also, when looking at Australian movements since the commencement of this project, the birds seem to use very similar areas for both years only expanding around 200 km either side of their 2019 range.

Tracks of Oriental Pratincoles SHE, SEC and SEP February 2019 to March 2020
Australian tracks of all Oriental Pratincoles February 2019 to March 2020.

Note in the figure above that the white tracks recording SUN’s movements in February 2019 not listed on the legend, (PTT failure shortly after reaching Taiwan).

SHE (PTT 83595) – The first to leave the Australian shore once again!

In February 2019 SHE left Australia around the 16th February, 8 days after being fitted with a PTT, ten days before any of the other birds in this project. This year SHE took flight over Eighty Mile Beach, 15 km south of the initial release site, towards Java around the 4th February.

On the 7th February positioned SHE over the South China Sea 130 km east of the Malaysian coast, by the 15th February data showed SHE at the actual 2019 breeding site until around the 23rd February. SHE remains at this site at the time of this report and is currently 4000 km from the 2019 release site.

SHE – all tracks since being fitted with a PTT, February 2019. One complete migration and northward flight for 2020 depicted by the yellow line.

SEC (PTT 83596) – Back in the Prey Veng Province

After arriving back in Australia on the 9th December, SEC remained mainly around the banks of Lake Argyle approximately 80 km south of Kununurra until the 7th January. SEC headed south to Anna Plains Station was was there from the 14th January, around 15 km from the 2019 release site. SEC remained within the Anna Plains and Mandora Marsh and then further south towards the Great Sandy Desert before embarking on its next flight north around the 18th February, flying almost directly over the release site and towards Java.

The next accurate reading on the 27th February finds SEC 7 km east of the tin mining town of Sungai Lembing in the Kuantan District in Malaysia.  Further flights north and SEC reaches its 2019 breeding site in the Prey Veng Province, Cambodia 35 km east of Phnom Penh, around the 8th March remaining in this area at the time of this report and is 3870 km from the 2019 release site.

SEC – all tracks since being fitted with a PTT, February 2019.

The figure above shows one complete migration and northward flight for 2020 represented by the dark purple line.

SEP (PTT 83593) – Never Say Die – AGAIN

With hopes of a return to India, limited data continues to taunt the team and have us wondering how much longer before the PTT stops transmitting signals altogether. The first accurate reading received in Australia after the 2019 breeding season was received on the 2nd January 2020. On the 24th January SEP was situated 75 km north east of the Eighty Mile Beach release site then 121 km south west of this on the 2nd February. On the 12th March SEP was definitely located 3130 km from the Eighty Mile Beach release site in Sumatra, 33 km west of Bengkalis in the Bengkalis Regency.

SEP – all tracks since being fitted with a PTT, February 2019.

There was limited data overall but the figure above shows one complete migration and northward flight for 2020 represented by the salmon coloured line.  Last known location, Sumatra.

SUN (PTT 83591) – The Journey ended in Taiwan.

SUN – 2019 tracks to Taiwan before unexplained signal failures.

November 29, 2019

Oriental Pratincoles still in Asia

This update is dedicated to Dr Clive Minton, the man responsible for this amazing project!

For just over four weeks SHE has been utilising, the highly modified agricultural land around Palembang, the heavily populated capital of South Sumatra. After five weeks in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, SEC seems to have left this area and has travelled approximately 2300 km south. Accurate location data shows its current location within the heavily populated boundary of Pekalongan City, Central Java, Indonesia, but it is likely SEC is actually situated in a more sparsely populated agricultural area approximately 100 km east of this location.

SEP update by Grace Maglio and Subbu Subramanya: With the last accurate data received being on the 15th October, showing SEP to be in Vattappala in the Mullaitivu District, Sri Lanka, it was with cautious relief to receive limited data, although inaccurate, showing SEP may have travelled to South Sumatra. Now we wait and hope for more information.

Oriental Pratincole locations as of November 2019

October 25, 2019

SEP still in Sri Lanka, SHE and SEC in south-east Asia

The ‘Indian’ bird (SEP) spent many weeks in Sri Lanka and led us to wonder just what route it might take from there to hopefully get back in Australia again by early December. Some movement northwards, but still within Sri Lanka, suggests it may well come back via a rather roundabout route similar to the path it followed on its way from north-west Australia to its breeding grounds in southwest India.

The two birds in Vietnam have shown quite different behaviour. SHE, which was the first bird to move northwards from Australia in February 2019, is also the first bird to have set off back on southward migration. At present it is in south Sumatra, about halfway between its Cambodian breeding area and its Australian non-breeding location. In contrast, SEC has moved a little north and is now actually within the Tonle Sap Lake Biosphere Reserve – where SHE actually bred. It probably has very sensitive feeding area and is therefore particularly suitable as a fattening ground for the forthcoming southward migration.

Unfortunately SUN, after a long period of giving poor/intermittent signals from Taiwan, has finally gone ‘off air’.

Oriental Pratincole locations as of October 2019

September 24, 2019

Pratincoles “loafing about” in Asia

The Oriental Pratincoles seem to be in a bit of a ‘nothing’ period. All signs of breeding have now disappeared and the birds just seem to be wandering around ‘passing time’. Presumably they are all carrying out their annual wing moult. They are not due in Australia until early December so it will be interesting to see when they start getting together on possible Flyways.

August 30, 2019

SHE moved to a second breeding location

As far as the Oriental Pratincoles are concerned, the main news is that SHE has almost certainly confirmed that it moved to a second breeding location in Cambodia and gave a pattern of tracks over an extended period (85 days) which appear to indicate a second breeding attempt. The bird which bred in India (SEP) has continued moving southwards and is now on the east coast of Sri Lanka. SUN continues to give only relatively poor satellite tracking reports and it may be that we will lose track of this bird soon somewhere in western Taiwan. It is still not clear yet if the second bird in Cambodia (SEC) has made a second nesting attempt.

Oriental Pratincole locations as of August 2019

June 20, 2019

Four pratincoles still transmitting

We are still receiving signals from four different Oriental Pratincoles – two in Cambodia, one in Taiwan and one in India. While SEP and SUN remain on their chosen breeding sites, it seems that our Cambodian birds SHE and SEC may have completed the breeding for the season and have begun moving south. It’s going to be fascinating to see where they go and what they do, given we don’t expect them to return to Australia for another five or so months.

Oriental Pratincole locations as of June 2019