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

June 20, 2019

Whimbrel still in Siberia

The two Whimbrel are still on their breeding grounds in Siberia, presumably now incubating eggs. Last year one of them did not nest, even though it reached the breeding grounds.

Whimbrel tracks to June 20

May 18, 2019

KU and LA on northward migration

Despite some deviations at the early stage of northward migration, Whimbrel KU and LA continue to show high site fidelity to their major stop-over sites along China coast as per previous year(s). Over the past week, KU gradually “hopped” along the coast of Guangdong Province towards its familiar stop-over site for the past 2 years in Putian, Fujian Province. A brief stop-over was made at an estuary near Shantou city on 10 May, which was the landing location of KU in 2018, before it moved on to arrive Putian on 14 May. LA spent 5 days on Kinmen island before hopping back to estuary on mainland Fujian on 11-May. LA soon continued heading north to arrive the same stop-over site in Panjin, Liaoning Province on 15 May.

Whimbrel tracks May 29

AWSG fitted two Whimbrel with transmitters in 2017. One of the very interesting findings from this tracking was a whimbrel taking action to avoid a cyclone. In mid-February 2018, Whimbrel LA made a deliberate well-timed significant movement (at least 157km), outside its normal range in order to reduce the effects (wind and rain) of the category 2 cyclone (Cyclone Kevin).

Whimbrel release. Photo Prue Wright

September 28, 2018

Weather smart migration

It appears that both our satellite tagged Whimbrels are highly capable of predicting weather, especially typhoon (the equivalent of tropical cyclone).
Last month when LA departed Kamchatka Peninsula, there were two large typhoons, Soulik and Cimaron (Fig 1), about 3,000km away from Kamchatka. LA might have sense the typhoon and therefore made an “escape” early by flying south-east?

Track of typhoon Cimaron (left) and Soulik (right). Source: National Institute of Informatics (agora.ex.nii.ac.jp)
LA’s “escape route” from the typhoons

After flying continuously for more than 6 days, LA finally landed on Papua New Guinea. This single flight was nearly 7,000km, and the average speed was >46km/h! It is a surprise to see LA using a completely different southward migration route from KU and KS in 2017. It is yet to know whether this is a “regular” migration route for Whimbrels which breed in eastern Siberia or if LA is indeed making an escape from the typhoons, hopefully LA will reveal if the satellite transmitter continues to work.

LA is now staging at Abede River estuary called Deception Bay at the Gulf of Papua with dozens of islands in various sizes. Over the past month, LA has only moved between two feeding areas about 7km apart.

KU faced similar challenges by Typhoon Trami which centred west of the Philippines and Taiwan in the past week. After staging in Ying Kou, Liaoning Province at the Yellow Sea for 52 days, KU departed on 25-Sep, which is only a day later comparing to previous year.

Typhoon Trami. Source: Windy.com (left), National Institute of Informatics (agora.ex.nii.ac.jp) (right)

However, probably to avoid the typhoon, KU has picked a westerly route compare to previous year. The wind is blowing south at the west side of Typhoon Trami and north at the east side of it. Choosing a westerly route allowed KU to “ride on” the current and travel fast with average speed of nearly 47km/h. It was flying past the west coast of the Philippines as this update was being written. Will it head to the same stop-over site in Sulawesi as previous year?

Migration tracks of our whimbrel

August 06, 2018

Whimbrel start heading south

It has been about 9 weeks since our satellite tagged Whimbrels arrived the breeding ground, happy to see that they are now on their way back south!

KU seems to have a successful breeding season in the Arctic. It’s breeding location is the same as in 2017 at Sakha Republic, about 140km south of Yana Bay. Based on KU’s since 1-Jun, it apparently nested at almost the same location as previous breeding season, only 1.4km east from previous year!

After 62 days mostly without moving more than 5km away from its nest, KU decided to depart Siberia on 2-Aug, which is the same date as previous year. It made a direct flight >3,400km to Yingkou in Liaoning Province at the Yellow Sea with an amazing average speed over 70km! The area where KU landed is again very close to where it spent 49 days stopping over in 2017 southward migration. Let’s see if KU is going to do the same this year.

Third-year Whimbrel LA, however, didn’t seem to have bred this year. After arriving in Chukotka on 8-Jun, it has been in three different locations covering 110km along the base of a mountain range. It was not in any of these locations long enough for nesting before it moved to the 4th location near the Chukotka-Sakha border.

Same as KU, LA departs from the Arctic on 2-Aug. After reaching the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, it turned south-east to reach the west coast of Kamchatka. The area looks popular for Whimbrel which breeds in east Siberia as 3 other satellite tagged Whimbrels by the Fudan University (Shanghai, China) are also around the same area, 2 of those were tagged in Queensland and 1 from Broome.

Migration tracks of our whimbrel

June 09, 2018

Whimbrels in Russia

After all the perfect demonstration of “site fidelity” by KU throughout its northward migration this year, it might not be a surprise that KU has chosen the same breeding site as last season. KU reached its breeding ground on 1-Jun-18, the date of arrival is a week earlier than season 2017.

KU’s northward migration track in 2017 and 2018.

After leaving Liaoning Province on 19-May, KU shortly stopped over in Heilongjiang Province for 2 days before crossing the China-Russia border on 25-May. From 4pm to 10pm on 25-May, it was flying with speed of nearly 60km/h.

In 2017, KU spent more than 10 days around the mountain range area before deciding its breeding site. This year, it heads straight to its breeding site after resting for a day at the southern side of the mountain range.

It is hoped that KU will soon settle to breed.

Third-year Whimbrel LA, which heads to breeding ground for the first time in its life, is still trying to decide its breeding site. After leaving Panjin in Liaoning Province on 24-May-18, it flew for 4 days for 2,790km to reach northern Khabarovsk Krai in Russia. Since then it migrated slowly by stopping at 4 sites before reaching Chukotka this morning. Hopefully LA will soon decide where it is going to breed.

LA’s migration from China to Russia

Unfortunately, signal from our third Whimbrel JX has ceased since 20-May in Heilongjiang. It could not be determined whether this is due to breakdown of the tag or the death of the bird.

It is known that hunting in Russia during spring passage has resulted in the deaths of a number of migratory shorebird each year. It was sad to know that satellite tagged Whimbrel SJ from Broome this year was found dead from shooting. Satellite tags were deployed on SJ and 4 other Whimbrels at Broome in February this year under a collaboration project between Fudan University and AWSG. The body of SJ was found on 30-May after signal transmission ceased on 27-May in Sakha Republic, Russia. This story might only be the tip of an iceberg of the threats from hunting that migratory shorebird is facing. It is hope that the situation would eventually improve through international cooperation, education and advocacy work.

Migration tracks of our whimbrel

May 19, 2018

Fuelling up: whimbrel now in northern China

All our Whimbrels are now at inland sites in northern China. JX was the first bird to reach northern China on 11-May-18 after spending 2 weeks at 3 sites in southern China. It has surprisingly skipped the northern Yellow Sea area and flew >1,500km from Jiangsu Province to Heilongjiang Province directly. After arriving Heilongjiang Province, JX first headed to a site in Songhua River just 40km east of Harbin city. It then moved to another site further north near Qing’an on 13-May-18 and has been staying there since then.

JX’s flight from Jiangsu to Heilongjiang

KU once again demonstrates the term “site fidelity” perfectly. After stop-over in Xinghua Bay, Fujian Province for a week, it departed on 9-May-18 and made a 1,700km flight to arrive at the same site in Panjin, Liaoning Province as last season! It is amazing to see KU takes such similar migration route and stop-over sites as per 2017.

KU’s northward migration track in 2017 and 2018.

The rice field area around Panjin, Liaoning Province seems to be a popular site for our Whimbrels. On 13-May-18, after staying in Jiangsu Province for a week, LA also made a migration to Panjin! Last season, this area was used by both Whimbrels which migrated to the breeding ground (KU and KS).

Area used by Whimbrels around Panjin in 2017 and 2018

As per last year record, the Whimbrels are expected to cross the China-Russia boundary in the coming week!

Rice field in Panjin area (Photo by David Li)
Migration tracks of our whimbrels

May 10, 2018

All three whimbrel now in China

All three Whimbrels have now landed in southern China.

Migration tracks of our whimbrel.

The first departing Whimbrel JX made its first landing at Guangdong Province on 20-Apr-18 (5-7 days after it departed from Broome). It then applied a “hopping” strategy, making short stops for 4 days each in Guangdong and Zhejiang Province and now staying in mudflat at southern Jiangsu Province.

Second Whimbrel KU depart about 10 days after JX. KU was our “home runner” who made it all the way to the breeding ground and back to Australia last season. This year KU departs 5 days later than last year on 22-Apr-18. Similar to previous year it made a direct long-haul flight to reach southern China as its first stop. However, this time it landed in Guangdong Province rather than Fujian Province where it first stop-over last year.

However, KU didn’t stay for long in its first landing location. Four days later on 30-Apr-18, it migrated north again for 350km and stopped precisely at Xinghua Bay, Fujian Province, the site where it used as its first stop-over site in 2017!

On 26-Apr morning before KU landed on China, it’s flight direction was drifted to the east for nearly 700km. This detour might have costed KU to landed in Guangdong Province rather than its “planned” location in Fujian Province. It would be really interesting to see if KU will use the same stop-over sites as last season as it migrates further on!

After spending the non-breeding season in Eighty Mile Beach in its first and second year of life, Whimbrel LA makes the first northward migration in its life this year. It departs Australia rather late on 24-Apr-18 and make a direct flight of 4,980km to landed in Fujian Province. The area which LA stopover is in the same bay, just 25km south to the area where KU has been using. How does LA know that site is suitable for Whimbrel?! Four days later, LA moved on to reach Jiangsu Province and has been using both mudflat and aquaculture ponds area.

Despite its late departure, LA is now the northern-most Whimbrel among the three. Will it also be the first bird to reach breeding ground?

April 18, 2018

Satellite tagged whimbrel 2017 – here we go again!

Migration just started again for our satellite tagged Whimbrels. After the non-breeding season in Australia, it is a delight that all three satellite tags are still working fine.

During the Broome Bird Observatory’s Public Migration Watch on 14-Apr-18, about 100 interested members from the public witnessed probably 500 Whimbrels departing Roebuck Bay with another 550 shorebirds at dusk. Two days later, on 16-Apr-18 morning, signals show that satellite tagged Whimbrel JX was flying pass Sulawesi, Indonesia (approximately 1,650km from Broome).

JX’s departure from Broome

As a measure to conserve solar battery power, our satellite transmitter switch “OFF” for 48 hours after each 10 hours “ON” period. Unfortunately, the migration happened during the “OFF” hours and therefore the exact departing time of JX cannot be determined.

JX northward flight continued and entered Southern China Sea this morning. At 11am today it was just about 500km away from landing. Two days later when the transmitter is switch “ON” again, its first landing location will be revealed.

JX’s northward migration on 18-Apr-18

You might still remember that JX didn’t flew to the breeding ground in Siberia last year and stayed in Palawan, the Philippines for more than 3 months before coming back to Broome. So, it is of big interest whether it will make it to the breeding ground this year.

Meanwhile, KU and LA are still at Roebuck Bay and Eighty Miles Beach respectively. It is expected that they will start migration at any moment.

April 09, 2017

Whimbrel satellite tracking 2017

The first bird to receive the transmitter was LA the Whimbrel on 12 February at Eighty Mile Beach. Since the deployment of the transmitter, LA has spent all time at the section of the beach from 40km to 50km south of the Anna Plain Station entrance at Eighty Mile Beach, near the area where it was captured and released. LA is a 2nd year bird (born in 2015 breeding season) so it will be interesting to see if it will migrate north this year.

Movement of the Whimbrel LA at Eighty Mile Beach

Whimbrel KS and KU were captured on 24 February at West Quarry at Roebuck Bay. Unlike LA, these two birds have not spent much time around the catching site since they have been fitted with satellite transmitters. Most of the time they were at Dampier Creek at the western end of Roebuck Bay and occassionally visit Crab Creek and the salt marsh in the east or even beaches in Broome town at the west. Both KS and KU are mature bird (born in or before 2014 breeding season) and are expected to start migrating north in a few weeks’ time.

Movement of KS (purple) and KU (yellow) in Roebuck Bay

Later on at the end of March, the local team in Broome set up mist nets for two consecutive nights at the salt marsh just north and east of the Broome Bird Observatory and successfully capture JX on 25 March and JZ on 26 March with the last two 5g transmitters deployed. Unfortunately, the transmission from JZ stopped a day after the deployment which could be a transmitter failure or due to the predation in Roebuck Bay. Similar to KS and KU, JX more often spent time at the western end of the Bay near Dampier Creek and occassionally visit Crab Creek and the salt marsh in the east.

Movement of JZ (green) and JX (pink) in Roebuck Bay