Monday, 17 November 2014

Saving farmland breeding waders.

Mountain Plovers and Black-tailed Godwits don't seem at first glance to have much in common, but in one respect they do.

In the USA the Mountain Plover is traditionally a bird that breeds on the open short-grass Prairies. This habitat, like so many others has changed beyond recognition for the large part due to the expansion of agriculture swallowing up great swathes of it. The areas that are left have often been changed too with the irradication of Prairie Dog towns and the loss of grazing North American Bison. All this has meant that birds, such as the Mountain Plover, that depend on this habitat naturally, have suffered a loss of range and therefore their population is in decline (65% in 40 years). The Mountain Plover is considered to be Near Threatened as a result.

Mountain Plover on wintering grounds in California.

However, the Mountain Plover has proved to be adaptable and has, in certain areas, started to breed on the arable land that has replaced the traditional Prairie habitat.

Mountain Plover Charadrius montanus incubating on farmland. Photo: Clay Edmondson.
This ability to adapt however has not been altogether without its problems as whilst they are prepared it seems to share their lives with farmers, the practices of these farmers have not been a great friend to them. Studies show that up to 70% of farmland nesting Mountain Plovers lose their nest to farm machinery.

Farming operations. Photo: Larry Snyder.

Hope though, is on the horizon. In the latest Wader Quest e-newsletter (available to sponsors of Wader Quest) Angela Dwyer of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Colorado wrote an article about a project in Nebraska to get farmers more aware of the Mountain Plover's situation and, for the most part, they have been willing and indeed enthusiastic (with the added incentive of compensation payments) about locating and avoiding the Mountain Plovers' nests.

Landowner marking a nest. Photo: Larry Snyder

It has been a great success and the plovers are doing much better now with marked nests having a survival rate of 79% as opposed to 30% of unmarked nests.

Newly hatched chick. Photo: Ross Lock.

In a  similar vein, but in different circumstances, in The Netherlands Astrid Kant, who also featured in the recent e-newsletter, started a one-lady campaign to save the Black-tailed Godwit as farming practices changed to the detriment of the birds' breeding success, she has now been joined by a few other Dutch godwit enthusiasts across the country.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa in a Dutch meadow. Photo: Astrid Kant.

The cutting of hay meadows has got earlier and earlier. Whereas in the past a pair of godwits had time to hatch and fledge their young before the cutting began in mid June the dates for this have got progressively earlier. Now this can sometimes occur as early as mid-April, as it did this year, meaning that breeding is interrupted by the destruction of eggs or young or even prevented entirely.

In order to mark them you have to locate the nests in the first place which is not easy as it sounds;
this is what a Black-tailed Godwit nest looks like! Photo: Astrid Kant.

Black-tailed Godwit chicks. Photo: Astrid Kant

Once again Astrid who became passionate about saving these young birds and eggs 25 years ago has striven to get the farmers on-side and to a great extent she has been successful, many of them now work with Astrid to seek out nests, mark and avoid them while carrying out their farming activities.

Godwit family.

Astrid with chicks and a bewildered looking farmer. Photo: Astrid Kant.

These two examples show how it is possible to work with farmers, whether as an institution such as the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory or as a passionate individual such as Astrid, who is an inspiration for anyone who thinks that they cannot make a difference. Individuals, if determined enough and driven by passion can, and do, make a difference across the world in the same way that dedicated researchers and scientists can, and do, while working with larger organisations.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Wader Quest Grant Fund.

Ever since we started raising money for the Hooded Plovers of Australia alongside the money being raised for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers at the British Bird Fair in 2013 we have always had two funds running concurrently. When we handed over the money to BirdLife Australia earlier this year we were left with just our Magellanic Plover project fund. At that point we decided that we should have a second fund running permanently that would be for accruing money to form a Grants Fund in order that we could start to apply ourselves to our raison d'ĂȘtre, i.e. to help fund small wader conservation projects.

Shortly after this decision we had our very first application from Iwan Londo founder of the Anak Burung Birdbanding Club in Indonesia working under the supervision of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. Iwan's project involves the ringing of Javan Plovers and White headed Stilts, his request was for some celluloid colour rings plus some wing and tail measuring equipment. This was ordered and sent and has now arrived at its intended destination. We look forward to hearing more about the project as it progresses.

Photo: Iwan Londo

Photo: Iwan Londo

After that we received a communication from Eveling Tavera Fernandez the bird banding programme co-ordinator with CORBIDI (Centro de OrnitologĂ­a y Biodiversidad) in Peru. They were in need of some new mist nets suitable for capturing waders such as Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers and through our Trustee Chris Lamsdell we were able to supply her with the number she required.

Photo: Eveling Tavera Fernandez

These are small steps, but still very important ones as far as Wader Quest is concerned, we are now doing what we set up to do.

Our policy is that all donations and money from sponsorship will be ring-fenced for the projects we support with none going on expenses or wages (not that we have any wages), it is therefore vital that we raise the number of sponsors and donations so that we can continue to expand this work. If you are not already a sponsor please consider joining the growing worldwide community of people who care about what happens to our waders or shorebirds, the fees are ridiculously low so that it will not hurt your pocket too much; a friend of ours bought a Panini roll at the airport the other day and it cost him the same as a family sponsorship of Wader Quest for a year £7.50!

There are some wonderful large conservation bodies out there who are doing marvellous things on a grand scale, but who is looking out for the little guy? Well that would be us, would you like to be a part of it too?

Ordinary Sponsorship £5.00
Family Sponsorship £7.50
Club Sponsorship £10.00
Corporate Sponsorship £20.00
Life Sponsorship £200.00 for more details or use the sponsorship button in the right hand column.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Wader Quest World Watch

Time is fast approaching for our world-wide weekend wader watch.

Why not join us? It's simple, just go out and look for waders, send us your list and we will publish the Wader Quest World Watch list to see how many species we can clock up between us!

Do you have a special endemic wader (St. Helena? Madagascar?) Lets join together as a wader conservation community and show our solidarity for these birds that are struggling to keep a toe hold in this increasingly hostile world.

Make a note in your diary
Here’s what we’d like you to do

· Select a good wader watching spot, or more than one if you like, and make a note in your agenda to visit it or them on 29th and/or 30th November.
· See how many wader species you can see during that weekend wherever you may be in the world (even if you can’t get to a wader hotspot!) and send us your list so we can collate a Wader Quest worldwide weekend list (send to
· See if you can get others who may not be wader lovers, especially young birders, to join you and introduce them to the joys and challenges of wader identification.
· Get sponsored to raise money for Wader Quest projects (not a requirement to participate).
· If you are a photographer, send us your best photos from that weekend and we will select some of the best to create the Wader Quest 2016 calendar.
· Above all, have fun and enjoy some quality wader watching!

Come on Join us it'll be fun!

We'll be at Titchwell RSPB reserve Norfolk on the 30th of November, come and say hello and meet some of the Wader Quest team!