Friday, 19 June 2015

Field Volunteers Required in China – 2015.

Field Volunteers Required – 2015 Conservation Leadership Programme: Stopover Ecology of Spoon-billed Sandpipers and Nordmann’s Greenshanks at the Yellow Sea

Work type: Volunteer

Location: South Jiangsu coast, China

Time Required: August - October 2015

Project Description:

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (‘Critically Endangered’) and Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer (‘Endangered’) are two of the most threatened migratory shorebird species in the world. They congregate in south Jiangsu coast in significant numbers during southward migration stopover. Habitat loss and hunting along their migration routes are two of the possible causes of their rapid decline. This project aims to improve the understanding of the stopover ecology, especially the feeding ecology, of these two species on the south Jiangsu coast during southward migration by conducting regular weekly counts, focal bird observations and macrobenthic sampling. Such information will allow researchers and managers to distribute their management effort more effectively when conserving and monitoring these threatened species. These findings will also have implications that go beyond our study area because the basic ecology of these species remains poorly known and they rely on similar coastal intertidal wetland habitat throughout their non-breeding season.

Information about the Conservation Leadership Programme can be found in the following link:
How can you help?

This project is currently searching for motivated, enthusiastic volunteers to assist the field work throughout the boreal autumn! Tasks include bird counts during high tide, macrobenthic sampling and focal bird observation during low tide. The work involves extensive amount of time working and walking on the intertidal mudflat and getting muddy during benthic sampling. Basic local field expenses will be covered for successful candidates but he/she needs to make his/her own way to Shanghai. Successful candidates will have the potential to develop his/her own side-project if that fits into the field schedule. There will also be opportunities to extend the stay for another month or two in Shanghai to assist with laboratory work (transcribe behaviour observation data, sort and process benthic samples), analysis and write-up.

What you may gain from this opportunity:
● Add two fabulous shorebird species as well as other East Asia endemic species into your birding list
● Bird counting skills
● Macrobenthic sampling skills
● Bird behaviour observation skills
● Authentic Chinese food.
Selection Criteria:
● An adequate physical fitness is required
● A minimum stay of 4 weeks in the field
● Volunteers shall be hardworking, detail-minded and shall have a strong sense of responsibility
● Ability to work independently and as part of a diverse team with different
● Bird identification skill is preferred
● Experience in working on intertidal flat is desirable
● Basic understanding in Chinese is not compulsory but would be a bonus

Advertised Close Date:31-6-2015

We will start reviewing the applications from the middle of June until the position is filled. To apply, please send us a letter of application outlining qualifications and experience for the position, curriculum vitae, and the names and contact details for two references.
If you have any questions about this volunteering position, please contact

Nordmann's Greenshank Tringa guttifer

Monday, 15 June 2015

New world waders in an old world setting.

The pull of not one, but two Nearctic vagrant waders to see so close to each other on the southern shores of the UK, was too much to resist. We had managed too suppress our desire to go and look at the Greater Yellowlegs for some time, but it remained long enough in the area that when a Hudsonian Whimbrel showed up just along the coast, we were unable to resist any longer. Picking up Wader Quest Trustee Oliver Simms on the way we sped down to Pagham Harbour to look first for the Hudsonian Whimbrel.

The view that greeted us on arrival. A line of birders, but all looking in different directions and not using their scopes. Not a good sign.

When we arrived it had disappeared from view somewhat predictably but after a fairly protracted wait, old friend Barry Reed came dashing past saying that the bird had just flown into the long grass away to our right. A short search revealed a brief view of a head and shoulders of a whimbrel, but was it 'our' whimbrel? It certainly looked a likely candidate and we didn't have to wait long to find out, it took flight and flew across past the admiring crowd and we were all able to see the distinctive lack of white on the lower back and the cinnamon hue to the underwing; magic. The downside was that it settled in more long grass at a greater distance.

This bird was the 9th record for the UK the first being in 1955 on Fair Isle.

Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus was split recently (by some but not all authorities) from Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and they can be separated in the field with careful observation. The two photos below demonstrate some of the features; Hudsonian shows a more contrasting head pattern; Hudsonian has a slightly longer bill; Hudsonian is more buff on the underparts; Hudsonian is darker on the upperparts. What these photos don't show is the cinnamon underwing of Hudsonian and the best known feature, the lack of white on the lower back.

Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus  USA (left) and Eurasian Whimbrel N. phaeopus The Gambia.

The only other waders seen were Common Ringed Plover and Eurasian Oystercatcher.

With that success under the belt we decided to go for our second target for the day, the Greater Yellowlegs. At Titchfield Haven a pleasant walk along the canal path to a shallow lagoon soon had us watching a sleeping Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca along with a fair number of other birders many of whom we had seen at the Hudsonian Whimbrel.

The gathering for Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven.

We stayed for some time and got some brief 'head up' views and the odd wing shuffle, but little else in the way of physical activity, maybe it was still tired from flying across the Atlantic, I know I would be even though it was ages ago.

Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca (centre in front of the only godwit not sleeping; erm... with the yellow legs) among Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. It spent most of its time sleeping during our visit.
Occasionally though it did raise its head, but you had to be quick to see it let alone photograph it!

The yellowlegs was passing its time in among around 40 Black-tailed Godwits, some of which were slumbering too, others, were feeding more actively.

Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca photographed in Mostardas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; October 2013.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

European Red List waders.

The European Red List of Birds is a review of the regional threat status of the 533 wild bird species occurring naturally and regularly in Europe, according to the IUCN Regional Red List Guidelines. It has just been published and it makes grim reading especially the list of Vulnerable species many of which we have long considered relatively common; Eurasian Oystercatcher, Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew Sandpiper.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa.


Canarian Black Oystercatcher - Haematopus meadewoldoi

Regionally Extinct

Caspian Plover - Charadrius asiaticus

Critically Endangered (possibly Extinct)

Slender-billed Curlew - Numenius tenuirostris
Common Buttonquail Turnix sylvaticus (note: WQ has not yet adopted this species as a wader).

Critically Endangered

Sociable Lapwing - Vanellus gregarius

Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius


Eurasian Oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus
Greater Sandplover - Charadrius leschenaultii
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni

Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

Near Threatened  

Cream-coloured Courser - Cursorius cursor

Least Concern

Eurasian Thick-knee - Burhinus oedicnemus
Pied Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Grey (Black-bellied) Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Eurasian Golden Plover - Pluvialis apricaria
Eurasian Dotterel - Eudromias morinellus
Common Ringed Plover - Charadrius hiaticula
Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
Spur-winged Lapwing - Vanellus spinosus
White-tailed Lapwing - Vanellus leucurus
Eurasian Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
Red Knot - Calidris canutus
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Broad-billed Sandpiper - Calidris falcinellus
Temminck's Stint - Calidris temminckii
Sanderling - Calidris alba
Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Purple Sandpiper - Calidris maritima
Baird's Sandpiper - Calidris bairdii
Little Stint - Calidris minuta
Eurasian Woodcock - Scolopax rusticola
Pintail Snipe - Gallinago stenura
Great Snipe - Gallinago media
Common Snipe - Gallinago gallinago
Jack Snipe - Lymnocryptes minimus
Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus
Grey (Red) Phalarope - Phalaropus fulicarius
Terek Sandpiper - Xenus cinereus
Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
Spotted Redshank - Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
Common Redshank - Tringa totanus
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Collared Pratincole - Glareola pratincola

Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Apart from the inclusion of the buttonquail which we used to call Andalusian Hemipode, a much more romantic name, it is worthy of note that Baird's Sandpiper is included. This is due to a breeding population that breeds in Greenland which pertains to Denmark. 

Baird's Sandpiper Calidris baridii

For a full list of European bird species see