Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Little Curlew tracking project update.

It has been a bit over a month since the last Little Curlew update and we have some news to report. 

The most interesting thing that has happened since the last update is that LC 131943 has kept moving north. It arrived on the coast of China between 19th of June and 24th of June landing between Hong Kong and Shantou. On the 28th of June it was on an island 60 km east of Fuqing, in the Putian region (where 131945 and 131947 also stopped on migration).
From here, it moved to Rudong, where it was on the 3rd of July. It then moved to an inland lake near Yishui around the 8th of July, about 110 km north west of the coastal town of Rizhao. Four days later it was back on the coast, having moved 120km from its previous location. It moved a further 150 km south to an area near Liangungang (where 131947 also stopped over in early June).
In the last few days, between 26th and 28th of July, this bird made a long flight of 1000 km north straight over the Yellow Sea to an area in the south eastern part of Nei Mongol province. Its last fix is just 30 km south of where 131947 stopped here in early June, and 160 km south west of where 131945 stopped in mid-May.

 Track of 131943 since last update (16th June).Map supplied by Inka Veltheim.

 Location of stop over for all three birds in the Nei Mongol province after crossing the Yellow Sea.Map supplied by Inka Veltheim.
Just in the last few days, the bird on the breeding grounds (131945) has begun making its way south. Its departure date was between 23rd and 27th of July. It has flown 1600 km directly south and is currently at the Lena River, some 250 km from Lake Baikal. This bird spent almost exactly two months on the breeding grounds.

Track of 131945 on southward migration (showing 131943 and 131947 current locations).
Map supplied by Inka Veltheim.

Little Curlew 131947 remains at Hulun Lake, where it has now been for six weeks.

Full tracks of all birds (data to end of June mapped).

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Visit by Australian friends.

Over the last couple of days we have had the pleasure of welcoming Paul Dodd and Ruth Woodrow to Newport Pagnell. Paul and Ruth helped us immensely when we were in Victoria, Australia, during the travelling days of our quest for wader conservation.

Paul and Ruth plus Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae , another species that we saw thanks to them.

Indeed it was Paul who showed us our first Hooded Plover among other delights.

Elis (left) and Paul (right) photographing a pair of Hooded Plovers Thinornis ribricollis (centre). Victoria, Australia. September 2013

The result of the turtle imitation above.
This absolutely charming couple have been doing a tour of the UK starting in Wales where they quickly got their main target species, Atlantic Puffin on Skomer Island. They then visited our friends Alan Davies and Ruth Miller, of The Biggest Twitch fame, for a couple of days which they enjoyed very much, as you would expect, getting another target species, White-throated Dipper thanks to them.

Alan and Ruth plus the Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima they showed us. Rhôs-on-Sea, Conwy. January 2013

They also visited another friend of ours Alan McBride who has been a constant social media supporter of Wader Quest who helped us with the logistics of our Australian trip by introducing us to Paul and others even though he is now back in the UK.

Alan enjoying(?) a Wader Quest talk at WWT Martin Mere
November 2013.
They came to us via Scotland an the Farne Islands and this morning we had the chance to visit two local birding sites with them. The first was the Hanson Environmental Studies Centre where they saw their first Common Kingfisher, a pair, and Manor Farm the local wader hotspot.

Manor Farm, Buckinghamshire, England. July 2014.

At Manor Farm.
At Manor Farm the best bird was a Ruff but there were plenty of Northern Lapwings and ringed plovers, both Little and Common. Sandpipers came in the form of a Common and Green plus a single Dunlin.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax; Norfolk, England.  September 2012.

Paul and Ruth have now moved on to London and thence on to Norfolk where we hope they'll have a splendid time and we wish them a safe return journey to Australia. We look forward to our next meeting whenever or wherever it may be.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Killdeer demise.

It seems that our Killdeer family did not make it to fledging; an all too familiar story in the world of waders.

Annette has been several times to look for the family but found none at all, no adults and no chicks, except on one occasion she came across what she determined was a different family when an adult and a fledged juvenile flew in. Here is a photograph of them taken the day after the last photograph was posted of the original chicks. the difference in the young bird means it cannot have been one of the birds Annette had been watching.

Killdeers Charadrius vociferus well advanced and fledged juvenile on the left.
Photo: Annette Cunniffe.

It is a sad tale, and one that is repeated throughout the world with increasing frequency. It is a tough world if you are a wader, there are many natural events that can befall you through your life, survival is by no means guaranteed. If you then factor in all the added pressures that sharing the planet with humanity brings, disturbance, destruction, selfishness, thoughtlessness, carelessness and sometimes downright bloody-mindedness, it is little wonder that the world is losing so many of its waders.

I read a very interesting text by Chris Hassell on the Global Flyway Network website, under the page entitled Why Study Waders? At the beginning of the page he informs us of a survey by the International Wader Study Group (of which we are members) in 2003 that demonstrated that of the 207 shorebird populations with known population trends (which number 511 in total), nearly half, 48% are in decline. Only 16% showed an increase; one assumes that there is no reason to predict that the other populations that we don't know about are likely to be significantly different. Almost half of our known wader populations declining, is that not depressing reading?

What happened to our Killdeers? We will never know for sure but this black-and-white photograph movingly illustrates that all that remains of at least one family of Killdeers this year, is ephemeral footprints in the sand.

Photo: Annette Cunniffe.