Monday, 21 April 2014

Spring is sprung.

This is an amazing time of year, full of hope and promise of things to come up here in the Northern Hemisphere; whether you are a citizen of the frozen north celebrating the long awaited retreat of the ice and snow, or live in the temperate zone enjoying the blossom and bright green leaves that brighten every hedgerow and woodland, or perhaps you dwell in the Mediterranean feeling the first warming days and promise of the summer heat to come,  it is many people's favourite part of the year, a time of eager anticipation, especially for birders.

You may however be in the southern hemisphere and contemplating the breeding season just finished and watching the birds leave as they migrate north, like they are in Australia with their Farewell Shorebirds initiative.

But, wherever you are and whatever you are doing or celebrating, spare a thought for these birds. There are many hazards facing them on their perilous journey. Some will encounter fierce storms that will hinder their progress putting  lives in jeopardy, carefully balanced energy stores being stretched to the limit. Others will face a barrage of guns or a maze of nets and end up in someone's pot, yet others may fly into buildings, high tension cables or wind turbines. Predators, both natural and unnatural, await those that are tired or distracted by hunger.

Some though will make it through to their stop-over points and eventually to their breeding grounds but sadly more and more of those will arrive this year to find that their havens for resting, feeding and breeding have been turned into a wheat field or an industrial estate.

Now more than ever waders or shorebirds, especially those that migrate long distances, are facing greater challenges and are in need of every little bit of help they can get.

Wader Quest is determined to grow so that it can offer a significant contribution to wader conservation, but our success will rely entirely in the hands of others, those from whom we hope to gain support.

Becoming a sponsor of Wader Quest is ridiculously cheap, from £5.00 a year for individual sponsors; that works out at 41.6 pence a month, or 1.4 pence a day; that is less than it costs you to have the internet to read this!

Is it not worth sacrificing a packet of cigarettes or a pint and a half of beer or less than four litres of petrol a year to be part of the growing number of people who understand and care about wader conservation? Join us and help us make a difference.

Friday, 18 April 2014

It's dotterel time, we hope!

One of the highlights of any wader enthusiast's year in the UK especially in the south is the passage of the Eurasian Dotterels. The most colourful of our breeding waders this bird is eagerly awaited every year. 'Trips' of these birds can be found on lowland farmland, especially open ploughed or recently sown areas, as well as some higher areas.

Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus; Pendle Hill, Lancashire, England. May 2013.
During our quest to see as many wader species as we could, in the Spring of 2013, we eagerly awaited news from the east of England where seeing them is relatively easy, if they turn up, which they did not in any useful numbers or places. We did have one abortive trip to Lincolnshire to grill a sod of earth quivering in the heat haze, but dotterels we did not see. I was beginning to think we'd have to go to Scotland to see them. When we visited Alan and Ruth of The Biggest Twitch to see the Purple Sandpipers they had found for us, they told us that dotterels often appear on Great Orm, we waited in hope.

Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus; Pendle Hill, Lancashire, England. May 2013.
In the end, it was a very high and steep hill that turned up the goods, Pendle Hill in Lancashire. Gary Waddington sent us an email which we read at 02:00hrs in the wee hours, jumped into the car and arrived at 05:00hrs. We scaled the hill and saw our birds which is no more than we deserved.

We have seen that a trip of dotterels has already been seen this year in Shropshire and another already in Highland, these are quite early, May being the peak time for them, so we are hoping we'll get a chance to see some with a little more ease this year, and soon.

A dotterel's eye view from the top of Pendle Hill at dawn. May 2013.
Looking through the bird news for today I noted some other southern UK passage birds, some like the dotterels heading for northern parts of these isles to breed. A Curlew Sandpiper was unusual, they mostly pass through in the autumn, rarely being seen in the Sping as their northerly migration takes them further east. The only other Calidris to hit the headlines today was a Little Stint in Cheshire, that also played host to a Jack Snipe that is presumably not likely to be sticking around for long.

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus; Titchwell, Norfolk England. June 2012.

A couple of Tringas were reported namely Wood Sandpiper in Oxfordshire and a few Spotted Redshanks dotted around the country and presumably approaching summer plumage when they are really stunning. One has been seen here recently close to Milton Keynes.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola; Kotu Ponds, The Gambia. January 2014.

Another bird to be passing through is the Eurasian Whimbrel with one reported from Herefordshire today.

Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus; Kotu, The Gambia. January 2014.
So birds are on the move, we can expect some Kentish Plovers maybe to overshoot their breeding grounds, or maybe a Temminck's Stint or two and soon enough we'll be welcoming our summer breeders such as the Little Ringed Plover and Eurasian Stone-Curlew. Perhaps this year we'll get some better photos of the latter!

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius; Kotu Ponds, The Gambia. January 2014.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Please continue to support us now and into the future.

As we have said before, the travelling may be over (for now?), but Wader Quest goes on.

We successfully raised £3,260.56 for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper captive breeding programme but we still need your support  to continue to help wader conservation projects around the world.

We are still raising funds for the Hooded Plovers in Australia that lost their funding from the Australian Government last year, we are trying to raise £1,000 in direct donations for this cause. You can donate on the right of this page at the top where it says "Help a Hoody here!".

One off direct donations are always welcomed of course and we need many of them to reach our target, but if you would like to help us on a long term basis it is ridiculously cheap to do so.

We are looking for Founder Sponsors to commit to an annual donation to help us on our way.

Founder Sponsors will be those that sign up before the May 2015 AGM of Wader Quest, after that time the annual fees will reviewed, the current rates are:

  • Founder Ordinary Sponsorship - £5.00.
  • Founder Family Sponsorship - £7.50 (members of the same family living under the same roof).
  • Founder Club Sponsorship - £10.00 
  • Founder Corporate Sponsorship - 20.00 

All categories will receive a quarterly e-newsletter called Wader Quest (first issue out now), in addition clubs and societies will have a permanent link to their website on the Wader Quest website, and corporate sponsors will be able to have a permanent small advert and logo with a link on their website. Also their logo will appear on stationary and display materials where appropriate.

There is lots to do in the world of wader conservation and we hope that from these humble beginnings we will grow into a useful resource and make a significant contribution to wader conservation; but we cannot do this without your support.

Please be part of our future and sign up today on the "Donate" button to the right where it says "Become a sponsor here!"