Monday 8 July 2013

The nine wader flyways of the world.

There are considered to be nine great wader flyways across our planet:

During Wader Quest we will visit all of them, we have already been in seven with only two to go.

Working west from Europe, we have obviously been in the East Atlantic Flyway since the UK where we live is within its scope. A splendid example of a species along this route would be the Red Knot.

Juvenile Red Knot (Calidris canuta).

Next up is the Black Sea and Mediterranean Flyway. This is one we haven't been to yet, but if a mooted trip to Ukraine comes off that will see us squarely in the middle of it and at a stretch we will be at its westernmost extreme in The Gambia. One species that may well use this route travelling from Arctic Russia to the Mediterranean and East Africa is the Little Stint.

Little Stints (Calidris minuta)
The West Asian - East African Flyway is already covered by our trip to the UAE but of course will also feature in our trip to South Africa, Botswana and Namibia later this year. many Marsh Sandpipers use this route migrating from their breeding gorunds down as far as South Africa.

Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)

The central Asian Flyway was also covered by the UAE at its extreme, but if the money holds out and we get to India as we hope in January, that will again be plum in the middle of its range. Wood Sandpiper migrates across a broad front across Europe and Asia utilising a number of flyways, this being one of them.

Wood Sandiper (Tringa glareola)

Probably the most famous of the flyways after the British Birdwatching Fair last year is the East Asian - Australasian Flyway. This is of course the flyway that holds the Spoon-billed Sandpiper's migration route within it and those we saw as expected in Thailand at the beginning of the quest. Red-necked Stint is one of the most common and familiar waders of this region who travel the full extent of the flyway, from arctic Russia right down to Australia and New Zealand. This flyway also has the dubious honour of being probably the most problematical in terms of conservation.

Red-necked Stint
The West Pacific Flyway is another we haven't yet visited, but after our trip to South Africa we set off again, this time further east, and will be in Australia and New Zealand, looking for waders in this flyway. One of the most incredible stories that recently surfaced was the discovery that Bar-tailed Godwits travel non stop, some 11,000 miles, from Alaska to New Zealand!

Bar-tailed Godwit in NewZealand  Photo; Brent Stephenson.
There are three separate flyways just within the Americas, the first of these is the Pacific Americas Flyway. Running down the west coast of the two great continents, we birded within it in Washingtona and California in the USA and again recently in Peru. "Rockpipers" Such as Surfbird and Black Turnstone are typical species that utilise this flyway.

Surfbird (Aphriza virgata) and Balck Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala).

Down the centre of the two continents runs the Mississippi Americas Flyway. Arriving waders along the Gulf coast where we visited in Texas and Louisiana are birds that use this route. Although there were no migrants at the time of our visit to Brazil we were within this flyway on our visit to its interior last month. One of the most attractive of the birds to be seen on this route is the Wilson's Phalarope, large gatherings of them can be seen at places like the 'Rice Country' in Louisiana.

Wilson's Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) with Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
Some of the birds we saw on the Texas / Louisiana trip may well have been western stragglers from the last flyway, Atlantic Americas Flyway. Flying along the Atlantic coast from Canada to Argentina these birds pass through not only Florida, where we would have come across many, but also Brazil where, when we lived there, we came across many like this White-rumped Sandpiper passing through on its way south.

White-rumped Sandpiper (Claidris fuscicollis)
Within all these great flyways there are problems and hurdles for the birds to overcome, almost exclusively they are caused by human beings, whether it is beach goers disturbing nesting plovers in the USA or hunters trapping birds for the pot in Asia the amount of added aggravation humans deal out to waders as they fly, sometimes from one end of the earth to the other, a journey that is already life threatening and difficult, is increasing and has now reached a point where it is almost unstoppable. The birds don't stand a chance unless we all do something about it, now!

Development, but who will benefit?

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