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We are very happy to announce that the April issue of Wader Study is published online!: http://www.waderstudygroup.org/publications/waderstudy-vol-124-issue-1/   Featured photo: Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva, ©Dominic Sherony
April issue of Wader Study is published online!

We are very happy to announce that the April issue of Wader Study is published online!: http://www.waderstudygroup.org/publications/waderstudy-vol-124-issue-1/   Featured photo: Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva, ©Dominic Sherony

Imagine. You are driving very slowly along the coast of Barr Al Hikman, a tropical intertidal ecosystem in Oman. You scan high water line for flocks of shorebirds and marvel at the abundant birdlife. When the vehicle can go no further, you continue your scan on foot. You have even seen turtles, dolphins and whales while studying the birds at this amazing site. Now imagine that you are alone on an ocean beach in northern California. The water laps at the sand as you walk slowly, stopping occasionally to use your binoculars or spotting scope to scan for Snowy Plovers. It’s nesting season and you are visiting two to three times a week because you’ve detected nesting adults. It was the best of fieldwork. Of course, I am sure the researchers could tell you that it was also the worst of fieldwork; perhaps on a surprisingly wet day in Barr Al Hikman, when the sabkha – a mixture of sand, salt and mud – was suddenly like quicksand; or perhaps in the pouring rain on a northern California beach full of nests destroyed by predators, unleashed dogs or vehicles. For many shorebird biologists, fieldwork can be the best of times and the worst of times. This issue of Wader Study contains articles about two very different field sites on nearly opposite sides of the northern hemisphere. In their study, de Fouw and colleagues1 report on broad waterbird surveys conducted during the winters of 2007/08, 2013/14 and 2015/16 in Barr Al Hikmann – a study area that had last been surveyed in 1990. In a very different study, Colwell and colleagues2 summarize 16 years of data focused on a color-marked breeding population of Snowy Plovers in northern California. At their site annual surveys are required as part of a species’ recovery plan. At both sites the researchers were counting shorebirds and looking at how their numbers were changing over time. And in both studies, the researchers found that shorebird numbers increased. For years, shorebird conservationists have been reporting decreases in shorebird numbers worldwide3. So increases are good news, right? Well, yes and no. Increases in at least some sites are undoubtedly better than decreases at all sites across a flyway or within a population. However, the studies under the spotlight here remind us that increases in shorebird numbers at one site don’t necessarily mean all is well in the flyway – or even at the site. [caption id="attachment_9349" align="alignnone" width="700"] Crab Plovers, Flamingos and other waterbirds at Barr Al Hikman. Photo: J. van de Kam[/caption] Researchers studying at Barr Al Hikman wanted to update data on the number of birds using the site and confirm the area’s importance within the network of intertidal ecosystems that make up the Asian-East African migratory flyway. They found that at least 42 species of waterbirds use the site regularly and they counted more than half a million birds. Shorebirds were by far the most dominant species group with total numbers of 300 to 400 thousand in each survey year across 23 species. Impressively, for 18 of the 23 shorebird species, the numbers wintering at Barr Al Hikman exceeded 1% of their flyway population (the critical minimum threshold value that defines an area of conservation concern) and for nine of these species, at least 10% of the flyway population was found at Barr Al Hikman. The study clearly confirmed that Barr Al Hikman is the single most important wetland for wintering birds in the Middle East, not only with respect to the number of birds, but also in terms of species diversity. Additionally, the surveys revealed that the number of birds wintering at Barr Al Hikman has increased. Compared to the numbers seen during surveys in 1989/90, the researchers found that general waterbird numbers had almost tripled, with large shorebirds increasing two-fold and small shorebirds increasing five-fold. What is causing the increases? Perhaps conditions have improved throughout the Asian-East African flyway and shorebird populations are increasing everywhere. For shorebirds that breed in the difficult-to-reach High Arctic, this question is usually examined by monitoring numbers in wintering areas. If increases are found in a number of wintering areas, then it’s a good-news story. Unfortunately, as de Fouw and colleagues discuss, the Arabian Gulf is developing rapidly and human impact on marine systems is high. Increased shorebird numbers are not being seen throughout the flyway. For example, a 2008 study in the United Arab Emirates paints a picture of shorebird decline as a result of major loss of wetlands due to coastal development4. Perhaps birds from that site now find a haven at Barr Al Hikman – one of the remaining sites for shorebirds in the Middle East. Barr Al Hikman is still relatively pristine, but is under threat from export-driven fisheries including plans for a large aquaculture shrimp facility. If the increased numbers at Barr Al Hikman stem from the redistribution of shorebirds due to the loss of their original wintering habitat at other sites in the flyway, then the increase actually indicates that the flyway populations are threatened. This makes long-term conservation of Barr Al Hikman all the more important. [caption id="attachment_9350" align="alignnone" width="700"] Male Snowy Plover at Eel River Wildlife Area, Humboldt Co, California. Photo: Elizabeth Feucht.[/caption] In northern California the story is very different. Colwell and colleagues have solid data not only on population size, but also on population productivity and immigration rates. Over 16 years, they kept detailed histories of 353 marked and breeding individuals (159 males; 194 females). The population at their site decreased dramatically from 74 to a low of only 19 between the years of 2001 to 2009. Then from 2010 to 2016 the population rebounded, growing at an annual rate of 22% to 72 birds in 2016. Had things turned around? Was the site now productive? Unfortunately not, productivity averaged around 0.85 of a chick fledged per male, which is below what is needed to even maintain, never mind increase a population. Instead, the authors argue that, much like at Barr Al Hikman, recent growth stems from immigration. Their data showed that over the past 12 years, immigrants from more northerly sites comprised about 65% of the population. But unlike Barr Al Hikman, the authors do not think the site is a haven; rather, based on the productivity and immigration data, the authors conclude that the Snowy Plover subpopulation in coastal northern California (Recovery Unit 2) is a demographic sink. Not the best of sites, even if it might be the best of fieldwork at times. Colwell and colleagues point out that no predator management occurs on their site, despite evidence that predation is the main cause of low reproductive success. They further point out that most immigrants to their site come from areas where active predator management has resulted in consistently higher productivity (as also highlighted for Red-necked Phalaropes in Nome, Alaska in a paper by English and colleagues, also in this issue of Wader Study5). They urge agencies responsible for the Snowy Plover in northern California to expand predator management and also note that that management of human recreational use of plover habitats is most effective on federal and state lands where enforcement also occurs. This tale of two sites and these two important studies emphasize the importance of thorough and nuanced research on shorebird demographics within the context of conservation within the flyway or the larger threatened population as a whole. There is often more to increasing numbers than meets the eye.
  1. de Fouw, J., A. W. Thorpe, R. A. Bom, S. de Bie, K. Camphuysen, B. Etheridge, W. Hagemeijer, L. Hofstee, T. Jager, L. Kelder, R. Kleefstra, M. Kersten, S. Nagy & R. H.G. Klaassen. 2017. Barr Al Hikman, a major shorebird hotspot within the Asian-East African flyway; results of three winter surveys. Wader Study 124(1): 5-16.
  2. Colwell, M. A., E. J. Feucht, M. J. Lau, D. J. Orluck, S. E. McAllister & A. N. Transou. 2017. Recent Snowy Plover population increase arises from high immigration rate in coastal northern California. Wader Study 124(1): 21-29.
  3. Wetlands International. 2012. Waterbird Population Estimates, Fifth Edition. Summary Report. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Available from wpe.wetlands.org.
  4. Green, M., & C. Richardson. 2008. Loss of wader habitats in the United Arab Emirates. Wader Study Group Bulletin 115(1):50-51.
  5. English, W.B., E. Kwon, B. K. Sandercock & D. B. Lank. 2017. Effects of predator exclosures on reproductive success in Red-necked Phalaropes. Wader Study 124(1): 26-32.
PDF can be found here
Spotlight: A tale of two study sites with increasing shorebird numbers

Imagine. You are driving very slowly along the coast of Barr Al Hikman, a tropical intertidal ecosystem in Oman. You scan high water line for flocks of shorebirds and marvel at the abundant birdlife. When the vehicle can go no further, you continue your scan on foot. You have even seen turtles, dolphins and whales while studying the birds at this amazing site. Now imagine that you are alone on an ocean beach in northern California. The water laps at the sand as you walk slowly, stopping

Tracks of all Bar-tailed Godwits (top), and detailed tracks at the Jiangsu coast on 10 April 2017 (below) - a dot indicates the location of the bird when its transmitter was detected by a satellite

Satellite-tagged Bar-tailed Godwits highlight the importance of the Jiangsu coast, China for migratory shorebirds

Five Bar-tailed Godwits, fitted with satellite tags, which departed northwest Australia late March have arrived at the Rudong coast, central Jiangsu Province, China after a 6,000 km flight of appr. 5 days. One bird relies entirely on the worldwide unique Dongsha shoals and the other birds in that region are along the coast off the shoals.

The birds are expected to rest and feed here before continuing to Bohai Bay/northern Yellow Sea where they will fatten up for the final leg of their migration to breeding grounds in Siberia.

The Rudong coast, having some of the largest remaining tidal flats in China, provides a rich fishing ground for people as well as a vital refuelling stop for migrating shorebirds, 15 species of which occur in internationally important numbers – including the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

Most of Jiangsu’s intertidal flats are threatened by development plans under which hundreds of square kilometres would be lost to land claim projects, wind farms etc. The Chinese Government, however, announced on 28 February 2017 that the Rudong coast has been placed on a tentative list for nomination as part of a Yellow Sea World Heritage site – recognising the value of the area for migrating birds as well as the unique geological feature of the offshore radial sand ridges.

‘The arrival of these birds further demonstrates the importance of this coastal area for migrating shorebirds’ said (Sir) Professor Theunis Piersma of University of Groningen, who is leading the satellite tagging project. ‘Other birds are still airborne and we await with interest to see where these will make landfall’.

The satellite tagging project is a joint programme of the University of Groningen, the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and the Global Flyway Network, and is supported by the MAVA Foundation, WWF-Netherlands and China, BirdLife International and small private benefactors. For further information contact Yvonne Verkuil at the University of Groningen.

Satellite-tagged Bar-tailed Godwits highlight the importance of the Jiangsu coast, China for migratory shorebirds

Tracks of all Bar-tailed Godwits (top), and detailed tracks at the Jiangsu coast on 10 April 2017 (below) - a dot indicates the location of the bird when its transmitter was detected by a satellite Satellite-tagged Bar-tailed Godwits highlight the importance of the Jiangsu coast, China for migratory shorebirds Five Bar-tailed Godwits, fitted with satellite tags, which departed northwest Australia late March have arrived at the Rudong coast, central Jiangsu Province, China after a 6,000 km flight

Professor Jenny Gill has been awarded at the BOU 2017 Annual conference the BOU’s Union Medal for her outstanding contribution to the British Ornithologists’ Union - having served as President from 2011 to 2015 - and contribution to ornithology. Congrats! [caption id="attachment_9194" align="aligncenter" width="330"] Jenny Gill - University of East Anglia, UK- receives the BOU's Union Medal at the 2017 annual conference of the British Ornithologists' Union.[/caption]
BOU’s Union Medal – Jenny Gill

Professor Jenny Gill has been awarded at the BOU 2017 Annual conference the BOU’s Union Medal for her outstanding contribution to the British Ornithologists’ Union - having served as President from 2011 to 2015 - and contribution to ornithology. Congrats!

Oscar “Wally” Johnson, the undisputed world expert on Pacific Golden-Plovers, and Susan Scott, a popular-science writer, have combined their knowledge and enthusiasm to create a book for everyone who admires the exceptional birds known as Kōlea in Hawaiian. With easy-to-understand, yet scientifically accurate, text and outstanding color photographs, Hawai‘i's Kōlea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover is a handy, reliable source of information for both general readers and ornithology specialists. Read more: University of Hawai‘i press   [caption id="attachment_9184" align="aligncenter" width="330"] Johnson, Oscar W. & Scott, Susan (2016) Hawaii's Kōlea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover. University of Hawai's Press Latitude 20. 80pp.[/caption]   Featured image: Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva ©Benjamin Keen, Nov. 2012 - Hawaii.
New book |Hawaii’s Kōlea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover

Oscar “Wally” Johnson, the undisputed world expert on Pacific Golden-Plovers, and Susan Scott, a popular-science writer, have combined their knowledge and enthusiasm to create a book for everyone who admires the exceptional birds known as Kōlea in Hawaiian. With easy-to-understand, yet scientifically accurate, text and outstanding color photographs, Hawai‘i's Kōlea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover is a handy, reliable source of information for both general

The minutes of the December 2016 annual Alaska Shorebird Group (ASG) meeting are now available! Read the minutes The ASG held its annual meeting on 6 December 2016 in Cordova, Alaska during the Alaska Bird Conference. Papers and posters on shorebird studies and conservation were given over the following few days at the 2016 Alaska Bird Conference A whole session of the meeting was devoted to studies and conservation of shorebirds. Read talk abstracts Other ASG resources include:     [caption id="attachment_9099" align="aligncenter" width="330"] Black oystercatchers Haematopus bachmani observed during 2016 surreys in Prince William Sound. Photo ©Matthew Prinzing, SCA Intern, USFS. Retrieved from the 2016 annual summary of new or ongoing studies of Alaska shorebirds.[/caption]   Featured image: Western sandpipers Calidris mauri at Cordova, Alaska. ©2005 Arthur Morris/Birds as art.
Alaska Shorebird Group | 2016 annual report & meeting minutes now available

The minutes of the December 2016 annual Alaska Shorebird Group (ASG) meeting are now available! Read the minutes The ASG held its annual meeting on 6 December 2016 in Cordova, Alaska during the Alaska Bird Conference. Papers and posters on shorebird studies and conservation were given over the following few days at the 2016 Alaska Bird Conference A whole session of the meeting was devoted to studies and conservation of shorebirds. Read talk abstracts Other ASG resources include: List of newly

A model for collaborative conservation research

Identifying the causes of the problems of the Numeniini is not easy. Species such as the Little Curlew breed in some of the most remote areas of the world, whilst the wintering areas of Bristle-thighed Curlews are spread across the Pacific islands. Understanding the full annual cycle requires international cooperation, willingly provided by scientists and volunteer ornithologists who share a common concern about these species. One of the key elements of the paper-production process was a workshop at the 2013 International Wader Study Group conference in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. This was led by Nicola Crockford, Principal Policy Officer at RSPB, James Pearce-Higgins (BTO), Daniel Brown (RSPB), David Douglas (RSPB) and Jennifer Gill (University of East Anglia). It was preceded by a questionnaire survey of experts throughout the world, conducted by Daniel Brown and funded by RSPB. This two-stage process brought together information relating to population trends, demographic parameters (e.g. nesting success and survival rates) and actual/potential conservation threats. Continue reading original post here on wadertales: https://wadertales.wordpress.com/author/grahamfappleton/ Free full text original article published in Bid Conservation International: Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Brown, D.J., Douglas, D.J.T., A., J.A., B., M., B., P., Buchanan, G.M., Clay, R.P., Conklin, J., Crockford, N., Dann, P., Elts, J., Friis, C., Fuller, R.A., Gill, J.A., Gosbell, K., Johson, J.A., Marquez-Ferrando, R., Masero, J.A., Melville, D.S., Millington, S., Minton, C., Mundkur, T., Nol, E., Pehlak, H., Piersma, T., Robin, F., Rogers, D.I., Ruthrauff, D.R., Senner, N.R., Shah, J.N., Sheldon, R.D., Soloviev, S.A., Tomkovich, P.S. & Verkuil, Y.I. (2017) A global threats overview for Numeniini populations: Synthesising expert knowledge for a group of declining migratory birds. Bird Conservation International 27(1): 6-34. Featured image: ©Axelkr, Iceland 2009.
Why are we losing our large waders?

A model for collaborative conservation research Identifying the causes of the problems of the Numeniini is not easy. Species such as the Little Curlew breed in some of the most remote areas of the world, whilst the wintering areas of Bristle-thighed Curlews are spread across the Pacific islands. Understanding the full annual cycle requires international cooperation, willingly provided by scientists and volunteer ornithologists who share a common concern about these species. One of the key

Dear Members of the Wader Study Group, Dear Wader Biologists,   After our finding that male pectoral sandpipers fly thousands of kilometers through the arctic breeding range (http://go.nature.com/2j0ctW0), we want to understand how this behavior influences the population genetic structure of this species. Based on microsatellite markers, we genotyped a large sample of males caught in Barrow including those that went W to the Russian Arctic and E to the Canadian Arctic. Jakob Mueller analyzed the data and found no evidence for any structure, which is what we expected if males can move and reproduce across such a large geographical scale.   However, we can also test for a population structure using mitochondrial DNA, which is exclusively maternally inherited. This is interesting, because we do not know much about how female pectoral sandpipers sample breeding areas. The only information we have is that between-year site-fidelity is very low, but females could still return to the general area where they were born year after year. In this way, there could still be differences in mtDNA between e.g. Russian and Canadian breeding birds. Pavel Tomkovich already kindly provided 17 samples from females from Taimyr. An initial analysis of those samples, combined with samples from Barrow shows that there are a large number of haplotypes, but only limited evidence for a population structure.   We would now like to ask for your help to find out whether a population structure in females exists or whether the pectoral sandpiper is truly panmictic! To answer this, we want to extend the range of sampling as well as the sample size.   So,
  • Do you have blood/feather/DNA samples from adult female pectoral sandpipers?
  • Do you work in an area outside Barrow where pectoral sandpipers nest and samples from females can be obtained?
  If so, we would be grateful if you can contact us at b.kempenaers@orn.mpg.de   Thanks & best wishes,   Jakob Mueller, Wolfgang Forstmeier, Mihai Valcu & Bart Kempenaers   Prof. Dr. Bart Kempenaers Director Dept Behavioural Ecology & Evolutionary Genetics Max Planck Institute for Ornithology E Gwinnerstr 82319 Seewiesen Germany Tel +49 8157 932334 Mobile +49 172 8351578   Featured photo: Pectoral sandpiper - ©Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Wolfgang Forstmeier
Request for collaboration | samples from Pectoral sandpipers

Dear Members of the Wader Study Group, Dear Wader Biologists,   After our finding that male pectoral sandpipers fly thousands of kilometers through the arctic breeding range (http://go.nature.com/2j0ctW0), we want to understand how this behavior influences the population genetic structure of this species. Based on microsatellite markers, we genotyped a large sample of males caught in Barrow including those that went W to the Russian Arctic and E to the Canadian Arctic. Jakob Mueller

The 2017 edition, the 8th Woodcock and Snipe Workshop, will be held in the village of Madalena, Pico island (Azores, Portugal) from 9 to 11 May (organized by CIBIO-InBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, and ONCFS, Office national de la chasse et de la faune sauvage). The Woodcock and Snipe Workshop aims to share knowledge on all aspects of every woodcock and snipe species: biology, habitats, population dynamics, census techniques, monitoring, hunting statistics, management & conservation, capture techniques.   To know more about this event, please visit the official website: https://sites.google.com/view/wssg-workshop-2017

Registration deadline: 31 March 2017

 
8th Woodcock and Snipe Workshop | 9-11 May, Pico island

The 2017 edition, the 8th Woodcock and Snipe Workshop, will be held in the village of Madalena, Pico island (Azores, Portugal) from 9 to 11 May (organized by CIBIO-InBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, and ONCFS, Office national de la chasse et de la faune sauvage). The Woodcock and Snipe Workshop aims to share knowledge on all aspects of every woodcock and snipe species: biology, habitats, population dynamics, census techniques, monitoring, hunting statistics,

Following in the footsteps of Chamberlain's LBJs, the book written and illustrated by Faansie Peacock includes more than 600 new paintings, covers the ID and biology of 80 species (+ 21 potential vagrant species) of waders found in Southern Africa including sheathbills, pratincoles, coursers &  buttonquails! Based on the most up to date and accurate scientific knowledge, the book is also packed with extra info about wader biology & ecology that make this regional guide unique. For previews, visit the homepage of the book on the author's website: http://faansiepeacock.com/waders-book/ The book is available for pre-order in Europe at NHBS - http://www.nhbs.com/browse/search?q=chamberlain%27s+waders  
New book: CHAMBERLAIN’S WADERS – the definitive guide to southern Africa’s Shorebirds

Following in the footsteps of Chamberlain's LBJs, the book written and illustrated by Faansie Peacock includes more than 600 new paintings, covers the ID and biology of 80 species (+ 21 potential vagrant species) of waders found in Southern Africa including sheathbills, pratincoles, coursers &  buttonquails! Based on the most up to date and accurate scientific knowledge, the book is also packed with extra info about wader biology & ecology that make this regional guide unique. For