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The IWSG Small Project Grants Committee have decided to extend the deadline for application to 15th December 2021. With this grant we aim to support shorebird studies that otherwise will not go ahead. This could be all sorts of projects related to waders (shorebirds): ecological and/or conservation research, pilot studies looking at biological aspects of a single or a few species, or counts of staging birds at unexplored sites. Or something completely different! Application is open for IWSG members who have a project idea that could be undertaken if supported with a small amount of money (currently 1000 Euros per project). About the grant: IWSG Small Projects Grants The application form: https://www.waderstudygroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/IWSG-grant-application_28112018_form-Word.doc   The IWSG Small Grant Committee Yahkat Barshep, Birgita Hansen, Nils Warnock, Vojtěch Kubelka and Jannik Hansen   Featured image: Common Redshank Tringa totanus, April 2017, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, USA. ©Christoph Müller.
Extended deadline for IWSG Small Project Grant applications

The IWSG Small Project Grants Committee have decided to extend the deadline for application to 15th December 2021. With this grant we aim to support shorebird studies that otherwise will not go ahead. This could be all sorts of projects related to waders (shorebirds): ecological and/or conservation research, pilot studies looking at biological aspects of a single or a few species, or counts of staging birds at unexplored sites. Or something completely different! Application is open for IWSG

This year, we’d like to encourage you to get your artistic talents flowing by sending in your best designs to go on a T-shirt for IWSG! Currently we only have a few designs in our Teemill shop and we’d love to add to them with ideas from the wider wader and shorebird community. The winner of the competition will win a t-shirt with their design PLUS a year’s members to IWSG whilst the runner up will get a tote bag with their design. All shortlisted designs will be included on our Teemill shop. All proceeds from the sale of bags or clothing will be used to support the running of IWSG. Competition Rules: - Open to all over 18 who are part of the wider wader/shorebird community - Any design will be accepted as long as it has a wader on it, space for the IWSG logo (which can be small) and on a white background - Meaningful text regarding waders will be considered for inclusion. - Enter on which ever artistic medium suits – pencil and paper, water colours, PowerPoint, Photoshop but you will need to be able to scan the final image. Lines must be thick enough to see when printed on fabric (~2mm+) How to enter: - Send a scan of your final design with your name, email & the subject line “IWSG T-shirt Comp” to membership@waderstudygroup.org - Up to 3 entries per person are allowed and should be original and unique artwork - Closing date – midnight 23:59 GMT 1st January 2022. Full Terms and Conditions
Design a T-shirt for IWSG!

This year, we’d like to encourage you to get your artistic talents flowing by sending in your best designs to go on a T-shirt for IWSG! Currently we only have a few designs in our Teemill shop and we’d love to add to them with ideas from the wider wader and shorebird community. The winner of the competition will win a t-shirt with their design PLUS a year’s members to IWSG whilst the runner up will get a tote bag with their design. All shortlisted designs will be included on our Teemill

The IWSG Small Projects Grants aim to support shorebird studies that otherwise will not go ahead. This could be all sorts of projects related to waders (shorebirds): ecological and/or conservation research, pilot studies looking at biological aspects of a single or a few species, or counts of staging birds at unexplored sites. Or something completely different! Application is open for IWSG members who have a project idea that could be undertaken if supported with a small amount of money (currently 1000 Euros per project). In the below link you can find a description of criteria and the application form. The IWSG Executive Committee has appointed an evaluation committee that will judge the applications, and decide which project will be awarded. Application form: IWSG Small Project Grants Call Applications should be submitted by December 1st 2021, and a decision will be made before 1st of May 2022. Details on the previous recipients of the IWSG Small Grants there: https://www.waderstudygroup.org/projects/small-grants/   [caption id="attachment_15049" align="aligncenter" width="330"]Photo: Carolina Davila Sandra Giner & Virginia Sanz won the 2021 IWSG Small Project Grant to carry out shorebird survey in Margarita Island, Venezuela. ©Carolina Davila[/caption]
The 2022 IWSG Small Project Grant call is now open

The IWSG Small Projects Grants aim to support shorebird studies that otherwise will not go ahead. This could be all sorts of projects related to waders (shorebirds): ecological and/or conservation research, pilot studies looking at biological aspects of a single or a few species, or counts of staging birds at unexplored sites. Or something completely different! Application is open for IWSG members who have a project idea that could be undertaken if supported with a small amount of money

Hunan Global Messenger Technology Co., Ltd. (HQXS) is sponsoring the IWSG Conference 2021 by giving away six GSM/GPS transmitters to one conference participant. How to win the transmitters? Please find out at: https://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2021-virtual-conference/#3
IWSG Conference competition for tracking studies

Hunan Global Messenger Technology Co., Ltd. (HQXS) is sponsoring the IWSG Conference 2021 by giving away six GSM/GPS transmitters to one conference participant. How to win the transmitters? Please find out at: https://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2021-virtual-conference/#3

by Deborah Buehler originally published in Wader Study 128(2) Imagine that you’re a Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus, a relatively large shorebird, about 45 cm from head to tail. The tide is up (which means your workday is over), the sun has set, and now you need a safe place to rest – you and nearly 20,000 others. Where do you go? Can 20,000 large birds hide? In this issue of Wader Study, Sanders and colleagues describe a nocturnal roost site in South Carolina, which supports about 20,000 roosting Whimbrel.1 That’s nearly 50% of the eastern population and nearly 25% of the entire North American population. A roost is a safe place where a group of birds can settle to rest. Unlike a nesting site, roosts are for respite, not reproduction. For shorebirds, roosting usually happens when the tide is high enough to flood areas where the birds feed. At that point, the birds will fly to exposed dry land to take a break. Because tide times vary, roost times vary, and shorebirds rest by day (diurnal roost) or by night (nocturnal roost). Nocturnal roosts are often farther from mainland beaches and forests than diurnal sites. This offers better protection from nocturnal predators, such as owls, but it also makes these sites harder for both birds and humans to find. One wouldn’t think that 20,000 shorebirds would be easy to hide, but finding nocturnal roost sites is no easy task, even for large, well-studied species in a country relatively well-populated with ornithologists. Sanders and colleagues first discovered roosting flocks of Whimbrel on Deveaux Bank in 2014. Deveaux Bank is a sandbar at the mouth of the North Edisto River in Charleston County, South Carolina. It sits on the northeastern edge of the ACE (Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers) Basin, a 1,420 km2 multi-use conservation area. Though the island is about a kilometer squared at low tide, the ephemeral nature of the sandbanks means that only about a quarter of that remains dry at high tide for roosting. [caption id="attachment_15413" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Aerial view of the study site at Deveaux Bank (photo: Andy Johnson/Cornell Lab of Ornithology)[/caption] After finding evidence of the roost, the researchers returned to the site in 2019 and 2020 to find out how many birds used the area and to refine their nocturnal bird counting methodology. The team consisted of experts experienced in conducting surveys and estimating the sizes of large flocks. One to two researchers were stationed at four counting locations around Deveaux Bank allowing them to scan in all directions for arriving Whimbrel (see Fig. 1c in the paper).   Because Whimbrel rest when their feeding areas are covered by the tide, the researchers chose survey dates when high tide was within 125 minutes of civil twilight (the period after sunset when enough natural light remains that artificial light is not needed), so that foraging areas would be underwater near sunset. Also, all but one of the survey dates fell within three days of a full moon, which proved helpful as it allowed counting by moonlight when the sky was clear. Sanders and colleagues began counting as soon as flocks flying towards the sandbar were visible over the water (about 0.5 km away). Once on the sandbar, if the birds were disturbed, for example by a predator, the team subtracted any birds that left from their totals. If they settled again elsewhere, they were counted at the new location. This ensured no birds were double counted.   Not surprisingly, the main challenge in counting birds using a nocturnal roost is darkness. Many nights the researchers could hear that birds were still arriving after civil twilight, but it was too dark to keep counting them. Their nightly counts ranged from 8,974–19,485, with the highest count on a night when the moon was nearly full, and the sky was clear. That night 34% of all Whimbrel counted arrived after civil twilight and were counted by moonlight. It was the only night when counting stopped because birds were no longer arriving, rather than due to darkness.   This study reports several important findings. First, Deveaux Bank – a previously unknown nocturnal roost site – supports at least 19,485 roosting Whimbrel during peak spring migration. Whimbrel numbers have fallen nearly 50% over a 15-year period since the 1990s. Deveaux Bank now presents an opportunity to conserve and study a large part of the Whimbrel population. However, it also presents a risk – a lot of birds relying on a single, ephemeral sandbar for their survival.   Second, the researchers found that Deveaux Bank is likely important over a large area. Birds flew into the roost from all directions over the course of the evenings, first arriving from nearby inland marshes then, hours later, over the water from the south. This suggests that some birds are flying into the roost from long distances, implying that ideal roost sites are limited. Together, these first two findings emphasize the need to discover or create a network of alternative roosting sites for the long-term conservation of the species.   Third, the study spotlights the fact that, though difficult to find, once known, nocturnal roosts provide a way to survey large numbers of birds that would otherwise be uncountable as they forage over huge swaths of saltmarsh. Optimizing methods to count birds at roosts could give researchers a way to get more accurate population estimates and to track how populations are changing over time.   Fourth, this study shows the importance of both tides and lunar phase when choosing dates to count birds at nocturnal roosts. The optimal nights are the ones when high tide happens just before nightfall. Finally, selecting dates close to the full moon can help to ensure that birds arriving after civil twilight can be counted by moonlight if the skies are clear. The researchers recommend survey dates near the spring tide (the highest tides in the month), within two days of the full moon, when civil twilight and high tide are 30–60 minutes apart.   Shorebird populations are in steep decline around the world. By publishing their work, Sanders and colleagues have given us a better understanding of the importance of nocturnal roost sites and how best to survey them once found. Whimbrel are well-studied birds and their roost was found in a conservation area frequented by ornithologists. For less well-studied species migrating through less well-studied areas, far less is known about where birds roost, or even the larger geographic areas that they visit on their journeys. In this issue of Wader Study there are several papers describing the quest to determine where birds go, and which areas are essential to them. For example, Summers and colleagues used geolocator trackers to determine areas important to Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola on their migrations between Scotland and West Africa.2 Adha Putra and colleagues used ground surveys to discover that the eastern coast of Sumatra is a significant wintering area for Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer – one of the most threatened shorebird species in the world.3   PDF version of this article is available for download here: https://www.waderstudygroup.org/article/15328/  
  1. Sanders, F.J., M.C. Handmaker, A.S. Johnson & N.R. Senner. 2021. Nocturnal roost on South Carolina coast supports nearly half of Atlantic coast population of Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus during northward migration. Wader Study 128(2): 117–124.
 
  1. Summers, R.W., B. Etheridge, N. Christian, N. Elkins & I.R. Cleasby. 2021. Timing, staging, speed and destination of migrant Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola. Wader Study 128(2): 145–152.
 
  1. Adha Putra, C., D. Hikmatullah, I. Febrianto, I. Taufiqurrahman & C. Zöckler. 2021. North Sumatra is an internationally significant region for non-breeding Nordmann’s Greenshanks Tringa guttifer. Wader Study 128(2): 157–164.
Featured image: Video frame of Whimbrel at Deveaux Bank, South Carolina. ©Andy Johnson/Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Spotlight | Tides, twilight and the moon

by Deborah Buehler originally published in Wader Study 128(2) Imagine that you’re a Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus, a relatively large shorebird, about 45 cm from head to tail. The tide is up (which means your workday is over), the sun has set, and now you need a safe place to rest – you and nearly 20,000 others. Where do you go? Can 20,000 large birds hide? In this issue of Wader Study, Sanders and colleagues describe a nocturnal roost site in South Carolina, which supports about

Only recently we were hoping to meet in person this year, but the ongoing uncertainties regarding the health emergency have made the decision for us: the IWSG annual conference 2021 will be held online. The meeting will take place from the 8th until the 10th of October. For more information, registration and abstract submission, please visit: https://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2021-virtual-conference/
2021 Annual Conference moved online

Only recently we were hoping to meet in person this year, but the ongoing uncertainties regarding the health emergency have made the decision for us: the IWSG annual conference 2021 will be held online. The meeting will take place from the 8th until the 10th of October. For more information, registration and abstract submission, please visit: https://www.waderstudygroup.org/conferences/2021-virtual-conference/. 

This year, the IWSG Small Grant Committee are very delighted to support two projects targeting breeding biology and requirements of lesser known and studied species and these studies will definitely add to new knowledge:
  • Hari Basnet: Breeding Biology of Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola in Lamtang National Park, Nepal
  • Sandra Giner & Virginia Sanz: Identification of potential WHSRN sites for the protection of breeding areas of two plovers of conservation concern (C. wilsonia and C. nivosus) in Margarita Island, Venezuela
Read the full announcement here: IWSG Small Projects Grants Featured image: Field work in Venezuela. ©Carolina Davila
Winners of the 2021 IWSG Small Grant Winners announced | The IWSG Small Grant Committee

This year, the IWSG Small Grant Committee are very delighted to support two projects targeting breeding biology and requirements of lesser known and studied species and these studies will definitely add to new knowledge: Hari Basnet: Breeding Biology of Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola in Lamtang National Park, Nepal Sandra Giner & Virginia Sanz: Identification of potential WHSRN sites for the protection of breeding areas of two plovers of conservation concern (C. wilsonia and C. nivosus) in

The Hannover-Hildesheim office of the Lower Saxony for Water Management, Coastal Protection and Nature Conservation Agency (NLWKN) currently seeking for an "International Strategic Planner (m/f/d) - Nature Conservation" at the Hannover-Hildesheim office of the NLWKN.
This fulltime employment, as temporary contract for 5 years, will focus on the processing and coordination of the Integrated LIFE-Project "Conservation of wet grassland breeding bird habitats in the Atlantic Region" (IP LIFE GrassBirdHabitats, LIFE19 IPE/DE/000004) linked with a plan for West Africa, an essential location for the migratory species.
This new integrated project would builds on the success of the previous LIFE project upscalling their actions over a wider range - in Germany and in The Netherlands and farthest in West Africa - and across a significant target group of grassland breeding bird including several threatened grassland wader species. Application are expected online by June 4th, 2021 for a start of contract "at the earliest possible date". All information about the position and application here!   Featured image: Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, ©Peter van de Beek, 2013, Netherlands.
Position advert: International Strategic Planner | Life project “Conservation of wet grassland breeding bird habitats in the Atlantic Region”

The Hannover-Hildesheim office of the Lower Saxony for Water Management, Coastal Protection and Nature Conservation Agency (NLWKN) currently seeking for an "International Strategic Planner (m/f/d) - Nature Conservation" at the Hannover-Hildesheim office of the NLWKN. This fulltime employment, as temporary contract for 5 years, will focus on the processing and coordination of the Integrated LIFE-Project "Conservation of wet grassland breeding bird habitats in the Atlantic Region" (IP LIFE

by Deborah Buehler originally published in Wader Study 128(1) Some birds love their fashion. Even waders – known for more practical, muted colours and ‘outfits’ that camouflage – have species amongst them that love to show off their plumage. [caption id="attachment_14994" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Ruff male showing off his flamboyant plumage. (photo: Yvonne Verkuil)[/caption] Ruffs Calidris pugnax have famously extravagant plumage. They’re even named for the typical male’s feathery neck ruffle resembling the exaggerated ruffs fashionable from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries. In this issue of Wader Study, Verkuil, Jukema and colleagues report on what might seem like an accessory to Ruffs’ already flamboyant fashion – some Ruff individuals have a more understated collar, a rusty-brown ring around the neck or nape.1 As with many things in science, the rusty neck rings (hereafter collars) were first discovered through close observation. Humans have been catching waders in Friesland, the Northern Netherlands, for a long time. For centuries, this activity centred around hunting birds for food. The trappers, known as wilsterflappers, used wind-driven nets, decoys and perfect timing to capture flocks of birds in midair. In the late 1970s, when commercial hunting was prohibited, some of them turned their unique skills to science. Joop Jukema, a retired potato farmer, and one of the study’s co-authors, has been trapping waders with scientists since the early 1980s. He and his fellow wilsterflappers (see the study’s Acknowledgements section) are classic citizen scientists. They are not scientifically trained, but they collect information for scientific study and their deep understanding of the birds was instrumental in discovering the rusty collars. Once the rusty collars had been discovered, Verkuil, Jukema and colleagues set out to gather more information about them. They scored the presence or absence of the collars through field work conducted over many years and sites: Most of the birds, over 2,000 males and females, were captured and scored when migrating through the northern Netherlands between 1996 and 2019. In 1996 a single female was checked at the Willem Barents field station at Medusa Bay in Russia during breeding. In 2017, the researchers captured and checked 49 females in Finland during the breeding season. In 2018, they checked skins in the Moscow Zoological Museum from 73 females caught in Russia during breeding between 1903 and 2004. Reliably seeing the collars was no small feat. In fact, the existence of the rusty neck collar was often scored as ‘unknown’, especially in two of the three male types: the independent and satellite males. Ruffs have one of the weirdest sexual systems in the world with three distinct types of male: territorial, ‘independent’ males with predominantly dark ornamental ruffs; non-territorial ‘satellite’ males, with predominantly white ruffs; and rare female-mimicking males (called faeders), with no ruffs and oversized testicles. These faeders were also first discovered in the northern Netherlands. Joop Jukema noticed that he was catching large ‘females’ (note that the testicles are inside the body in birds) and he started to doubt that they were what they seemed. 2 The discovery and subsequent introduction of faeders to the scientific community triggered intense study into the sex lives of Ruffs. We now know that the female-mimicking faeders exist because a large chunk of chromosome 11 (~ 100 genes) flipped upside-down about 3.8 million years ago. More recently, about 500,000 years ago, part of the upside-down chunk flipped back forming the satellite male type. 3 So why were the rusty collars so hard to see in the independent and satellite males? Because in spring they ‘change their outfits’. All birds moult (shed old feathers to make way for new growth) and some species, including Ruffs, have complex annual moult cycles. 4 Independent and satellite males migrating through the Netherlands in spring shed all their neck feathers to make way for their ornamental ruffs and the feathers that would have had the rusty neck collar are simply gone. [caption id="attachment_14995" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Series of three photos (all different individuals) that show how male Ruffs lose the neck collar through a dramatic moult: on 7 April with rusty brown collar, on 14 April in full moult, and on 29 April with a partly grown ornamental ruff (photos: Jan Wijmenga).[/caption] This is why the existence of the rusty neck collar was so often scored as ‘unknown’ in males as spring progressed. It is also why the researchers decided to exclude males entirely from their analysis during the breeding period. During breeding, they scored only females (and very rare faeders) where the collar was clearly present or not. In females and faeders some feathers are replaced in spring, but the moult is less drastic and so it was still possible to detect the rusty neck collars. The researchers also wanted to determine the origin of the colour in the rusty collars. They hypothesized two alternatives: Perhaps the collars were due to genetic plumage polymorphism (ancient differences in feather colouration). Some closely related plover species have similar collars, suggesting that this may have been the recurrence of an ancestral trait (atavism). On the other hand, maybe the collars were not a fixed trait at all, but rather an acquired trait. The feathers could simply be stained. Rusty stained feathers can occur when birds feed in water or mud that contains high levels of iron oxide. To test this, the authors collected a total of nine feather samples from the rusty-brown neck collars from birds migrating through the Netherlands in 2011 and 2019. To test if the feathers contained iron oxide, they performed a simple experiment. They took photos of the feathers, then soaked them for 24 hours in 5% hydrochloric acid (HCl), then photographed them again. The idea was that if the colour washed off and the wash then tested positive for iron oxide, the researchers could safely state that the colour was due to recently acquired staining rather than ancestral genetics. Verkuil, Jukema and colleagues found that the rusty-brown neck collar occurred fairly commonly in Ruffs migrating through The Netherlands in spring. They detected collars in 14% of females, 20% of independent males and 40% of satellite males. The neck collars appeared rarer in faeders at 3.5%, but faeders themselves make up only 1% of the staging Ruff population studied and so the sample size was low (only 28 scored across all years). Overall, of the 2,098 Ruffs scored in The Netherlands between March and May 2006–2019, 395 birds (18.8%) had a neck collar. In the spring, males seem to have collars more often than females, and satellite males more often than all other sexes. However, it is easier to detect a rusty coloured ring on a background of white in satellite males, thus, this difference might be due to detection bias. In contrast to spring in the Netherlands, the collars were uncommon during the breeding season elsewhere. Although the single female checked from Medusa Bay in Russia in 1996 had a brown neck ring, no rusty-brown neck collars were observed among any of the 49 females from the breeding population in Finland in 2017. Similarly, no rusty collars were found in the 73 females checked from the collection in the Moscow Zoological Museum. One clear outcome of the study was the likely cause of the neck collars. Through their experiment, the researchers determined that the rusty colour washed off in 5% hydrochloric acid. Furthermore, all collar feathers tested positive for iron. Therefore, the likely cause of the neck collar is recently acquired staining by iron oxide and not ancestral genetic polymorphism. Exactly where and how the feathers ended up stained, remains a mystery. Ruffs feed along the receding water line, where they often submerge their heads in water with a film of iron-rich bacteria. Iron containing surface water occurs in the floodplains in West Africa where a large proportion of Ruffs spend the winter, at stopover sites in southern Spain, and in many grassland areas in northern Europe. This study was not able to detect whether the staining was related to a particular wintering or staging area. The study also wasn’t set up to answer the question of whether the collars mean anything for Ruff fashion. Iron oxide staining has been used by bird species for cosmetic colouration, 5 but we don’t yet know if this staining plays a role in sexual selection for Ruffs. Much more remains to be discovered and the authors also published this study as a call to field researchers to pay attention to this newly described plumage characteristic. Hopefully, this heightened awareness will contribute to more knowledge about the phenomenon in the future. That’s the beauty of science. Each study gives us new information while raising more questions. Though Ruffs might love to show off their plumage and their rusty collars might be akin to ‘fast fashion’, at its core, this study highlights something slower and longer lasting. It highlights the power of sustained observation, year after year, and the labour (often unpaid) of the scientists and citizen scientists who have broadened our understanding of waders and their perils. 6 [caption id="attachment_15000" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Joop Jukema trapping birds for science in Friesland in 2006. (photo: Yvonne Verkuil)[/caption]  
  1. Verkuil, Y., J. Jukema, P. S. Tomkovich, N. Rönkä, J. C. E. W Hooijmeijer & T.Piersma. 2021. Striking rusty-brown neck collars in Ruffs: plumage polymorphism or staining? Wader Study 128(1): 36-43.
 
  1. L. E. Ogden. 2014. In the world of ruffs, a male bird that's sneaky … and well endowed. Earthtouch News Network. Blog post accessed 9 March 2021 at https://www.earthtouchnews.com/natural-world/animal-behaviour/in-the-world-of-ruffs-a-male-bird-thats-sneaky-and-well-endowed/
 
  1. Küpper, C., M. Stocks, J.E. Risse, N. dos Remedios, L.L. Farrell, S.B. McRae, T.C. Morgan, N. Karlionova, P. Pinchuk, Y.I. Verkuil, A.S. Kitaysky, J.C. Wingfield, T. Piersma, K. Zeng, J. Slate, M. Blaxter, D.B. Lank & T. Burke. 2016. A supergene determines highly divergent male reproductive morphs in the Ruff. Nature Genetics 48: 79–83.
 
  1. Pyle, P. 2019. Sunset Sanderlings: Digital photography leads to novel insights about the presupplemental molt of the Sanderling. Birding Magazine August 2019: 30–40.
 
  1. Delhey, K., A. Peters & B. Kempenaers. 2007. Cosmetic coloration in birds: occurrence, function, and evolution. American Naturalist 169: S145–S158.
 
  1. Piersma, T. 2018. Behind the Paper: The Natural History of Our Changing Planet. Nature Portfolio Ecology & Evolution Community. Blog post accessed 9 March 2021 at https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/39860-the-natural-history-of-our-changing-planet?channel_id=521-behind-the-paper
 
Spotlight: Citizen Science and Rusty Collars in Ruffs

by Deborah Buehler originally published in Wader Study 128(1) Some birds love their fashion. Even waders – known for more practical, muted colours and ‘outfits’ that camouflage – have species amongst them that love to show off their plumage. Ruffs Calidris pugnax have famously extravagant plumage. They’re even named for the typical male’s feathery neck ruffle resembling the exaggerated ruffs fashionable from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries. In this issue of Wader

An environmental catastrophe looms over Europe’s largest wetland wilderness

Polesia is Europe’s Amazon. This stunning floodplain region straddles the borders of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, and spans 186,000 km2 –  roughly twice the size of Portugal. It is one of Europe’s most biodiverse and culturally rich areas. The survival of many globally endangered species depends on it – including European bison, grey wolves and Eurasian lynx as well as thousands of migratory birds. It is an extremely important site for migrating waders. [caption id="attachment_14920" align="aligncenter" width="330"] This stunning region, which straddles the borders of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, is the continent’s greatest intact floodplain region. Despite ongoing threats from climate change, hunting, logging, and mining, huge areas of Polesia remain pristine. ©https://wildpolesia.org.[/caption] The Polesia – Wilderness without borders’ project, supported by the Endangered Landscapes Programme, brings together organisations and research institutions from four countries to preserve Polesia as one of the last wilderness areas in Europe.   But this hidden gem is under threat: Governments of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine plan to build a waterway cutting through Polesia’s heart. The so-called E40 waterway would connect the Black Sea and the Baltic and at 2,000 km in length would be 25 times longer than the Panama Canal. To construct this huge infrastructure project, dredging, damming, straightening and deepening would be needed along some of Europe’s last major undamaged rivers, including the Pripyat and Vistula. This could have disastrous impacts on local communities, the global carbon balance and world class nature - 60 internationally protected biodiversity sites on the proposed E40 route would be directly impacted. Considering climate change and water shortages this project makes even less sense. The E40 waterway would be extremely expensive (over $12 billion) and the economic case for it is weak. Despite this, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine appear to be progressing individual elements of the waterway.   Save Polesia’ is an international partnership of six civil society organisations with the aim to stop the E40 waterway plans. Save Polesia believes that before the waterway is progressed further, proper assessment of the whole E40 corridor is urgently needed. This should consider cumulative and transboundary environmental impacts and enable full public participation. Instead of the waterway, Save Polesia encourages national governments to boost local and regional economies by investing in existing rail infrastructure and using the huge potential for nature-based tourism in Polesia. Save Polesia has launched a petition to save Europe’s largest wetland wilderness from the E40 waterway. Please raise your voice to save Polesia and sign our petition: http://chng.it/qjdQRGYs   For more information about the ‘Polesia – Wilderness without borders’ project see https://wildpolesia.org/ For more information about the ‘Save Polesia’ campaign see https://savepolesia.org/ [caption id="attachment_14921" align="aligncenter" width="330"] Black-tailed Godwits breed at the River Pripyat Floodplains. Turov area, Polesie, Belarus. © Daniel Rosengren[/caption] Featured image: An aerial photo of the River Pripyat and its surrounding wetlands and oxbow lakes. This is an extremely important site for migrating birds (mainly waders) who stop here to feed on the abundance of food before continuing their migration. Turov area, Belarus. © Daniel Rosengren
Europe’s largest wetland wilderness under threat from E40 inland waterway | Save Polesia

An environmental catastrophe looms over Europe’s largest wetland wilderness Polesia is Europe’s Amazon. This stunning floodplain region straddles the borders of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, and spans 186,000 km2 –  roughly twice the size of Portugal. It is one of Europe’s most biodiverse and culturally rich areas. The survival of many globally endangered species depends on it – including European bison, grey wolves and Eurasian lynx as well as thousands of migratory birds. It