Update GFN northward migration 2017: Ongoing loss of Bar-tailed Godwit sites along the southern China coast due to reclamation

The “NW Australian” Bar-tailed Godwits have continued to migrate toward north and the first birds have arrived in the Yellow Sea. On 14 April (2017) two birds were in the Yellow River Delta and two birds made it all the way to Yalu Jiang in the northern Bohai Bay. One of birds at Yalu Jiang arrived there after a non-stop flight from NW Australia of about 7000 km!

The Global Flyway Network research team on the ground in China reported about mudflats that in 2008 were used by satellite-tagged Bar-tailed Godwits, situated on the southern coasts of China along the Eastern China Sea coastline, just south of Shanghai.

They describe the ongoing losses of tidal flats in this area. GFN researcher Ying Chi Chan (from Royal NIOZ and a PhD student at the University of Groningen) on 15 April 2017 wrote:

“I’m at Hangzhou Bay, we arrived last night and drove around this morning and finally found some flocks on the very extensive mudflats. The mudflats probably extended about 10 km outwards from the ‘coastline’ in the past, but now less than half that width, ca. 4 -5 km, is left. The scary thing is there are several roads extending from the coast to seaward for 4 km, so we can drive quite near the water edge at low tide. This seems to announce the reclamation of  these mudflat in the next few years.

We also surveyed Wenzhou coast which also faces very rapid reclamation at a rates that would probably see all mudflats gone by 2020. Even though these sites are not in the Yellow Sea, they deserve attention. Now that the shorebirds may be ‘forced’ by habitat loss in the Yellow Sea to use more sites along the coast of southern China, this seems an emerging issue.”

April 2008 on current map
Locations of two refuelling Godwits in 2008 plotted on the current map. Note that most foraging area have now been reclaimed

This year the Bar-tailed Godwits are overflying the reclaimed areas.

Vastleggen in volledig scherm 18-4-2017 91525.bmp
Tracks of Bar-tailed Godwits tagged in 2017 overflying Wenzhou coast and Hangzou Bay

We are awaiting on-the-ground updates about the conditions of the sites in Bohai Bay. Especially Yalu Jiang is a very important site for Bar-tailed Godwits.

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