News from the field – Spring 2017: Looking for Great Knots at Yangjiang in Guangdong Province, China, revealed a surprise!

Ginny (Ying Chi) Chan from Royal NIOZ Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and University of Groningen, The Netherlands, reports – observations from 7 April 2017:

Each year in spring we survey the staging sites that we know our Great Knots, carrying 5 gr solar-powered satellite transmitters, have visited. Some sites will be relatively unknown, because hardly anybody has observed shorebirds there.

Vastleggen in volledig scherm 1-5-2017 104446.bmpOn 7th April we were at a coastal site at Yangjiang in Guangdong Province, China, that was also new to us.

We were walking out onto the mudflat, seeing flocks of Sanderlings flying out from their roost. Watching the flock of small shorebirds I thought:  “Probably there could be a Spoon-billed Sandpiper in there”. And when I looked through my telescope – there was one! Actually there were two of them around! One was in breeding plumage, and the other still in its pale non-breeding plumage.

It turned out that the bird with non-breeding plumage was flagged as ‘1X’. This Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a youngster from the captive hatching and hand-raising program in Russia which aims at giving a head start to increase the fledgling production of the local breeding populations (Click here to visit the Saving Spoon-billed Sandpiper website.). This bird is the first one of its cohort that was resighted!

Great Knots and Red Knots are highly dependent on mudflats. We have learned that whereabouts of the birds we track indicate good quality mudflats, which also supports many other shorebird species. Therefore, our tracking work is very important for discovering important shorebird areas in the EAAF, a crucial first step in conserving them.

Zhang Ping, one of our volunteers, sampling the Yangjiang mudflats
Lines of fishing nets, a common sight on Chinese mudflats


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