Overview of Kamchatka field season 2017: timing of post-breeding migration suggests Arabian Gulf Great Knot “EI” had a successful breeding season, and many other stories

Dmitry Dorofeev reports:

(Continue reading in Russian: Исследование куликов в эстуарии рек Хайрюзова-Белоголовая)

In the middle of August we finished our field season of 2017 and returned from Khairusova-Belogolovaya estuary in Western Kamchatka. Unfortunately this year we could not involve foreign volunteers. The funds for the expedition were only secured at the end of May and it was impossible to organise all necessary paperwork for visas and the like on time.

Five researchers from different organizations took part in the expedition: Dorofeev Dmitry, Ganiukova Anna, Ivanov Anton, Matsyna Alexander and Shupikova Anna. Our studies were supported by the All-Russian Research Institute for Environmental Protection and the MBZ species conservation fund.

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The field work team of 2017 (from left to right): Anton Ivanov, Anna Shupikova, Dmitry Dorofeev, Anna Ganiukova, Alexander Matsyna. Photo: Alexander Matsyna

The largest part of our activities were dedicated to Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris). This year we modified our trap and caught more than 500 waders, 360 were marked with Black\Yellow engraved flags. We already have five re-sightings from Japan, Korea and China. About 130 birds were juveniles, which is key because it is very important to know if there are differences in migration between adult and juvenile birds.

Great Knots in from Khairusova-Belogolovaya estuary in Western Kamchatka. Photo: Dmitry Dorofeev

The next important part of our work was searching and reading engraved leg flags. In the end of the season we had a total of 1526 records in our log book! In 2016 we had about 1800 records, but considering that this year we had only one good scope instead of four, the results were very good. More than 75% of the observations were made with the high quality scope that the Royal NIOZ lend us, just for this field season. For the next field season we hope to find additional funds to buy a high quality scope for the project.

Most of our re-sightings were of Great Knots colour-banded or flagged in Australia, China and Kamchatka. We also collected records of marked Black-tailed Godwits, Bar-tailed Godwits, Red Knots, Red-necked Stints and Dunlins. Observed waders were banded at least at 22 sites within the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, from Chukotka (Russia) to Victoria (Australia) and New Zealand. These data allows to calculate new estimates of the duration of the stopover of individual birds.

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Bar-tailed Godwits in from Khairusova-Belogolovaya estuary in Western Kamchatka. Photo: Dmitry Dorofeev

On the penultimate day of our field season we had a very nice surprise. While we were out doing observations we recorded the more or less famous Great Knot “EI” who was observed in winter 2017 near Dubai. This male Great Knot had started his southward migration very late so we can suppose that he had a successful breeding season!

Wader counts are also the part of our work. But, unfortunately, not the best part. Khairusova-Belogolovaya estuary is rather large, about 50 km2, and it is impossible to make total counts. So we have minimum estimates for the study site. Number of Great Knots varied from 23,0000 in the beginning of July to 4,500 in the middle of August.

Also this year we repeated the benthos survey that we have been conducting since 2015. In total 201 sample were taken on the whole territory within a 500 by 500 m grid. This investigation will help us understand if there are any dynamics in benthos distribution between years.

The last, most important, activity of our team were observations on foraging juvenile Great Knots, that just arrived from the tundra zone to the mudflats, and on foraging adult Great Knots. In previous years we had noticed that juveniles feed much more slowly than adults. We think that juveniles do not have enough experience with feeding on bivalves. At breeding grounds they are used to feed on various insects, changing to bivalves might be a challenge for them.

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Foraging Great Knots in from Khairusova-Belogolovaya estuary in Western Kamchatka. Photo: Dmitry Dorofeev

The last goal of our studies was collecting information about rare species – Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Far-Eastern Curlew. We have rather detailed data about numbers and distribution of the Far-eastern Curlew in the estuary. From the middle of July till the beginning of August about 300-350 birds were feeding on the mudflats the closest to the camp. At least several dozens of Curlews used the most remote part of the estuary. This year we had not enough scopes and people to look for Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Only in the end of the season we were able to check types of mudflats that is preferred by this species. At that time juvenile birds started their southward migration.

We are planning to present the first data at the IWSG Annual Conference in Prague this September 2017.

We are grateful for all our colleagues from different countries who helped us with information and advice. Especially we appreciate the local people who helped us with storing expedition stuff and accommodation.


Amalia is back in Africa – but what happened to his brood?

Jos Hooijmeijer reports on 7 September 2017:

Amalia is back in Africa! He is in Senegal, in the wetlands and rice fields of  the Casamance (see map).  Amalia is a satellite-tagged male Black-tailed Godwit who’s claim-to-fame is that we are now following him for four and half years!

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Amalia in March 2016: he has just arrived in The Netherlands and getting ready for the breeding season. Note the antenna of his solar-powered satellite transmitter. Photo: Ep van Hijum

He is carrying a transmitter since 2013, the longest of all godwits we track. He actually is a superstar in Friesland, The Netherlands, where his arrival each year is awaited and celebrated by the local community and school classes – including a contest to predict his arrival date. Through satellite tracking we are learning a lot about ‘our’ Godwits, and especially multi-years tracks such as from champion Amalia, are extremely valuable.


This year Amalia again spent the breeding season in Friesland, The Netherlands. That was no surprise: he has come back to the breeding grounds in Friesland for five years now.


Amalia in Friesland, The Netherlands on 9 May 2014. Photos: Jos Hooijmeijer

What was a nice development this year is that on 27 May 2017 Jos Hooijmeijer reported that Amalia was seen with very young chicks!. You can read about it here. He apparently found a mate and together they hatched a brood.

What happened to the precious brood Amalia was guiding in May?

Based on Jos’ visit in May we estimated that the laying date has been around 25 April . That is quite early and probably this was his first clutch in 2017. Jos again visited the breeding site of Amalia in Friesland on 9 June 2017, when the chicks would be about 20 days old.

Jos found Amalia only a few hundred meters from where he saw Amalia and his family on 27 May. Amalia’s mate was leading two or three chicks through a pasture grazed by horses and Amalia was sitting on a pole, a good lookout to watch over them.

The chicks were not captured and ringed, so we cannot say with 100% certainty whether they fledged or not. However, if indeed on June 9th there were two or three chicks that survived for 20 days, there is a fair chance that at least one will have survived for 25 days, to the age of fledging.

Amalia sites 2017One of the last observations of Amalia in The Netherlands was on 15 July 2017. That day he was seen by Jelle Loonstra near the town of Jeth, in a group of nine adults and 12 recently fledged juvenile birds. Maybe one of more of these fledglings were his own chicks!

The next day, Amalia was still in Jeth, but he left soon after because on the 18th he had arrived in SE  England, in the estuary of the River Alde (NW of Ipswich). The same day he flew back to the mainland, to the Hoge Plaeten in de Westerschelde bij Breskens (The Netherlands).

From Breskens, he started his southward migration. On 20 July, he was in the vast “marais” wetlands south of Rochefort in Charente Maritime (France), a well-known stopover for Black-tailed Godwits, especially in spring. There he stayed until the end of July or early August (he was 10 days of the radar), to fly to the Casamance in southern Senegal where he arrives on August 12, as in previous years. He is not only faithful to his Friesian breeding area but also to his Senegalese wintering area.

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Amalia is his wintering area in Casamance in southern Senegal, where he arrives on August 12, as in previous years.




A different angle on vigilance

Posted by Piet J. van den Hout. [In Dutch: Een andere kijk op gevaar]

The best way to find raptors is to observe their prey. As soon as a shorebird tilts its head to point one eye up, a raptor must be looming overhead. Their skills in detecting predators exceed those of the best birder — after all, their life depends on their attentiveness. That is why scanning behaviour is commonly used as a reliable indicator of the danger level that animals perceive.

But, how reliable is it really? How do we know what a bird is really looking at?

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Atacama Desert, with Andes in the background

My first doubts come up in Chile, in 2005. At midday we drive through the sweltering desert of Atacama. A carpet of salt crystals stands out against a bluegreen lake where flamingos are slobbering crustaceans. The sky is clear blue. The white clouds in the distance turn out to be the snowy peaks of the Andes.

Sure enough, there is a shorebird on the salt. It is a Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii), and it is alone. The bird is not shy; we can even see that it is eating little white critters, probably amphipods. As I come even closer to take pictures the bird starts tilting its head several times as if scanning the sky overhead. I look up to seek for the raptor. There is none.

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Baird’s Sandpiper, Atacama, 24 January 2005, 11:22 pm

A little further down we see another loner on the salt plains: a Puna Plover (Charadrius alticola). Likewise, the plover is not shy, and as I approach to make pictures, this bird also tilts its head, just as the Baird’s did. Again, not a bird in the sky. I’m confused.

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Puna Plover, Atacama, 24 January 2005, 12:04 pm

These observations linger in my head for some time, until Graham Martin, the King of Bird Vision, visits our institute. I bombard him with questions and pictures: Would the birds really look at the sky overhead? Could they be looking at me instead? Does the bright sunlight have something to do with it?

It is likely that the bird sees me as a predator. By scanning the sky, he may be anticipating his chances: if I decide to flee for this ground predator, could I be intercepted by an attacker from the sky?

However, birds can also keep their head tilted for another reason, explains Graham. Just like us, birds have a pecten oculi, the organ that causes the famous blind spot in the field of vision. This organ ensures that the retina receives sufficient nutrition. In birds, the organ may have yet another function: its dark dyes and velvety structure ensure that incoming light is strongly absorbed. By turning their heads, birds could make sure that the bright sunlight falls right on the pecten. As a result, they can reduce glare in the eye and prevent being temporarily blinded by the sun. Calculations by Graham confirmed that the head positions of the photographed birds were appropriate for his effect to occur. We published our ideas, thereby explicitly acknowledging that our sample size is only two (van den Hout & Martin 2011, Wader Study Group Bulletin 118: 18-21).

Since then I have been keen on trying to find out whether more birds exhibit such scanning behaviour in a predator-free context. And indeed, I observed and photographed several more scanning events, both from the northern and southern hemisphere, that could clearly not be connected to a raptor flying overhead. The pictures are shown below.

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Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), January 17, 2017, Etosha, Namibia, 12:01
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Familiar Chat (Cercomela familiaris), Namibia, January 1, 2017, 12:55
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Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus), Lapland, July 18, 2015, 10:58
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Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), Lapland, July 18, 2015, 13:32
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Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Lapland, July 10, 2015, 10:37

Like with the Atacama birds, it appeared that all pictures were taken around midday (and this was not planned!), when the sun was high in the sky. These observations seem consistent with the idea that by tilting their heads, the birds prevent disability glare from the sun, as in our 2011 paper. Although these observations do not conclusively solve our scanning issue, it makes the matter all the more intriguing, and compelling to solve.


Van den Hout, P.J. & Martin, G.R. 2011. Extreme head-tilting in shorebirds: predator detection or sun avoidance. Wader Study Group Bulletin 118: 18-21.


Migration of the Bar-tailed Godwit Y5RBRL

Ginny (Ying Chi) Chan, Theunis Piersma and Chris Hassell from Royal NIOZ Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, University of Groningen, The Netherlands and Global Flyway Network Australia, report:

This is a story about the ten thousand kilometer journey of a Bar-tailed Godwit, travelling between the tropics and the Arctic, between pristine and industrial environments, and between different nations and cultures.

Some background facts: menzbieri godwits are somewhat largish shorebirds, who breed in the Russian Arctic and “overwinter” on the hot coasts of NW Australia, and therefore migrate along the coasts of the Yellow Sea in China twice a year. Many intertidal zones along this flyway are threatened. Tracking shorebirds (and their populations) with satellite transmitters on their annual migrations is necessary to target conservation action to the right places. From the tracks, we can identify the (remaining) crucial intertidal mud flats for long-haul migrants in China and along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

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Ginny (Ying Chi) issuing a small solar-powered satellite transmitter to a Bar-tailed Godwit in Eight Mile Beach, NW Australia, February 2017. Photo: Jesse Conklin
The Karajarri Ranger Group and Chris Hassell releasing Bar-tailed Godwits tagged satellite transmitters on Eight Mile Beach, NW Australia, February 2017. Photo: Yvonne Verkuil

We give Bar-tailed Godwits satellite transmitters in NW Australia, and every spring we literally ‘follow’ these tagged godwits twice! By surveying their staging sites in China, and watching the data come in from the transmitters. This the journey of Bar-tailed Godwit Y5RBRL in 2017:

Areas used by Bar-tailed Godwit “Y5RBRL” in 2017. Orange starts – staging areas in China in Jiangsu Province and Shandong Province, and on New Siberian Islands; Yellow star – breeding area; Green star – non-breeding area in NW Australia.  Map by Ginny (Ying Chi) Chan

15th February 2017

This bird (a female) with colour-ring combination Y5RBRL was caught, had a satellite transmitter attached, and was released at Eighty Mile Beach, NW Australia on 15 February 2017. What did we learn most from Y5RBRL and her tracks?

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Chris Hassell (GFN) and Emilia Lai (BBO) releasing  Y5RBRL. You can see the antenna of her solar-powered satellite transmitters. Eight Mile Beach, NW Australia, 15 February 2017. Photo: Ginny (Ying Chi) Chan

19th April 2017

Y5RBRL left Eighty Mile Beach and made an impressive non-stop flight of more than 5,700 km to China. In five days she reached the Rudong coast (Tiaozini-Dongsha mud flats) in Jiangsu Province, where she stayed for about a week.

3rd May 2017

She headed further north and reached Diaokou on the coasts of southern Bohai Bay on 3 May. Our field team reached Diaokou ten days later on 13 May.

15th May 2017

On 15 May 2017, our field team reports that they had sighted a Bar-tailed Godwit carrying a satellite transmitter in Diaokou Xiang, Lijin County of Shandong Province. Yueheng (a volunteer fieldworker) saw this special bird with an antenna sticking out. It is very special to actually see a bird with a satellite transmitter in the field, thousands of kilometers away from where you marked it.

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In Diakou: Bar-tailed Godwit “Y5RBRL” carrying a satellite transmitter. Photo: Ginny (Ying Chi) Chan

Diaokou in southern Bohai Bay has been sampled for benthic prey and surveyed for birds since spring 2016. Another tagged Bar-tailed Godwit had stopped there last year. Y5RBRL stayed in Diakou until 25 May, a total of 22 days. It seems to be an important staging site, although we did not see big numbers in both years. It is difficult to find and approach flocks there, because there are a lot of fishermen working on the mud flats and we only had three days to do our work. More regular surveys in this area will be very informative.

From Diaokou Y5RBRL flew to her breeding grounds near Chersky in northern Russia. She didn’t flew non-stop, she stopped at several places in the tundra. Was she looking for a mate or a good place to breed? Or waiting for the snow to melt?

7th June 2017

Finally she reached her breeding location! From our track we infer she stayed at this single site for 26 days. As our transmitters are in a cycle of 8 hours “ON” 25 hours “OFF”, she could have been there for 28 days. It is very likely she attempted to breed but our movement data cannot confirm whether this was successful. The egg-laying takes four days and incubation takes 21 days, so if her chicks hatched successfully, she would have left them for her partner to take care of the chicks. For shorebirds, it is not uncommon that one parent leaves the responsibility of raising the chicks to the partner.

3rd July 2017

After the breeding season she flew further north to the New Siberian Islands. She was at this site ‘fueling up’ for almost 16 days, to get ready for her southward migration.

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Now as we write this in mid August 2017, Y5RBRL has returned to Diaokou for some more fueling. Obviously Diaokou is known to her as a good site to prepare for migratory flights.

What we are wondering now is if she will use the Tiaozini-Dongsha mudflats again before flying to Australia. Why is that such an important question? This staging site, which Y5RBRL used as first landing and refueling place after her long haul flight from Australia, is part of a huge ‘reclamation’ project and the mud flats will soon disappear. Ying Chi and colleagues used the local movements of Y5RBRL and 14 other tagged Bar-tailed Godwits to show that the planned industrialisation overlaps with the areas that the birds feed in on the Tiaozini-Dongsha mud flats and shoals. This result is presented in a Forum paper in Wader Study published by Global Flyway Network and colleagues in early August. We hope that the publication can urge the government to re-assess the plans. If we want to make sure Y5RBRL can keep using her favorite staging sites (and ca. 60,000 other godwits with her) action is needed.


In Wader Study: Reflections on the Jiangsu coastal development plans: loss of habitat leads to loss of birds

Report 9 August 2017:

Today a Forum paper was published in Wader Study, authored by Theunis Piersma and colleagues from China, Australia, America and New Zealand, reflecting on development plans of the coastal zone of Jiangsu Province – China.

The international team of shorebird scientists and intertidal experts says that the expected ecological impacts of reclamation of coastal and offshore mudflats in this area warrant new Environmental Impact Assessments.

The team describes in details how our satellite tracking data of shorebirds (see earlier blogs and figure below) together with insights in the functionality of tidal flat zones, emphasize the ecological value of two areas areas that are scheduled to be reclaimed soon: Tiaozini mudflats and the offshore Dongsha Shoals.

Situation of the southern Jiangsu Province Tiaozini-Dongsha Shoals tidal flats north of the city of Rudong (left) and the reclamation plans in this area for 2009–2020 (the intertidal areas indicated in grey) combined with the density distribution of 15 staging, satellite-tagged female Bar-tailed Godwits in May 2015– July 2017 (right). White to orange coloured squares represent the number of high-quality locations of godwits in a 2 x 2 km area, obtained from Argos satellite tracking. A lack of grid squares indicates a lack of satellite locations, but of course does not mean that such areas were not visited by shorebirds. (Based on Y.-C. Chan, T.L. Tibbitts, T. Piersma et al. in prep.). From Wader Study 124-2: doi:10.18194/ws.00077

By summarizing a broad range of studies on shorebirds, Theunis Piersma and colleagues from China, Australia, America and New Zealand sketch the expected ecological impact of the developments on shorebirds, a.o. on two especially vulnerable species, Spoon-billed Sandpipers (Critically Endangered) and Nordmann’s Greenshanks (Endangered).

The Forum article is Open Access and is available at Wader Study:

Summer counts of waders in West Africa: few Red Knots but strikingly many Curlew Sandpipers in Parc National Banc d’Arguin!

Bob Loos of Global Flyway Network reports:

Curious to understand more about oversummering waders in West Africa, we set out to count our study areas in Parc National Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania.

The Mauritanian count team from left to right: Ahmed Medou, two members of the crew of the lanche, Mohamed Camara and Ahmed Amarajeyat on 11 July 2017. Photo: Bob Loos

During counts between 9 and 15 July 2017, carried out by the GFN team consisting of Ahmed Medou, Ahmed Amarajeyat, Mohamed Camara, Jan van Dijk and Bob Loos, a total of almost 65,000 birds were counted at six sites near Iwik, Mauritania (see map).

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During high tides, the islands of Arel, Nair and Zira were counted, together with the coast of Ebelk d’Aiznaya and part of the Baie d’Aoutief.

The highest numbers were recorded for Flamingo (13,800), Curlew Sandpiper (12,614!), Dunlin (7,758) and Bar-tailed Godwit (5,046). Surprisingly, only 1,357 Red Knots were counted.

Curlew Sandpipers and Dunlins on the roost of Arel, 9 July 2017. Photo: Bob Loos

The last census of oversummering waders in Banc d’Arguin dates back to June 1988 when the entire area was counted between 8 June and 3 July during a WIWO expedition.

Comparison of the results with 1988 is not yet possible because the results per counting area from 1988 are not yet available. However we know that in June 1988 on Arel 2,400 Sanderlings and 1,400 Curlew Sandpipers were counted. We arrived at 2,450 Sanderling, and a spectacular number of more than 10,000 Curlew Sandpipers!

As expected, the majority of the oversummering waders were “young” birds, born in the previous summer and now in their second calendar year.

We also collected more than 300 colour-ring re-sightings from, among others, Red Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew Sandpipers, Whimbrels and Spoonbills (both the local breeding birds of the subspecies balsacii and birds from the Dutch breeding population that decided to oversummer). More about those birds next time!

For curious readers we included the count data below.Table Bob Loos




Record numbers of Sanderlings on remote Wadden Sea island

More in Dutch here: NOS Nieuws August-September 2017.

Emma Penning reports that currently (1 August 2017) over 21,000 Sanderlings roost on the Wadden Sea islet Griend, on sand banks actively created to allow Griend to “wander” again. This is twice the Dutch wintering population (ca. 9,000), and as high as the British wintering population of 20,500 birds (Reneerkens et al. 2009). As much as 10.5% of the flyway population is now on Griend (van Roomen et al. 2015). A record number of Sanderling on a single roost!

Sanderlings roosting on Griend (in the Dutch Wadden Sea) on 1 August 2017. Photo: Emma Penning

Emma Penning from the Royal NIOZ, and a team of researchers of the University of Groningen and NIOZ, are currently working on the island to document the ecological and geomorphological consequences of the ‘Griend Repair project’ by the owner and manager Natuurmonumenten.

The island Griend, with on the lower left side the low and wide new sand bank. On the island itself vegetation cover has been removed to ensure breeding habitat for terns and gulls, forming strips of bare sand towards the northeast.

Griend is a small uninhabited island in the middle of the Dutch Wadden Sea. Natural erosion processes would make this type of islet “wander” through the Wadden Sea, but the protecting sand dyke created decades ago had washed away. In the summer of 2016, sand and shells have been resupplied so that natural processes can take their course again. At the same time vegetation cover on the island has been removed to ensure breeding habitat for terns and gulls. The new very low and 400 m wide sand bank protects against erosion from the west, and “feeds” the island with sand to stimulate growth at the north and south sides. This sand bar apparently is an attractive feature for Sanderling.

To investigate the effects of the recovery project, and to find out more about the natural functioning of this Wadden Sea island, an intensive four-year research project has started that will run until 2020. Tracking and tracing the movements of Sanderlings and documenting their diet is part of the program.

Already before the restoration, Griend was a central hub for Sanderlings foraging on the mudflats of the western Dutch Wadden Sea. We expected that they would continue to roost on Griend after the restoration, because the barren and open character of the new sand bank Griend would offer a safe place for Sanderlings. But this turn-out of >21,000 birds is more than we dared to hope for! Our brand new tracking data shows that indeed they use a variety of feeding locations throughout western Wadden Sea. More on that later.

Information about the restoration of Griend (in Dutch) at: and National Geographic Nederland·België.

Associated team members: Emma Penning with Allert Bijleveld, Laura Govers, Jeroen Reneerkens and Job ten Horn.

Sanderling in Griend in August 2014, showing remnants of breeding plumage. Photo: Jeroen Reneerkens


Reneerkens, J., Benhoussa, A., Boland, H., Collier, M., Grond, K., Günther, K., Hallgrimsson, G.T., Hansen, J., Meissner, W., de Meulenaer, B., Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y., Piersma, T., Poot, M., van Roomen, M., Summers, R.W., Tomkovich, P.S. & Underhill, L.G. 2009. Sanderlings using African–Eurasian flyways: a review of current knowledge. Wader Study Group Bull. 116: 2–20.

van Roomen M., Nagy S., Foppen R., Dodman T., Citegetse G. & Ndiaye A. 2015. Status of coastal waterbird populations in the East Atlantic Flyway. With special attention to flyway populations making use of the Wadden Sea. Programme Rich Wadden Sea, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, Sovon, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands, BirdLife International, Cambridge, United Kingdom &, Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, Wilhelmshaven, Germany.


Our study site and major staging site for Red Knots in Bohai Bay, China, may become protected

Chris Hassell of GFN reports:

A step in the right direction!

The East Asian – Australasian partnership reports that our major field site in Bohai Bay, Nanpu at Luannan coast is part of the planned Nanpu Wetland Nature Reserve.

Although in the article there is no mention of GFN or of Beijing Normal University, these two have been instrumental in collecting the data that has led to this ‘step in the right direction’.

The GFN work that has contributed so much has been funded by BirdLife Netherlands (2007-2012), WWF Netherlands (2010-2014, 2016) and Spinoza Premium of Netherlands Organisation Prize for Scientific Research to Theunis Piersma (2014-2016).


News from Kamchatka, June-July 2017: learn about “Green”

The Global Flyway Network Great Knots wearing satellite transmitters that were issued in NW Australia, have started their southward migration back to Australia! Two Great Knots choose to stage at Shchastya Bay, and two in estuaries in W Kamchatka.

Very excitingly, one Great Knot, nick-named “Green” has been photographed by our team member Dmitry Dorofeev who is working in the Khairusova-Belogolovaya estuary in Kamchatka right now.

Great Knots Tracks SW 5-7-2017
Locations on July 2, 2017 of Great Knots staging at Shchastya Bay (two individuals), and in W Kamchatka (two ind, read more about the bird with the green track below). Three Great Knots were still breeding: one is 60 km north east of estuary near the town Anadyr; two other birds were 200 km south of Yala Bay.

Dmitry Dorofeev (from All-Russian Research Institute for Environmental Protection and PhD student in Moscow State University) is at work in Kamchatka studying the post-breeding migration. He reports:

“We started our observations at Khairusova-Belogolovaya estuary 27 June. We focus our work on Great Knots, Black- and Bar-tailed Godwits.

At this time, the most abundant species here is Great Knot – as much as 22,000–24,000 birds. We think these birds are mainly non-breeders or failed breeders. We counted also about 4,000 Black-tailed Godwits and 400 Bar-tailed Godwits. And we found about 280 Far-eastern Curlews resting at the high tide roosts. Dunlins, Red Knots and Red-necked Stints are present but in low numbers.

Shorebirds in Khairusova-Belogolovaya, June 2017. Photo: Dmitry Dorofeev

Besides counting, we search for individually marked birds in the flocks. In total we have already re-sighted more than 200 individually marked Great Knots. Most of these birds were caught and marked at their wintering sites in NW Australia but also we observed marked birds in other areas in Australia (Northern Territories, Queensland), Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, China, Japan and Kamchatka (Russia). Several Black-tailed Godwits from NW Australia and Kamchatka were re-sighted too.

Scanning flocks for bands in Khairusova-Belogolovaya, June 2017. Photo: Dmitry Dorofeev

The most successful day was 4th June. We re-sighted about 5 individually marked Black-tailed Godwits and 55 Great Knots, and one of them – coded 7LLYL – had a satellite transmitter!”.

Fantastic photo from Kamchatka including a satellite-tagged bird. This Great Knot 7LLYL (“Green”, with tag ID 59) was issued a transmitter in NW Australia in in October 2016. Photo: Dmitry Dorofeev

Great Knot 7LLYL (tag ID 59 – name Green because he is represented by the light green track on the maps) is a male that has been carrying a solar-powered satellite transmitters since October 2016. In spring “Green” migrated north via Taiwan, where he was also photographed. He has been breeding in southern Chukotka (see below map). Since “Green” was photographed in W Kamchatka last week he has moved on to Shchastya Bay.

Great Knot 7LLYL (“Green”, with tag ID 59 ) in Taiwan in May 2017. Photo: Mr. Liu
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Locations on July 10, 2017 of Great Knots. Great Knot 7LLYL, alias “Green”, has now left W Kamchatka and is in Shchastya Bay – which now hosts three birds. The most northerly location of Green has been his breeding site for this year. We’re curious to learn whether he will return there next year!

More news:

We also want to congratulate Dmitry with the short film about his work and details about a very interesting re-sighting of one of his birds in the Arabian Gulf, which can found on this YouTube channel. More on this topic can be found at website of the International Wader Study Group.


Thanks to Dmitry Dorofeev for Whats’apping the photos from his remote field camp.

Thanks for Nicola Crockford semi-daily updates of the whereabouts of the birds on her Twitter account @Numenini!

Great Knots, still mostly in breeding plumage, staging in Khairusova-Belogolovaya, June 2017. Photo: Dmitry Dorofeev