Bohai 2019 Update 5: 30 May

The GFN team is in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. Chris Hassell, Adrian Boyle, and Matt Slaymaker post regular updates on the Australian Global Flyway Network website. Here is the latest.

GFN now assist Beijing Normal University (BNU) with counts and we choose the most suitable tides and count all the coastal sites on the same tide cycle. We record all shorebirds and waterbirds and have amassed a great data set over the years. We think the huge increase of Red Knot in the area since 2017 is ‘real’, but we are still not 100% sure if we were unable to locate some birds during 2016 and 2017 or they didn’t arrive at Luannan and were using other sites in the Yellow Sea region. Our ‘sense’ was that the birds were not here (see reports from 2016 and 2017).

Red Knots feeding on the mud in front of a local fishing boat at Nanpu. Photo: Adrian Boyle

The rogersi subspecies of Red Knot have started to leave for their Chukotka breeding grounds while the piersmai subspecies are still arriving at Luannan. A very important factor influencing their numbers is the amount of food available in the mud. Hebo Peng of the University of Groningen had very encouraging news, stating:
The main food of shorebirds in general and Red Knots in particular is very abundant in Nanpu this year, Potamocorbula bivalves were found in the highest (average) density over the last five years. Other shellfish species also show a high density in this area, which means that Nanpu wetland is still healthy and can support large numbers of shorebirds.’

Read the full report here on the Global Flyway Network Australia website.

Bohai 2019 Update 4: 21 May

The GFN team is in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. Chris Hassell, Adrian Boyle, and Matt Slaymaker post regular updates on the Australian Global Flyway Network website. Here is the latest.

As of the 18th of May, the GFN team had recorded 106 Red Knots, 51 Great Knots and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits that had been individually colour-banded in Northwest Australia (NWA). They have also now recorded 118 individually identifiable shorebirds with yellow engraved leg flags (from NWA) comprising 71 Great Knots, 32 Red Knots, 10 Bar-tailed Godwits, 5 Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Ruddy Turnstones and a single Sanderling.

TAU, a Red Knot Calidris canutus piersmai from Broome, feeding in a salt pond at Nanpu. Photo: Adrian Boyle

Read the full report here on the Global Flyway Network Australia website.

Bohai 2019 Update 3: 10 May


The GFN team is in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. The team (Chris Hassell, Adrian Boyle, and Matt Slaymaker) posts regular updates on the Australian Global Flyway Network website. Here is the latest update, with as highlight the visit of the New Zealand Ambassador to China, Clare Fearnley.

Chris Hassell presented a book written by Theunis Piersma to the Ambassador on Theunis’ behalf, as he had left the day before. Photo: GFN

Chris: “Talking of visitors, Kath Leung joined us for her fourth visit and added a great skill set to our scanning efforts. Professor Zhang, various, PhD students and volunteers from Beijing Normal University were and are here. Zhang has been a great financial and scientific collaborator of our studies here. The inspiration for the creation of GFN and its scientific leader, Theunis Piersma, was with us for an all too brief period. Theunis joins us in all our fieldwork and then we bombard him with questions whenever we are (k)not scanning. It is a very busy and productive time. The Bohai field team would like to take this opportunity to thank Theunis for the huge amount of fund raising he does to keep the Bohai work going and all his continually positive encouragement to us.”

Professors Zhang and Piersma with one of the fishermen we see every day. Photo: GFN

Read the full report here on the Global Flyway Network Australia website.

Bohai 2019 Update 2: 27 April

The GFN team is in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. The team, Chris Hassell together with Adrian Boyle, veteran of 11 Bohai seasons, and Matt Slaymaker, posts regular updates on the Australian Global Flyway Network website. Here is the second of this season. The team reports:

It has been a week that has given us a little of everything; from wind and rain to blue skies and sun. From great scanning to fog with 10-metre visibility.

Shorebird numbers continue to increase in both overall numbers and diversity. Many of the regular species are continuing to arrive and have been joined by small numbers of scarce migrants such as Asian Dowitcher, Nordmann’s Greenshank and Little Stint. A count on the 26th totalled around 26,000 birds at Nanpu, our main site, with many more along the neighbouring sections of coast. Numbers seem to be broadly similar to this time last year, but we are also due a big increase in the coming days, particularly of Red Knot and Curlew Sandpiper…..

A typical scene in the saltponds. How many shorebird species can you see?

Bohai 2019 Update 1: 20 April

The GFN team is in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. The team, Chris Hassell together with Adrian Boyle, veteran of 11 Bohai seasons, and Matt Slaymaker, posts regular updates on the Australian Global Flyway Network website. Here is the first of this season. The team reports:

It is always a relief to return to find the mudflats intact and the expected birds present and correct. Our core survey site, the Nanpu mudflat, was earmarked for nature reserve status; however, this doesn’t seem to have happened. The site and surrounding area is fundamental to the survival of the numerous species that pass through annually and we had hoped this positive development would offer some additional protection. We are still trying to find out the exact reason why reserve status has not been given and hope to be able to provide more information in future updates. For now, the mudflats are still here and being heavily used by the shorebirds that we all love.

Matt scanning at Zuidong.

Global Flyway Network Bohai Bay – Annual Report for 2018

Again in 2018, during the spring migration season the GFN team worked in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. This year the team consisted of Chris Hassell, Adrian Boyle and Matt Slaymaker. The senior researcher in the project Theunis Piersma visited for about one week.

It is a long report but it does have lots of great images to keep you reading!  Here is the PDF: GFN Bohai Report 2018 web PDF

There are some undoubted positive things happening around the environment in China and on the Luannan Coast currently, and we encourages you to read those sections towards the end of the report, if nothing else.

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Bohai 2018 Update 5/6

Again this 2018 migration season the GFN team worked in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. Chris Hassell, Adrian Boyle and Matt Slaymaker post regular updates on the Australian Global Flyway Network website. Here is the overview of all posts of this season.

By 30 May, the team had recorded 3,776 colour-banded or flagged birds, the majority of which are from NW Australia. They have precisely 1,000 Broome/80-mile Beach colour-band observations, of 321 individual combinations dominated by 273 Red Knots. The total of 876 individually identifiable birds includes birds banded in Australia (Victoria, Queensland, South Australia), Russia (Chukotka & Kamchatka), New Zealand, Thailand, Japan, and Hong Kong, among others.

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The team also reports on the state of land reclamation projects (with a port development threatening to take 54 km2 of mudflats). Another issue is cordgrass Spartina encroaching the mudflats, They say: “it has expanded rapidly along the Nanpu mudflats and is now present at all our survey sites. The good news, however, is that this year the problem has been acknowledged by the local government, and a team of workers has been busy clearing out the dead grass to allow better access to living stems”.

By the time they published the final report on 6 June, they had accumulated 4,122 flag and colour-band observations, the highest total since 2015. This includes birds from 21 banding regions and they have seen flags or bands on 14 species. Their total of 1,097 NW Australia colour-band observations is the second highest total in 9 years of visits to the site!

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Satellite-tagging on the edge – 1st report 2018: Connecting NW Australian Red Knots to their staging sites

Eva Kok (Royal NIOZ and PhD student at the University of Groningen) reports about satellite-tagging Red Knots in two major wintering areas of the East Asian–Australasian Flyway in NW Australia: Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach. In February 2018, she worked there together with team leader Chris Hassell (GNF Australia) and PhD student Drew Bingrun Zhu, and was supported by the AWSG, Ying Chi Chan and Lee Tibbitts.

“It has been more than two months since the NWA expedition 2018. More than ever it was an expedition full of challenges, mainly due the arrival of cyclone Kelvin. After a lot of rain, and waiting, we were eventually successful in catching and equipping 2 gram satellite PTTs on Red Knots using the full body harness. In the past two months we have been excitedly following the movements of these birds.

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A Red Knot with colour-rings and a 2 gram satellite PTT, held by Eva Kok. Photo: Drew Bingrun

We caught the Red Knots well in advance of the expected migration to the breeding grounds to give them time to adjust to wearing the tiny tracker and gain sufficient amounts of energy stores to take on the long-distance flight north. According to expectation, the first few weeks were characterized by short-distance movements on the mudflats between foraging grounds and high tide roosts.

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Red Knots on Eighty Mile Beach, just released after being equipped with a 2 gram satellite PTT Photo: Drew Bingrun

The first movements happened in the first week of April when two birds, who were caught on Eighty Mile Beach (80MB) before the cyclone hit us, moved up to Broome and mingled with the tagged birds that we caught later in Broome. This is a regular movement, and the birds settled on the mudflats of Broome where Chris and Kerry saw the knots growing fat (see picture below).

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Satellite-tagged Red Knots “hanging out” and getting fat on the beach of Roebuck Bay. Photo: Kerry Hadley

On 25 April our wait was finally rewarded when the first bird, caught at Roebuck Bay on 18 March, finally decided to cross the Timor Sea to fly to Borneo. For a moment we thought this was the signal for migration to start, but in the meantime the other birds did not show any sign of migratory movement, and the days passed by.

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On 25 April 2018, the first Red Knot crossed the Timor Sea to fly towards Borneo

Eventually the real wave of departure started almost three weeks later! Then six other Red Knots exchanged the mudflats of Broome for the mudflats in Indonesia and the Philippines. On 22 May 2018 already two Red Knots had reached China and we can’t wait for them to show us where they will go next to breed.”

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Tracks on 22 May 2018. Two Red Knots in Bohai: one still in Nanpu and one north in Yingkou. Three birds at S China coast: near Wenzhou, Zheijang , near Fuzhou, Fujian, and near Macau/Hong Kong. Also note the birds still in Borneo and Vietnam.

Video by Drew Bingrun: Eva Kok and Chris Hassell releasing satellite-tagged Red Knots.

 

Acknowledgements

The field work in NW Australia in February 2018 that made it possible for us to successfully deploy Red Knots with solar-panelled satellite-transmitters was funded by the MAVA foundation. We want to thank the members of the expedition of the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG) for their help and support in the field.

Bohai 2018 Update 4: 22 May

The GFN team is in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. Chris Hassell, Adrian Boyle and Matt Slaymaker post regular updates on the Australian Global Flyway Network website. Here is the fourth of this season.

This week the team reports a lot of exciting information about bird numbers. We will not give it all away here. Besides the shorebird work, the birding this week has been fantastic. On top of the good numbers of regular migrants, they found a few unusual and/or out of range species. Read for yourself in the PDF at GFN website.

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One the study sites at Nanpu, the Hangu wind farm. Note the potential moving hazard for shorebirds and the introduced Spartina grass becoming established on the mudflats. Photo: GFN Team Bohai Bay

Bohai 2018 Update 3: 13 May

The GFN team is in Bohai Bay, China, to study Red Knots and Great Knots on northward migration. Chris Hassell, Adrian Boyle and Matt Slaymaker post regular updates on the Australian Global Flyway Network website. Here is the third of this season.

In short, the team reports that it has been a busy week  in Bohai with early mornings, lots of people and loads of birds. They did a shorebird count of the whole study site coastline and nearby salt ponds, and of course spent long hours re-sighting. This time they also report on an invasion of human visitors to the coast:

Drew, Leiming, Tong and Hebo, together with a large team of volunteers, joined to work on their various projects, and of course Theunis was there!

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Left: Mud sampling by Red Knots and shorebird researchers. Right: Researchers catch up with Theunis at Nanpu. Photos: Chris Hassell and team, taken from Bohai Update 3

Also Katherine Leung from Hong Kong joined for a week’s scanning. Scott Weidensaul from the USA spent a few days with the team and Terry Townshend dropped by for a weekend.

Hank and Wendy Paulson spent a morning birding on the sea wall and surrounding area. The Paulson Institute has been influential in helping to attain Nature Reserve status for Nanpu mudflats and the birds behaved impeccably for their visit!

And there is a competition! With a prize for the 1st mail to Chris Hassell with the correct subspecies of a Mai Po – Hong Kong re-sighting (photo in report).

For an overview of this season’s reports go here.

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