Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

WHSRNews: 05 January 2012 (in full)

In this issue: 05 January 2012

  • Official Dedication of Bahía Samborombón WHSRN Site, Argentina
  • Grand Opening of Rio Gallegos Environmental Interpretation Center, Argentina
  • First Migratory Bird Festival Held on Chiloé Island, Chile
  • Coordinated Shorebird Monitoring at 11 WHSRN Sites in Northwest Mexico
  • Delaware Bayshore, USA, Receives Globally Significant IBA Designation
  • Site Assessment Workshop Held at Bay of Fundy WHSRN Site, Canada
  • WHSRN Participates in Global Flyways Network Meeting in South Korea


Official Dedication of Bahía Samborombón WHSRN Site, Argentina

Bahía Samborombón WHSRN Site (in red) includes various protected areas. / Courtesy of Gabriel Castresana

On 29 November 2011 at the Sport and Social Club in the town of General Conesa, Province of Buenos Aires, partners gathered to celebrate the official dedication of the Bahía Samborombón WHSRN Site of International Importance. The site was approved by the WHSRN Hemispheric Council in May and comprises a huge portion of the bay—some 250,000 hectares (more than 617,000 acres).

The dedication event was jointly organized by the Provincial Agency for Sustainable Development and the Natural Protected Areas Department of the Province of Buenos Aires, with  the lively participation of the local community and governments, researchers, park rangers, and media. Among the officials present for the occasion were the Mayor of the Municipality of Tordillo, Hector Olivera; Secretary of Government, Mario Garcia; the Manager of “Campos de Tuyú ” National Park, Mario Beade; and the Director of the Province’s Natural Protected Areas Department, Ricardo Cañete. Attending on behalf of WHSRN was Executive Office Director, Dr. Charles Duncan; Southern Cone Program Coordinator, Diego Luna Quevedo; and Argentine National WHSRN Council President, Mg. Erio Curto.

A diverse audience comprising the local community, government agencies, researchers, and park rangers participated in the Bahía Samborombón dedication event. / © Diego Luna Quevedo


After the participants sang the national anthem, Mayor Héctor Olivera welcomed everyone to the dedication and shared his joy for Bahía Samborombón gaining such international recognition. A series of informative talks and presentations by invited guests followed, on various topics regarding conservation of the bay and provincial protected areas. Ricardo Cañete talked about the Province’s Protected Areas System and reaffirmed his ongoing commitment to conserving Bahía Samborombón and its migratory birds. Mario Beade explained the inclusion of the National Park within the WHSRN Site, and biologist Paul Grilli discussed the importance of the bay for shorebirds. Charles Duncan then spoke about the role of WHSRN as a tool for conserving shorebirds in the Americas, followed by Erio Curto, who gave an overview of the purpose, role, and actions of the Argentine National WHSRN Council. The ceremony concluded with the presentation of official WHSRN site certificates to authorities and partners amidst enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) / Courtesy of Diego Luna Quevedo

Bahía Samborombón, the fifth WHSRN site in Argentina, merited its designation as a Site of International Importance for hosting 11% of the world population of Buff-breasted Sandpipers (Tryngites subruficollis). The bay, with its mix of grassland and coastal habitats, provides a critical stopover for this and other shorebird species annually during their long-distance migrations. 

After the ceremony, WHSRN representatives visited a sample of cattle farms and pastures in and around the site, guided by local ranger Gabriel Castresana. In addition, they were lucky enough to also see a large number of the Buff-breasted Sandpipers for which this site is known.

For more information, contact Diego Luna Quevedo (diego.luna@manomet.org), Southern Cone Program Coordinator, Shorebird Recovery Project, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.



Grand Opening of Rio Gallegos Environmental Interpretation Center, Argentina

The new Environmental Interpretation Center at Rio Gallegos, Argentina / © Germán Montero

December 5th, 2011, was a special day for the city of Rio Gallegos in Argentina—a day in which a dream, many years in the making, was fulfilled. At last, the Environmental Interpretation Center at Rio Gallegos Estuary opened its doors to the community! The project to build such a center began in 2004, through a joint initiative among the National University of Southern Patagonia (UNPA by its Spanish acronym), the Municipality of Rio Gallegos, Santa Cruz Province, and WHSRN (through the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences).

This dream of an Environmental Interpretation Center in Rio Gallegos became a reality thanks to the leadership, perseverance, and hard work of local, regional, and international institutions. Vital financial support came from the Manomet Center, thanks to funding received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Anitra Oil Spill Recovery Fund; Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Grants Program) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). Generous support also came from the City of Rio Gallegos, UNPA-Rio Gallegos Academic Unit, La Anónima Supermarkets, Rare Conservation, AVINA Foundation, and Asociación Ambiente Sur [Southern Environment Association].

Ribbon-cutting ceremony/ © Germán Montero

During the Center’s inauguration event, the Mayor of Rio Gallegos Héctor Roquel said, “This is an important step, and many more still remain. This is a place of​ ​great importance to the city, a place for sharing information and raising awareness in people about caring for our environmental heritage.”

The Río Gallegos Estuary was designated a WHSRN Site of International Importance in 2005. The site comprises two distinct sections: the Provincial Migratory Bird Reserve (Province of Santa Cruz) and the Rio Gallegos Urban Coastal Reserve (Rio Gallegos Municipality). The new Center is located within the latter section.

Charles Duncan spoke of the Center's importance to WHSRN. /  © Germán Montero

Santiago Imberti
of Asociación Ambiente Sur was full of emotion in recalling that, “Some 12 years ago we started working on all this, with the publication of a book about the estuary, and I believe that this seed took root. The work of the Association and what is being inaugurated today are sources of great pride, because we finally have the tool to show to Rio Gallegos all that it has, how valuable it is, and how important it is that everyone cares for it. We now have to keep working to continue to grow and achieve the environmental maturity that a city like Rio Gallegos deserves.”

Dr. Charles Duncan, Director of the WHSRN Office Executive, likewise expressed his pride in accompanying the opening of such an important work of conservation. He also noted that, “The work of the Manomet Center and of WHSRN will continue in Rio Gallegos for two reasons: one, to accompany, assist, and contribute to local processes, but also to learn from the positive experience here and replicate it elsewhere. This work is done not just for the conservation of shorebirds, but also for the quality of life of the community and its people.”

One of the many educational exhibits for visitors to explore and enjoy inside the Center./ © Germán Montero

After the ribbon cutting ceremony, everyone entered the Center and toured its various installations. A memorable moment came when a theater group under the direction of Professor Silvina Vilanova surprised everyone with a performance of a play called “The Estuary Needs Us.”

The Center will serve as a place where residents as well as visitors of the City of Rio Gallegos can learn the value of the estuary as a unique ecosystem—for the environmental services it provides to the community and for the vital resources it offers to thousands of shorebirds that migrate here year after year.

For more information, contact Germán Montero (orgullo@ambientesur.org.ar), Rio Gallegos Estuary Pride Campaign Coordinator, or Charles Duncan (cduncan@manomet.org), Director of the WHSRN Executive Office, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.



First Migratory Bird Festival Held on Chiloé Island, Chile

Students in costume performed the mini-play "Flight of Zarapín" during the festival. /
© Diego Luna Quevedo

On the sunny Saturday of 26 November 2011, the Island of Chiloé celebrated its first Migratory Bird Festival, in the town of San Juan. Over 2,000 people participated in what was truly a celebration and welcoming of the shorebirds that had arrived at the Eastern Wetlands of Chiloé WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance in recent months. The birds will remain here for the boreal winter, overlapping with the area’s 1st anniversary as a WHSRN site in January 2012.  

The festival was jointly convened by the community of San Juan, Municipality of Dalcahue, and the local non-profit Center for the Study and Conservation of Natural Heritage (CECPAN by its Spanish acronym). This event was one of the activities to be carried out through the project “Migratory Shorebirds Conservation Plan for Chiloé,” with support from the David & Lucille Packard Foundation. The project is led by Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences (USA) along with a coalition of international and local partners, including the nongovernmental organizations CECPAN and Conservación Marina as well as Chile’s Ministry of the Environment.

Hudsonian Godwit
(Limosa haemastica) /
© Blair Nikula

The eastern wetlands of Chiloé are of great importance for 27% of the global population of Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) and fully 99% of the Pacific Coast population. These wetlands also support 61% of the Pacific Coast population of Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus). Both species breed in North America and are considered of high conservation concern.

The festival’s agenda was enriched by a variety of activities, lectures, and exhibits that blended science, education, culture, art, music, photography, local folklore, traditional way of life, handicrafts and other local products, plus opportunities to go birdwatching in the field with local guides. There was much joy, color, and emotions from people connecting with birds throughout the festival. One of the highlights was the mini-play “Flight of Zarapín,” a story about a migratory shorebird, brilliantly performed by children in the Dalcahue Elementary School. Another was the variety of traditional meat- and seafood-based dishes and soups available to sample.

Mayor Don Alfredo Hurtado welcomed everyone to the island's first Migratory Bird Festival, in Dalcahue. / © Diego Luna Quevedo

At the opening of the event, the Mayor of the Municipality of Dalcahue, Don Alfredo Hurtado, welcomed everyone and described shorebirds as being “part of Chiloé’s heritage that together we must preserve.”  WHSRN representative and Southern Cone Program Coordinator Diego Luna Quevedo noted, “The fact that Chiloé receives thousands of shorebirds every year is not an accident but the result of a close, historical and balanced relationship between man and habitats on the island. Today more than ever we need to reestablish and maintain these sustainable traditional practices.”

For more information, contact Diego Luna Quevedo (diego.luna@manomet.org), Southern Cone Program Coordinator, Shorebird Recovery Project, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.



Coordinated Shorebird Monitoring at 11 WHSRN Sites in Northwest Mexico

Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) / Tim Bowman, USFWS 

A momentous workshop was held in October 2011 in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, to develop the first-ever standardized shorebird-monitoring protocol for Mexico. A total of 41 participants from 29 institutions attended the workshop, part of the project “Monitoring Western Sandpipers and Pacific Dunlins in Northwest Mexico” funded by the U.S. Forest Service-International Programs and the Copper River International Migratory Bird Initiative (CRIMBI). The goal then is to implement the protocol at all 11 WHSRN sites in Northwest Mexico and at several other important areas in the region.

One outcome of the workshop was a document describing the standardized shorebird-monitoring protocol developed by the Grupo de Aves del Noroeste (Northwest Bird Group, or GANO by its Spanish acronym), a collective working group comprising shorebird biologists from throughout the region. Having a standardized protocol now allows them to compare shorebird data from sampling locations at the local, regional, and flyway scale.

Northwest Mexico WHSRN Sites / Meredith Gutowski, WHSRN

Additionally, the project strengthens the momentum and coordination of GANO as well as the enthusiasm for shorebirds in the region. Shorebird biologist Dr. Eduardo Palacios noted that, “This coordinated, science-based monitoring effort is strengthening the relationship among the partners conserving Western Sandpipers and Dunlins across Northwest Mexico, which also benefits other shorebird species in the region and their habitats.”

The workshop also brought about a keen interest in the effort by Mexico’s federal program on biodiversity monitoring. Specifically, the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONANP, by its Spanish acronym) is open to adopting this protocol in several Natural Protected Areas in Northwest Mexico, using the results for adaptive management. 

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) / © Shawn P. Carey

During the first two weeks of December 2011, partners successfully implemented the protocol at 20 sites in Northwest Mexico, including the 11 WHSRN sites. The development of this standardized shorebird-monitoring protocol will also serve as a reference for other groups monitoring shorebirds farther south along the Pacific Flyway.

For more information, please contact Eduardo Palacios (epalacio@cicese.mx), Principal Researcher, CICESE-Department of Conservation Biology, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Dr. Palacios also serves as Northwest Mexico Program Coordinator, Shorebird Recovery Project, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.




Delaware Bayshore, USA, Receives Globally Significant IBA Designation

As many readers will recall, in May 2011 we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Delaware Bay WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance and its many dedicated partners in Delaware and New Jersey. Partners from Canada to Patagonia were also honored for their ongoing efforts to conserve the very same shorebird species that connect them in a special way through annual long-distance migrations, such as the Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa).

Delaware Bayshore IBA (in red) / Courtesy of New Jersey Audubon

Our local-international celebration continues with the recent news from New Jersey Audubon that a sizable portion of the Bay has been designated a Globally Significant Important Bird Area (IBA). The IBA program, established by BirdLife International and implemented in the United States by the National Audubon Society, is a global effort to identify the areas most important to birds and to focus conservation efforts where they will have the greatest effect. To date, there are 449 such IBAs throughout the country.

The 50,000-acre area now known as the Delaware Bayshore IBA stretches along 50 miles of coastal southern New Jersey, from Fairfield Township in Cumberland County to Cape May Point in Cape May County. Much of the land is protected, including by 13 State Wildlife Management Areas and the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.

New Jersey Audubon (NJA) and the National Audubon Society worked together to submit years of shorebird and waterfowl survey data to a panel of nationally and internationally recognized bird experts, demonstrating that this area of the Bay meets the IBA program criteria. The panel concurred that four bird species are present in numbers that meet or exceed the Globally Significant threshold: Red Knot and Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) on migration, and Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) and American Black Duck (Anas rubripes) during the winter.

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) / Amanda Boyd, USFWS

Dr. David Mizrahi, NJA’s Vice-President of Research and Monitoring, noted that this designation will help not only Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstones, but several other shorebird species of special concern, like the Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) and Sanderling (Calidris alba). “All of these shorebird species,” said Dr. Mizrahi, “rely on the resources of Delaware Bay during their migration north to the breeding grounds. Also, tens of thousands of birds of prey and millions of songbirds that migrate through the Delaware Bay will benefit greatly from this very important designation.”

Identifying and designating Global IBAs helps the conservation community better direct very limited resources to those places widely recognized as supporting the most significant bird populations, facing the greatest threats, or having significant management needs. The recognition will raise the profile of this portion of the Bay beyond the local level. “It’s a special place with global conservation value,” said Dr. Larry Niles with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. Dr. Niles is one of the chief shorebird biologists who have worked unceasingly over the years to mobilize bird research and call attention to the value of conserving the Bay’s resources. “Raising the visibility of the area to this level,” he continued, “will help support local efforts to take care of this region in a way that benefits the community and the wildlife.”

Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) / © Pablo Petracci

The NJA staff first began collecting shorebird data via aerial surveys in the early 1980s in order to quantify the number and species of shorebirds using the Bayshore. These surveys were later assumed by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, which has performed them annually since 1986—the year Delaware Bay became the first WHSRN site. The data on American Black Duck and Snow Goose in support of the IBA designation came from annual winter waterfowl surveys also conducted by the Division.

The plight of the two shorebird species that helped to merit the area’s designation lends a bittersweet note to the celebration. Today, the numbers of Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstones stopping to “refuel” at the Bayshore en route north to Arctic nesting grounds are significantly lower than they were in early aerial surveys. Years of research by Dr. Niles and other scientists have shown the declines to be linked to an inadequate supply of horseshoe crab eggs, the birds’ primary “fuel,” on Delaware Bay beaches due to humans harvesting the crabs for bait. Thankfully, partners at this WHSRN Site have been making great strides towards both abating this threat and gaining federal protection for the rapidly declining Red Knot.

Thanks and congratulations to all for the years of hard work and dedication behind the new Delaware Bayshore Globally Significant IBA! 

Editor’s note: Many thanks to New Jersey Audubon for permission to incorporate into our article the details, quotes, and map from their recent press release. 

For more information, please contact Jean Lynch (jean.lynch@njaudubon.org), Stewardship Project Director-South Region, New Jersey Audubon; or visit the New Jersey IBA Program website.



Site Assessment Workshop Held at Bay of Fundy WHSRN Site, Canada

Bay of Fundy WHSRN Site (Nova Scotia portion), southeastern Canada / © Sherman Bleakney

In November 2011, WHSRN Conservation Specialist Meredith Gutowski traveled to southeastern Canada to conduct a workshop with more than a dozen local, provincial, and national partners to evaluate the Bay of Fundy WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance from a shorebird perspective. The Canadian Wildlife Service’s Atlantic Region generously hosted the 16-17 November workshop, which was held at its headquarters in Sackville, New Brunswick, and coordinated by regional shorebird biologist Julie Paquet. “This was the first time that this many partners and, in particular, ones representing such a broad spectrum of expertise and perspectives, gathered to discuss the state of the Bay for shorebirds,” reflected Paquet.

The Bay of Fundy, with its vast mudflats and famous 40-foot (or more) tidal extremes, spans the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The WHSRN Site comprises two particular areas of the bay, one in each province, totaling 62,000 hectares (more than 153,000 acres). Shepody Bay (New Brunswick) and Minas Basin (Novia Scotia) were designated in 1987 and 1988, respectively.  These areas provide critical stopover habitats to great numbers of migrating shorebirds—including nearly 70% of the world’s population of Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla).

A diversity of partners worked together to assess the state of the Bay of Fundy WHSRN Site for shorebirds. / © Julie Paquet, CWS

During the two-day workshop, Ms. Gutowski guided the diverse group of land managers, researchers, private landowners, and stewards through the WHSRN Site Assessment Tool. The Excel-based workbook contains a series of assessment questions with either accompanying multiple-choice answers or scores for partners to select through consensus. Often, very rich discussions and debates ensue before reaching said consensus. “These discussions are just as valuable as whichever answer or score the group decides on—perhaps even more so,” said Gutowski. “In this forum, everyone has a voice that is not only heard but contributes to the collective knowledge about a site.”

Through this workshop and a Web-based teleconference thereafter, the group completed the assessment. Partners now have a clearer “snapshot” of the Bay’s current overall health for shorebirds, a prioritized list of known and potential threats, and a shared vision for the conservation actions needed in the near future.

Mary Majka, conservation steward and leader, proudly showed us photos of "her" shorebirds at Mary's Point, New Brunswick. / © Meredith Gutowski

Many thanks to all of the great partners who participated from CWS, Province of New Brunswick, The Nature Conservancy of Canada, researchers from University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison University, landowners/stewards of Mary’s Point, the Fundy Biosphere Reserve, and Nature Trust of New Brunswick.

In addition, we are all looking forward to celebrating the Bay of Fundy’s 25th anniversary as a WHSRN Site, beginning Spring 2012!

For more information, please contact Meredith Gutowski (mgutowski@manomet.org), WHSRN Conservation Specialist, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, or Julie Paquet (Julie.Paquet@EC.GC.CA), Regional Shorebird Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service.



WHSRN Participates in Global Flyways Network Meeting in South Korea

A multilingual sign welcomed the Global Flyways Workshop participants. / © Charles Duncan 

In October 2011, Dr. Charles Duncan, Director of the WHSRN Executive Office, made a significant diversion from his usual north-south flight pattern in the Western Hemisphere to venture east—as in way east—to Seosan, Republic of Korea. He was one of five representatives from our hemisphere invited to participate in an international workshop on the major flyway-scale bird conservation efforts underway around the world. “I was honored to have been among the two dozen representatives invited worldwide,” said Duncan. “It is really a tribute to the innovation and long history of success of WHSRN. I’m equally grateful for the generous support for my travel expenses by the workshop sponsors.”

The workshop was convened by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), UNEP/AEWA Secretariat, BirdLife International, Wetlands International, and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) Secretariat. A total of 26 participants and nine observers representing 21 national and international organizations attended the workshop, held at Hanseo University in Seosan, Republic of Korea, and sponsored by the City of Seosan, the Government of Switzerland, and the EEAFP Secretariat.

Partners in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway have recognized 700 sites for importance to migratory birds. / Courtesy of EEAFP

The EEAFP, a “sister network” to WHSRN with Alaska in common, extends from within the Arctic Circle in Russia and Alaska, southwards through East and Southeast Asia, and Australia and New Zealand. Since 2006, partners therein have recognized 700 sites in 22 countries for their importance at an international level for the 50 million migratory waterbirds, including shorebirds, living in this vast flyway.

For four days, the diverse group exchanged best practices and lessons-learned to strengthen their large-scale, multi-national, migratory bird conservation networks. All recognized the value of sharing knowledge and experiences across flyway initiatives, and did so enthusiastically. By request, Dr. Duncan gave a total of six short presentations on various aspects of WHSRN, and also co-facilitated the session on addressing site/habitat conservation through the flyway approach with Dr. Vicky Jones, Global Flyways Officer for BirdLife International. “The short talks I presented were quite well-received,” Duncan reflected. “For many participants, understanding the power of a voluntary network without legal or contractual basis was a revelation.”

Workshop participants enjoyed getting to know each other during the opening night dinner. / Courtesy of Charles Duncan

Based on their positive experiences during the workshop, participants agreed to establish a means for maintaining communication between their initiatives, called the “Global Interflyway Network.” Dr. Duncan explained that, “A ‘network among the networks’ will facilitate our staying connected and sharing information into the future, ever learning and improving what we do.”

A summary report of the workshop’s conclusions and recommendations is being reviewed by the CMS Scientific Council, with the full workshop report to follow as a joint Ramsar/CMS/AEWA Technical Report publication.

For more information, contact Charles Duncan (cduncan@manomet.org), Director of the WHSRN Executive Office, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.