Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

WHSRNews: September 2016 (in full)

In this issue: 30 September 2016
  • An active start to the year for WHSRN in Argentina
  • Assessing WHSRN Sites in the Atlantic Flyway
  • Chile: Shorebird Conservation Plan for Chiloé, Phase III
  • WHSRN in the Pacific Flyway: Northwest Mexico
  • Red Knot Wintering Population Relatively Stable
  • Habitat Management Workshops in Brazil and Canada
  • Several Good Signs at Delaware Bay
  • Advancing Shorebird Conservation in Venezuela


An active start to the year for WHSRN in Argentina


Argentine WHSRN Council meeting. / Courtesy of Florence Scauso

The WHSRN Executive Office and its conservation partners in Argentina started the year with a full agenda of activities over the course of five days this March. The first was the 4th meeting of the Argentine WHSRN Council, held at the Municipal Cultural Center in San Antonio Oeste, Rio Negro Province. Council members—two from each of the country’s eight WHSRN sites—reviewed the state of conservation and management at each site; assessed the Council’s progress over the last two years; identified ways to improve interaction between WHSRN sites in Argentina and with those beyond its borders; and outlined a management agenda for the Council for 2016-2018.

A workshop entitled “Argentina in the Atlantic Flyway” was held the next day, in which the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI) was presented. Participants included Argentine WHSRN Council members; representatives from the national, provincial, and municipal offices of the federal Ministries and Secretaries of Environment and Tourism; and nongovernmental organizations involved in managing and conserving the country’s important sites for shorebirds. Also present was Scott Johnston, Chief of Bird Population Programs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region—a leading partner in this Initiative.

“Argentina in the Atlantic Flyway” workshop participants. / Courtesy of Cecilia Pamich

 The group discussed the Initiative in the context of threats to shorebirds nationally, possible strategies for action, and focal species. They also considered the opportunities and challenges for Argentina to participate in and coordinate with this Initiative. The workshop was supported by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Rio Negro Province. Both activities were co-facilitated by Rob Clay (Director) and Diego Luna Quevedo (Conservation Specialist) of the WHSRN Executive Office, and were made possible thanks to coordination and management by partner Inalafquen Foundation.

Next stop: San Antonio Bay, to celebrate 23 years of being a WHSRN Site of International Importance. The event enjoyed a large public turnout and emotional presentations by those who have made, and continue to make, shorebird conservation possible at this WHSRN Site. Clay and Luna Quevado then had the opportunity to visit the site on foot, by boat, and by light aircraft, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the bay’s current condition.

Flying over the San Antonio Bay WHSRN Site. / Courtesy of Diego Luna Quevedo

The agenda continued in the city of Buenos Aires where Clay, Luna Quevedo, and Johnston, accompanied by Frank Talluto (Second Secretary of Environment, Science, Technology, and Health at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina), met with the country’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. Representatives included Santiago D'Alessio, Director of the Ministry’s Wildlife Division, and Roman Baigún, member of the Scientific Committee of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), for the Wildlife Division. After discussing various issues of common interest, the WHSRN Executive Office and the Ministry’s Wildlife Division agreed to jointly advance opportunities to carry out a National Action Plan for shorebird conservation in Argentina.

You can see more related activities, photos, and news to date about WHSRN in Argentina on the Facebook pages of Inalafquen Foundation, WHSRN, and individuals WHSRN sites

For more information, please contact Rob Clay (rclay@manomet.org), Director, WHSRN Executive Office, Asuncion, Paraguay, or Diego Luna Quevedo (diego.luna@manomet.org), Conservation Specialist, WHSRN Executive Office, Santiago, Chile.





Assessing WHSRN Sites in the Atlantic Flyway


Between April and July, in five separate workshops from Canada to the United States to Argentina, WHSRN site managers and other partners gathered to assess the overall ecological/social/economic condition, threats, and actions needed at their existing or candidate WHSRN sites—six in total—using the WHSRN Site Assessment Tool (SAT).

Simultaneous SATs in action. / © Meredith G. Morehouse

The results will help to inform not only future management decisions at these sites, but also our broader understanding of the obstacles or threats to shorebird conservation in the Atlantic Flyway. This can also inspire new lines of coordinated actions among partners, especially for Arctic-nesting species.

These five workshops were organized and facilitated by Manomet’s WHSRN Conservation Specialist Meredith G. Morehouse, with invaluable coordination support from site partners and funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Service (NFWF) and the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The assessments help to advance the goals of the international initiatives these agencies are supporting: the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI) and the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI), respectively.

Bay of Fundy workshop / © Meredith G. Morehouse

Bay of Fundy, Canada: Conducted this April during a joint meeting with AMBI leaders, hosted by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) in Sackville, New Brunswick, with CEC funding. Participants completed four SATs simultaneously (“Threats” worksheet), one for each major shorebird area in the Bay of Fundy: Shepody Bay, Minas Basin, Cumberland Basin, and Cobequid Bay. Partners are working to modify the original WHSRN boundary to include the latter two areas. The 15 participants in the SAT session, including co-facilitator Julie Paquet (CWS), represented nine organizations: CWS, Mount Allison University, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Nova Scotia Bird Society, Bird Studies Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Departments of Natural Resources, Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, and Ducks Unlimited Canada. 

James Bay workshop / Courtesy of Garry Donaldson

James Bay, Canada: Conducted this June during a 2-day conservation planning meeting with members of the Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) in support of advancing the nomination of southern James Bay as a WHSRN Site within their Homelands. The meeting, held in Timmins, Ontario, was organized by Nature Canada with CEC funding. The 14 participants in the SAT session included co-facilitator Ted Cheskey (Nature Canada); members of the MCFN, the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, and the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council; and Garry Donaldson and Christian Friis of Canadian Wildlife Service.


Cape Romain workshop / Courtesy of Meredith G. Morehouse

Cape Romain, USA: Conducted this June at Santee Coastal Reserve in McClellanville, South Carolina, thanks to coordination support from Felicia Sanders of South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and funding from NFWF. The WHSRN Site currently consists of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Partners are working towards modifying the WHSRN boundary to incorporate six more areas that are important for shorebirds on State-owned and one privately owned island (approx. 50 coastal miles in all). The eight participants in the 2-day SAT workshop represented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, SCDNR, and Dewees Island.

Altamaha River Delta + GA Barrier Islands workshop / Courtesy of Meredith G. Morehouse

Altamaha River Delta + Georgia Barrier Islands, USA: Conducted this July in Brunswick, Georgia, with funding from NFWF and coordination support from Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR). Partners in this 2-day joint workshop simultaneously completed a SAT for the Altamaha River Delta WHSRN Site and for a candidate area encompassing more than 100 miles of coast and barrier islands. The latter is also a priority conservation area for the CEC in support of AMBI, and partners are working towards nominating it as a WHSRN Landscape. Partners also are working towards modifying the Altamaha River Delta’s WHSRN boundaries to incorporate an important island for shorebirds. The 13 workshop participants, including co-facilitator Tim Keyes of SCDNR and co-organizer Brad Winn of Manomet, represented 8 organizations: SCDNR, Manomet, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Little Saint Simons Island, St. Catherines Island, 100 Miles (nonprofit organization), National Park Service, and Georgia Sea Turtle Center. 

Bahia Blanca workshop / Courtesy of Mirta Carbajal

Bahia Blanca, Argentina: Conducted this July in Villa del Mar, Buenos Aires Province, at the Foundation for Receiving and Assisting Marine Animals (FRAAM) headquarters, with funding from NFWF. Pablo Petracci of the National University of the South's GEKKO research group (and representative for Bahia Blanca on the Argentine WHSRN Council, along with Martin Sotelo) and Mirta Carbajal of Inalafquen Foundation (and President of the Argentine WHSRN Council) provided invaluable coordination support for the 2-day workshop. They also served as primary facilitators, following remote training sessions with SAT coordinator Meredith Morehouse who couldn’t attend. The 21 participants, including managers from each of the six subsites that comprise Bahia Blanca WHSRN Site, represented 12 organizations such as National University of the Sur, Inalafquen Foundation, EcoHuellas, FRAAM, Guardianes del Mar, scientific institutions, fishing and hunting club, tourism industry, and federal, provincial, and municipal agencies.

In total, the five workshops brought together 71 people from 37 different organizations who, together, manage an estimated 887,000 acres (360,000 hectares) and 150 coastal miles of shorebird habitat in these three countries. Up to four more workshops are being planned for October-November.

For more information, please contact Meredith G. Morehouse (mgmorehouse@manomet.org), WHSRN Conservation Specialist, Maine, USA, or the site partners named above.





Chile: Shorebird Conservation Plan for Chiloé, Phase III


The Eastern Wetlands of Chiloé in southern Chile were collectively designated a WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance in 2011 for supporting significant Pacific populations of Hudsonian Godwits and Whimbrels.

Since 2011, thanks to support from Packard Foundation, three implementation phases for the Chiloé Migratory Shorebird Conservation Plan have been developed. This has enabled partners to build a foundation on which to grow the process for conserving habitats for these species at this vital site. The four main lines of action are:
1. Social Marketing and involvement of key actors;
2. Good governance and management of sites;
3. Conservation integrated with local economic development; and
4. Measures of success.

Hudsonian Godwits (Limosa haemastica) / © Diego Luna Quevedo

During the Plan’s third implementation phase, partners carried out intensive campaigns and other activities focused on the locale that have increased the visibility and appreciation of wetlands as critical habitat for shorebirds. New mechanisms were proposed for safeguarding sites and for including wetlands in local planning processes. Progress was made in monitoring birds and in building a baseline for measuring management effectiveness. In addition, governance at the local level improved, new strategic alliances were built, and public support for conservation increased. Another important issue was the promotion and development of productive, local micro-enterprises associated with conservation.

Through the guidance and technical support of the WHSRN Executive Office (Manomet), the Center for the Study and Conservation of Natural Heritage (CECPAN) and the nongovernmental organization Marine Conservation have facilitated the development of basic land-use agreements in shorebird areas. They have also invested heavily to generate cultural changes regarding the local community’s behaviors, attitudes, and practices towards wetlands and shorebirds. For this, social marketing campaigns, festivals and fairs, and education, science, and heritage programs were developed for a spectrum of people. They also have been strengthening management skills in local municipalities. All these actions have effectively allowed a favorable stance towards conservation to be built. Direct and informed participation of key stakeholders and the drafting of basic agreements have been key in achieving this.

Shorebird Festival  / © Diego Luna Quevedo

Another highlight of the first three phases of implementation has been the ability to answer the question: “what do I gain from conservation?” The response from the Plan has been the development of a number of productive enterprises, the generation of small businesses connected with bird conservation, and the training of local entrepreneurs.

So far, the Plan has helped to make progress towards protecting more than 2,800 hectares of critical habitat for shorebirds, via five different types of regulatory mechanisms. An estimated 6,000 people have directly benefited from the Plan, in that they now have access to information and conservation-related skills. They are people who are also actively participating in local discussions, festivals and fairs, and related activities and efforts.

For more information, please contact Diego Luna Quevedo (diego.luna@manomet.org), WHSRN Conservation Specialist, Santiago, Chile.





WHSRN in the Pacific Flyway: Northwest Mexico


Simultaneous SATs in action, Ensenada /
© Meredith Morehouse

In April, July, and August, the WHSRN Executive Office conducted complementary workshops in Northwest Mexico on the themes of Site Assessment, Good Governance, and Community Engagement. The workshops were organized and facilitated by the WHSRN specialists in these areas—Meredith G. Morehouse, Diego Luna Quevedo, and Laura Chamberlin, respectively—to strengthen management at WHSRN Sites in a comprehensive way, to benefit shorebirds and local communities. Each activity helps to advance the goals of the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Initiative.

The WHSRN Site Assessment Tool (SAT) is used to understand the current ecological/social/economic condition of the site, and identify and prioritize the threats and actions needed. The results serve to inform future management decisions at the site level as well as our knowledge of the obstacles or threats to shorebird conservation in this part of the Pacific Flyway. The same can inspire new lines of coordinated actions among partners. In this regard, SAT results are also useful as a basic guide during a Good Governance workshop and/or a strategic planning workshop on Community Engagement. The workshops in Northwest Mexico had many participants in common, which helps to maintain continuity and coordination of activities.

San Quintín-Bahía de Todos Santos joint SAT workshop, Ensenada / Courtesy of Terra Peninsular

Ensenada, Baja California

In April, 15 participants gathered at Terra Peninsular’s headquarters to complete an individual SAT for two sites simultaneously: Complejo Lagunar San Quintín WHSRN Site and candidate site Bahía de Todos Santos. The latter is also a priority for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), in support of the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI). The workshop was made possible thanks to local coordination by co-facilitator Eduardo Palacios (CICESE) and financial support from the U.S. Forest Service - International Programs. Participants included representatives of Terra Peninsular, CICESE, GANO, CIBNOR, ProEsteros, and Baja California Protected Natural Areas Department.

Good Governance workshop, led by Diego Luna Quevedo, Ensenada. / Courtesy of Terra Peninsular

At the beginning of August, Terra Peninsular was again the host for the workshop “Good Governance for the Conservation of Shorebirds,” focusing on the San Quintín WHSRN site. A total of 21 managers and decision-managers participated, including representatives of nongovernmental organizations, aquaculture producers, and Federal, State, and Municipal governments, as well as consultants specialized in communications and environment. Collectively they developed a Governance Action Plan that included agreements and proposals for WHSRN site management, the creation of an officially protected area, and the design of a Management Plan. Some also made a field trip to visit the WHSRN site.

San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora

Finishing a SAT is always cause for celebration! (Sonora workshop) / © Meredith Morehouse

At the end of July, 10 participants gathered at the headquarters of the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve, under the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), to complete individual SATs for two sites WHSRN simultaneously: Upper Gulf-Rio Colorado and Tóbari Bay. The workshop was made possible thanks to local coordination by co-facilitator Adriana Hernandez of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) and co-organizers Roberto Carmona (UABSC) and Alejandra Fonseca of Pronatura Noroeste, in addition to the financial support of U.S. Forest Service - International Programs. Participants included representatives of CONANP, UABSC, Pronatura Noroeste, and CEDES.

Community Engagement workshop in Sonora, led by Laura Chamberlin / © Meredith Morehouse

The next day began the preliminary planning workshop with these same partners to develop some strategies and mechanisms to engage local communities of the Upper Gulf-Rio Colorado to conserve shorebirds as well as Pejerrey (fish species). Pejerrey eggs are an essential source of food for migratory birds, much like the relationship between horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) and Red Knots in the Delaware Bay—the focal site of coordinator Laura Chamberlin.

At the beginning of August, Pronatura Noroeste hosted the Good Governance workshop, focusing on the Upper Gulf-Rio Colorado WHSRN Site. The 15 participates were directly involved in the management and decision making at the site, including representatives of nongovernmental organizations, the local communities, and Federal, State, and Municipal governments. Collectively they developed a Governance Action Plan, with proposals and agreements for the urgent management and protection of Pejerrey spawning grounds, and a public-use program at the reserve. The latter two workshops were made possible by a contract from Pronatura to Manomet, for their project “Protection of Critical Habitats for Red Knot, Mexico” with funding from the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grants program. WHSRN specialists had additional support from the U.S. Forest Service - International Programs.

Good Governance workshop, Sonora / © Diego Luna Quevedo


For more information, please contact WHSRN staff: Laura Chamberlin (lchamberlin@manomet.org), Community Engagement Coordinator, Maryland, USA; Diego Luna Quevedo (diego.luna@manomet.org), Conservation Specialist, Santiago, Chile; Meredith G. Morehouse (mgmorehouse@manomet.org), Conservation Specialist, Maine, USA.





Red Knot Wintering Population Relatively Stable


Aerial surveys of the rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus) population wintering in Tierra del Fuego, South America, in January 2016 revealed a total of 11,150 birds. Although this is a slight decrease from the number recorded in January 2015, it is still within the range observed during 2011–2015 (10,000–14,000 birds). While the population is not showing any signs of a sustained recovery (there were 50,000 birds as recently as 2000), at least it has not undergone any further dramatic declines.

On the wing in Tierra del Fuego, South America / Courtesy of Reserva Costa Atlantica de Tierra del Fuego

As in previous years’ surveys, most (98.7%) of the rufa Red Knots occurring in Tierra del Fuego in 2016 were found in Bahía Lomas, Chile. In Argentina, numbers at Rio Grande were again very low—only 150 birds. As recently as 2008, counts here were in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 birds, but have obviously fallen drastically since then. No rufa Red Knots were recorded in Bahía San Sebastian this boreal winter. The concentration of nearly all the Red Knot in one location (Bahía Lomas), and in one major flock, makes them particularly vulnerable to any environmental problems that might occur locally.

The 2016 surveys also provided important data on the Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) population. Bahía Lomas and Bahía San Sebastian are both major wintering sites for the species. This winter’s total of 24,092 birds is the lowest recorded on the surveys since 1982. Worryingly, annual survey data suggest that the population has been decreasing in recent years, and especially since 2004.

Surveys of Bahía Lomas were conducted by Guy Morrison, Ricardo Matus, Antonio Larrea, and Raul Papia, with a helicopter provided by ENAP (Chile’s National Petroleum Company); while those at Rio Grande and Bahía San Sebastian were conducted by Guy Morrison, Tabare Baretto, and Emanuel Mandieta. The surveys were made possible thanks to the Bobolink Foundation in support of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI).

For more information, please contact Rob Clay (rclay@manomet.org), Director, WHSRN Executive Office, Manomet, based in Asunción, Paraguay.





Habitat Management Workshops in Brazil and Canada


Editor’s Note: This article is based on others written by Brad Winn and Monica Iglecia for Manomet’s shorebird science blog and Newsletters.


In February, Brad Winn and Monica Iglecia of Manomet’s Shorebird Habitat Management Division and Rob Clay of Manomet’s WHSRN Executive Office traveled to Brazil to conduct two workshops on shorebird ecology, management, and conservation. They also met with the country’s Ministry of the Environment to discuss their shared interests in supporting the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative and Brazil’s Migratory Shorebird Conservation Plan. The trip was a success due in large part to collaborating with local partners SAVE Brasil and Aquasis, both nongovernmental organizations, and the federal agency National Center for Bird Conservation (CEMAVE). Read more.

Icapui, northeast Brazil / Courtesy of Monica Iglecia

The first workshop was held in southern Brazil, at Lagoa do Peixe WHSRN Site of International Importance, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. In the mid-1980s, this little-known site at the time hosted the first workshop of its kind, led by Manomet’s Brian Harrington. One of this year’s participants remembered getting her start in shorebird science at that workshop! Read her story.

The second workshop was held in coastal northeast Brazil, in the state of Ceará, near Icapui. It brought together professional managers and biologists from Brazil, Suriname, and French Guiana to build a collective understanding of regional shorebird conservation needs. They also discussed the strategies needed to alleviate threats to shorebird populations in the Atlantic Flyway. Participants honed their shorebird ecology skills during a field trip to Banco dos Cajuais, a candidate WHSRN Site.


Reed Lake, Saskatchewan / Courtesy of Monica Iglecia


In May, Manomet´s Brad Winn, Brian Harrington, and Monica Iglecia carried out a Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Habitat Management workshop in Chaplin, Saskatchewan, in collaboration with Nature Saskatchewan, Chaplin Nature Centre, and University of Saskatchewan. In the classroom and on field trips to the Chaplin/Old Wives/Reed Lakes WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance, the 35 participants honed their shorebird ecology skills. They came from all the three Prairie Provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan), and discussed conservation at the site- and landscape-scale. Read more.

For more information, please contact Brad Winn (bwinn@manomet.org), Director, or Monica Iglecia (miglecia@manomet.org), Assistant Director, Shorebird Habitat Management Division, Manomet, based in Massachusetts and Washington, respectively.





Several Good Signs at Delaware Bay


Laura Chamberlin / Courtesy of Celebrate Delaware Bay

The sight of a Delaware Bay beach at high tide in the spring, packed with spawning horseshoe crabs and tiny, green eggs piled high, is a thrilling event for locals and visitors alike. For migrating shorebirds, who stop to rest and feast on those eggs, it could be the difference between surviving the long trip to the Arctic or not. This year, through the conservation efforts of many partners, local leaders, and volunteers, species such as Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa), Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), and Sanderling (Calidris alba) left the Delaware Bay WHSRN Site with their best average departure weights in years.

In its fourth year, the Celebrate Delaware Bay campaign has continued to bring this story to new audiences through field trips, festivals, horseshoe crab rescues and tagging, and student education. In turn, the conservation community here continues to grow, with more people inspired and ready to take action. For example, in New Jersey’s horseshoe crab rescue program called “reTURN the Favor,” volunteer hours increased from 1,270 hours in 2015 to over 1,900 hours this year. 

Positive signs, produced wth youth artwork. / Courtesy of Laura Chamberlin

During the year, students created signs that were installed on beaches in Delaware and New Jersey, reminding visitors that we share these beaches with shorebirds and horseshoe crabs. The signs provide a simple, positive message about reducing human disturbance and encourage people to participate in conservation actions. Youth signs are often used to successfully promote conservation at important shorebird sites, especially those with beach-nesting birds. They can help improve relationships among local residents and leaders, and complement other efforts to reduce disturbance. In this their first year on the Delaware Bay, youth signs have received only positive feedback and support.

WHSRN site partners continued to lead other conservation efforts on the Delaware Bay this year as well, including restoring beaches, reducing disturbance via stewards, restricting access to beaches, and limiting horseshoe crab harvests. And the birds are responding to these efforts. Researchers on the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project team reported that, among the three species they collect data on, most of the birds reached very good departure weights—some of the best in 20 years of the project. A good departure weight is a key indication that a bird will likely arrive in the Arctic strong and able to nest.

"ReTurn the Favor" volunteers. / Courtesy of Laura Chamberlin

2016 By the Numbers
Over 240 students involved in creating artwork for signs
47 signs produced and installed on 16 beaches
Over 78,000 horseshoe crabs rescued on 18 beaches
29 teachers educated during “Teach at the Beach
30 years celebrated as a WHSRN site

Even though most of the shorebirds departed in good shape this year, it’s just one of many ongoing challenges at the Delaware Bay. Having an engaged and informed constituency will ensure that we are ready to take action on behalf of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs any time.

For more information, please contact Laura Chamberlin (lchamberlin@manomet.org), Community Engagement Coordinator, WHSRN Executive Office.





Advancing Shorebird Conservation in Venezuela


© Chris Sharpe

Shorebird counts in Venezuela date back to the 1970s, but over the past decade, especially with the advent of the Neotropical Waterbird Census and the completion of several theses, interest in shorebirds has been steadily increasing. Today, there is a small but dedicated group of researchers and volunteers committed to conserving shorebirds in this country.

To enrich this process, the workshop “Identification of Important Areas for Shorebirds and Monitoring in Venezuela” was carried out in Chichiriviche, the State of Falcón—near the Cuare Wildife Refuge, which is a Ramsar site and field study camp. The aim of the workshop was to compile an initial analysis of priority areas for the conservation of these birds. This 4-day event in March was organized by Rob Clay, WHSRN Executive Office Director (Manomet), and Sandra Giner of the Central University of Venezuela, with vital logistical support from Foundation for the Defense of Nature – Fudena, and facilitated by ornithologist Chris Sharpe. The 21 participants included experts from the major national universities and NGOs, together with a government representative.

© Chris Sharpe

Achievements: Regional working groups identified 20 priority sites, of which a dozen meet the biological criteria to be a candidate WHSRN site. Some of these areas are already wildlife refuges or other protected areas, and many more are recognized Important Bird Areas (IBAs). A preliminary analysis of threats, needs, and conservation opportunities was carried out for each site. Lack of control over activities that harm shorebirds was a common threat. The needs were, in general, rather modest, ranging from transport (boats and motors) to optical equipment (binoculars and scopes), as well as training volunteers to help with monitoring.

Following this analysis, experts presented techniques for counting and monitoring shorebirds, giving an overview of species-specific characteristics and best methods. Various members of the local community, including a class of tourism students, took part in this activity and accompanied the experts on a field visit to the nearby Tucurere Wildlife Reserve. They gained a new appreciation for the international nature of the ecology of these birds, many of which nest in the Arctic and fly enormous distances to reach wintering areas, like American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica) or Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Calidris subruficollis).

© Sandra Giner

At the same time, it highlighted the challenges of conserving imperiled species, particularly the rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus). In this sense, it was uplifting to present detailed information on efforts like the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI) and Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI). Equally important to remember is that many species, like Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia cinnamominus) and Snowy Plover, (Charadrius nivosus tenuirostris) are tropical residents that rely on local beaches for nesting.

What’s next? The identification of priority areas will provide a framework for future proposals for the conservation; indeed, some of the participants met outside the workshop to start drafting some. In order to facilitate exchange of information, a shared directory of shorebird publications was created, as well as groups on Facebook and Whatsapp. These mechanisms will help participants maintain the level of enthusiasm generated during the workshop and will help direct and orient efforts to conserve shorebirds in Venezuela.

For more information, please contact Sandra Giner (sandrabginer@gmail.com), Universidad Central de Venezuela - Facultad de Ciencias, Caracas, Venezuela, or Rob Clay (rclay@manomet.org), WHSRN Executive Office Director, Asunción, Paraguay.