Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

WHSRNews: August 2017 (in full)

In this issue: 21 August 2017
  • World Shorebirds Day
  • Shorebird Ambassadors on Delaware Bay
  • Priority Shorebird Sites and Stewards in Venezuela
  • Promising News of the Red Knot Wintering Population
  • Hemispheric Council Grows


World Shorebirds Day



White-rumped Sandpipers (Calidris fuscicollis), Bahía Lomas, Chile. Photo by Diego Luna Quevedo.


Four years ago, September 6th was designated World Shorebirds Day, and for many of us it’s become a key fixture on our annual calendars. By early September, our Western Hemisphere shorebirds are on the wing, making their way to their winter or breeding homes. As northern breeding birds head south from their Arctic breeding grounds, austral breeding birds head to the coasts and interior of Patagonia to breed. Some will follow a route that takes them from WHSRN site to WHSRN site until they reach their final destination. Whether they have a pole-to-pole migration or a short hop up the coast, shorebirds connect the dots between WHSRN sites across the hemisphere, demonstrating the importance of our network and strengthening our connection to each other, too.

One of the key events of World Shorebirds Day is the Global Shorebird Count, which takes place the weekend nearest September 6th and continues throughout the week. Regular monitoring by volunteers and professionals is fundamental to protecting shorebird populations and their habitat. Many sites are also organizing workshops, educational activities, and community events to celebrate shorebirds.

It’s not too late to plan your own shorebird count or other activity. Register your site HERE, and join WHSRN staff, site partners, and experts and enthusiasts around the world in celebrating shorebirds this year.

World Shorebirds Day is a day to pause and marvel at these incredible migrants and unite in the common goal to protect them. Tell us how you plan to count and celebrate shorebirds at your WHSRN site, and we will add it to our map of World Shorebird Day events across the network!



Shorebird Ambassadors on Delaware Bay



Overturned horseshoe crab. Photo by Laura Chamberlin.


At WHSRN’s oldest designated site, volunteers in gloves and knee-high boots stroll the beach by headlamp, bending every few feet to turn over a struggling horseshoe crab. Right-side up again, the horseshoe crab quickly makes its way back to the water. The volunteers move from sand to rubble, climbing carefully over concrete, rebar, and even old kitchen sinks to free crabs stuck in crevices.

The site is Delaware Bay, and these volunteers are part of a program called reTURN the Favor, a project of ten partner organizations to rescue overturned or imperiled horseshoe crabs stranded on New Jersey’s Delaware Bay beaches. This year volunteers conducted 847 walks from mid-April to mid-July, rescuing 131,024 crabs on 18 beaches!



As infrastructure crumbles to the rising tides, horseshoe crabs get stuck in the rubble that is left behind. Photo by Laura Chamberlin.


Several species of shorebirds sync their spring migrations with the spawning of horseshoe crabs, whose high-calorie eggs are their primary source of fuel as they make their way to the Arctic to nest. Delaware Bay hosts the largest spawning concentration of horseshoe crabs along the Atlantic coast, making it a crucial stopover site for Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla), Sanderlings (Calidris alba), Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres), and the endangered rufa subspecies of Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa). But due to over-harvesting and habitat degradation, Delaware Bay’s horseshoe crab population has declined by 90% over the last 15 years.

With the support of the WHSRN Executive Office and Delaware Bay partners, reTURN the Favor is engaging the local community to reduce one cause of horseshoe crab mortality -- strandings. About 10% of the spawning population can be stranded during a typical spawning event – even more when high numbers of crabs converge with stormy weather and king tides. The number of volunteers continues to grow, and each of the four years of the program has rescued more crabs than the year before. This year the number of rescue walks increased by 60%.

Volunteers help rescue stranded horseshoe crabs. Photo by Laura Chamberlin.

As they share their passion and knowledge with family and friends, these volunteers become ambassadors for horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds, building a community of people ready to take action. With every crab turned, volunteers are able to help ensure Red Knots and other shorebirds will find food when they land at Delaware Bay.

Volunteers play a critical role in the conservation of sites across the WHSRN network. How are you using volunteers to expand stewardship of your WHSRN site? Send us an email (whsrn@manomet.org) or share your story with other WHSRN sites on social media (Don’t forget to tag @WHSRN!)

For more information on Celebrate Delaware Bay visit celebratedebay.org or contact Laura Chamberlin, lchamberlin@manomet.org .


Priority Shorebird Sites and Stewards in Venezuela



Shorebird census at the Los Olivitos Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Chris Sharpe.


In March of 2016, WHSRN ran a workshop on the Identification of Important Areas for Shorebirds in Venezuela. This workshop identified 20 priority shorebird areas, a dozen of which met the biological criteria to become candidate WHSRN sites. Some of these sites were already protected as wildlife refuges or recognized as Important Bird Areas (IBAs), but all of them needed help monitoring the sites for shorebirds.

And so this March, with funding from Environment Canada, WHSRN led a follow-up course: Training in Shorebird Identification and Census Methods in Priority Sites in Venezuela. The goal of this course was to train participants to carry out reliable shorebird counts, thereby increasing local capacity to monitor populations and evaluate these sites as potential WHSRN reserves.



Shorebirds at the Produsal salt flats. Mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla). Photo by Chris Sharpe.


WHSRN Director Rob Clay organized the event with Sandra Giner of the Central University of Venezuela, with logistical support from the Foundation for the Defense of Nature – Fudena. The workshop was based in La Ciénaga de Los Olivitos, a Ramsar site in Zulia, and facilitated by WHSRN consultant ornithologist Chris Sharpe.

Workshop participants helped conduct two censuses – one in the Salinas de Solar de Los Olivitos, which are managed for salt production by the company Produsal, and a second in Ciénaga de Los Olivitos Wildlife Refuge. These counts gave participants important practice conducting shorebird censuses, and generated useful baseline data for the continued evaluation of both sites. In the days following the workshop, Giner and Sharpe traveled to nearby Portuguesa to work with Alexis Araujo of the Ezequiel Zamora National Experimental University of the Western Llanos – UNELLEZ, where they conducted a dozen additional censuses in commercial rice growing areas.



Counting shorebirds in the rice fields of Portuguesa. Photo by Chris Sharpe.


The censuses discovered important numbers of shorebirds in both the Los Olivitos area and the rice fields of Portuguesa. Produsal’s salt flats stood out as a potentially important site for Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla), with more than 15,500 individuals counted, as well as for Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosos tenuirostris). More than 80 Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) were recorded at Ciénaga de Los Olivitos. As for the llanos of Portuguesa, over 700 Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) were counted on one farm. The team is confident that more comprehensive fieldwork would identify this region as a strong potential WHSRN site.

Thanks to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), three pairs of binoculars and three spotting scopes were donated to local researchers and rangers who lacked optical equipment, along with five shorebird field guides. And thanks to these WHSRN workshops, local experts and enthusiasts are continuing to evaluate priority areas in Zulia as future WHSRN reserves.

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.


Promising News of the Red Knot Wintering Population



The survey team, from left to right: Dr. Guy Morrison, Mrs. Susan Morrison, Capt. Federico Macini (pilot), Sra Jocelyn Velasquez (ENAP), Sr. Antonio Larrea. The survey was conducted in the helicopter provided by ENAP (Chile’s National Petroleum Company) - Eurocopter model EC135. Photo by Antonio Larrea.


Aerial surveys in January 2017 of the rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus) population wintering in Tierra del Fuego, South America, revealed a total of 13,127 birds. This is approximately 15% higher than the number recorded in January 2016 (11,150), though 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 this increase is a promising sign.

In 2017, nearly all the knots counted were found in Bahia Lomas, Chile (99.8% of the birds occurring in Tierra del Fuego). At the other major historical wintering area in Rio Grande, Argentina, the situation continues to deteriorate, with only 27 rufa Red Knot counted during the survey. Counts at Rio Grande were in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 birds as recently as 2008, but have fallen dramatically since then. 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.



Red Knot, Calidris canutus rufa. Photo by Brad Winn.


Bahia Lomas and Bahia San Sebastian (Argentina) are both major wintering areas for Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica). The 2017 aerial surveys recorded a total of 24,900 godwits, 808 more birds than in 2016, with this increase in Bahía San Sebastian (numbers in Bahía Lomas remained the same between years). The 2016 and 2017 survey totals represent the lowest on record for the species in this area since 1982, and the population appears to be declining, especially since 2004.

The 2017 surveys were conducted by Guy Morrison, Susan Morrison, Antonio Larrea and Jocelyn Velasquez, with the support of the pilots Federico Macini (Chile) and Santiago de Larminat (Argentina). Both the 2016 and 2017 surveys had a focus on training local biologists in aerial survey techniques through theoretical and practical exercises, in addition to validating the accuracy of the aerial counts through simultaneous photographs of flocks.



Flock of Red Knots as seen during the aerial survey. Photo by Antonio Larrea.


The surveys were made possible thanks to the Bobolink Foundation in support of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative, and through a helicopter provided by ENAP (Chile’s National Petroleum Company).

For more information, please contact Guy Morrison (rigmorrison@gmail.com ).






Hemispheric Council Grows

WHSRN’s Hemispheric Council. Photo by Diego Luna Quevedo.

This spring, WHSRN appointed three new members to its Hemispheric Council, the advisory body that guides WHSRN’s work to conserve shorebird species and their habitats across the Americas. The Council is made up of members from across the hemisphere, bringing together representatives of WHSRN’s key partners to oversee the overall strategy and effectiveness of the Network.

These three new members will bring important knowledge and perspective to the Council. Together they represent the Brazilian Shorebird Conservation Plan Advisory Group (Danielle Paludo and alternate Juliana Almeida), National Audubon Society (Matt Jeffery and alternate Stan Senner), and expertise in “all things” Semipalmated Sandpiper (David Mizrahi).

Enjoy reading their brief bios below, and please join us in welcoming them to the WHSRN Hemispheric Council!



           Danielle Paludo


Danielle Paludo
Coordinator, Brazilian Migratory Shorebird Conservation Plan

Danielle is an Oceanographer by training, with a Masters in Biological Sciences. She works as an Environmental Analyst for the National Center for Research and Bird Conservation (CEMAVE), part of the Chico Mendes Institute for Biological Conservation (ICMBio) within the Brazilian Environmental Ministry (MMA). In additional to coordinating the Brazilian Shorebird Conservation Plan (PAN) she works with protected areas management and species conservation projects.



           Dr. David Mizrahi


Dr. David Mizrahi
Vice-president for Research and Monitoring, New Jersey Audubon

David’s work focuses on the ecology and conservation of shorebirds with a primary focus on Semipalmated Sandpipers and other shorebird species that winter in Northern South America and migrate through the western Atlantic region. Since 1995, Dr. Mizrahi has conducted research on the ecology and behavior of shorebirds using soft-sediment habitats in Delaware Bay, including investigating the relationship between horseshoe crab egg availability and weight gain potential in Semipalmated Sandpipers, relationships between habitat use and foraging strategies, and migration phenology and connectivity using nanotag technology. In 2008, he initiated a comprehensive shorebird research and conservation program in northeastern South America with partners in Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil.



           Matt Jeffery


Matt Jeffery
Deputy Director of the International Alliances Program, National Audubon Society

Matt has been with National Audubon since 2006, and has more than 20 years of experience in conservation. He has worked closely with local organizations and managed projects in several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Mexico, Panama, Chile, Belize, Bahamas, Argentina, and Paraguay. His focus has been on the protection of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Latin America and the Caribbean, specifically those concerning Neotropical migrant bird populations. Matt was on the steering committee for the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Business Plan, was a contributing author for the Pacific Americas Shorebird Conservation Strategy, and helped build the Panama Bay Shorebird Conservation Plan.  




           Stan Senner


Stan Senner (alternate for Matt Jeffery, National Audubon Society)
Vice President for Bird Conservation Pacific Flyway, National Audubon Society

In a career spanning 40 years, Stan has worked for The Wilderness Society and U.S. House of Representatives during passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, as executive director of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, as chief restoration planner and science coordinator for the state-federal Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, and as executive director of Audubon Alaska (1999-2009). In the early 1990s, Stan organized a migratory bird conservation program for National Audubon and started Audubon’s first Important Bird Area project (in Pennsylvania). Most recently, he was director of conservation science for Ocean Conservancy, where his work focused on offshore drilling in Arctic waters and restoration following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Stan holds an M.S. in biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and has published more than 25 technical papers, mostly focused on the ecology and conservation of migratory birds, and was one of the first WHSRN Council members.



           Dr. Juliana Bosi de Almeida


Dr. Juliana Bosi de Almeida (alternate for Danielle Paludo, Brazilian Shorebird Conservation Plan)
Shorebird Program Manager, SAVE Brasil

Juliana has been working with shorebirds for over 10 years, starting with her PhD work on wintering ecology of Buff-breasted Sandpipers in Brazil. She has since collaborated on other shorebird projects and in 2012 became part of the Executive Committee for the Brazilian National Action Plan for Shorebird Conservation. Currently, she leads the development and implementation of SAVE Brasil’s Shorebird Conservation Program, and also serves on the CMS Americas Flyways Task Force, AFSI Executive Committee and BirdLife International Atlantic Flyway Working Group.