In such troubled times it is with regret that i write this message but the
subject needs discussion.
On Monday and Tuesday (17 & 18 September), with Megan Oldfield, we
explored the coast from Warnambool to Portland Vic.looking for birds and
along the beaches were flocks of small waders comprising mostly of
Red-necked Stints. At Killarney we watched them feeding like Sanderlings,
following a receding wave out and then running up in front of the next
incoming surge. While we enjoyed this, I noticed that several of these
small birds were hobbling and struggling to keep up with the main flock
and would fly to catch up. We became alarmed when we realized that these
struggling birds were wearing multiple colored leg flags on their right
leg, orange above the knee and yellow below the knee and a metal band on
their left leg and the flags were impeding the birds from running.
Later we called at Port Fairy and several beaches west of there and at
each place there were small flocks of Stints with approximately 10%
wearing shiny bright new looking leg bands and colored leg flags as
described above. On the beach adjacent to Lake Yambuck from a flock of 39
birds there were at least 5 flagged/banded Stints. The flock was roosting
among scattered seaweed and when disturbed, the banded birds moved
awkwardly, their leg movement was hindered where the unbanded birds
commenced feeding vigorously and were moving quickly over the kelp. Again
the marked birds were struggling to keep up and the large plastic flags on
their right legs were impeding the birds movement across obstructions. The
flags could also present a tangling hazard in kelp and seaweed. In wind
gusts, the marked birds were stumbling pushed into an uncontrolled
twisting movement. We are very upset and angry at what we observed but
feel helpless to do anything about it.
We are wondering if anybody else has reported this as the disadvantage
these lop sided birds are suffering is obvious, particularly during windy
conditions. Previously we were not opposed to bird banding but since
witnessing this we have changed our view. We don't know how to protest
about it and are seriously contemplating writing to newspapers and
relevant Government Ministers to try and stop this terrible practice. Can
anybody inform me who one should complain to?
When marked in this way, how can these small waders be expected to live a
normal life unharmed, to feed competitively, move unrestricted and be able
to avoid predators while migrating across the planet twice each year? It
is hard to believe that marking small waders in this manner is condoned.
Who ever is responsible has either lost perspective of what is reasonable
or they don't care about the welfare of the birds.
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