Curlew Sandpiper - flags

Subject: Curlew Sandpiper - flags
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Mon, 01 Apr 2002 22:17:28 +0800
I think that the date for Marilyn's posting says it all. Her article is absolutely totally completely utterly fiction!

See previous long running series on these topics on birding-aus. Please forgive the length of my response, but birding-aus is an archived mailing list on the internet and this fiction cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

A few points relevant to Curlew Sandpipers.

First year Curlew Sandpipers stay in Australia. THEY DO NOT MIGRATE until their second year! They stay on their feeding grounds in Australia for their first year.

The kill rate for cannon netting is far less than 1%, especially for the smaller waders.

Comparatively very few Curlew Sandpipers have been banded in Broome and north west Australia. The sighting of one of these in southern Africa is very significant (and the reason that the leg flags are used).

Several years ago, a Curlew Sandpiper that was banded and flagged in Broome was found on the nest in Siberia and caught again the next year in Broome.

As Marilyn stated, a Curlew Sandpiper has been retrapped 17 years after the first banding. This bird had a leg flag (not from the original banding).

There is simply no evidence that flagging increases the mortality rate.

The crash in numbers of Curlew Sandpipers are very disturbing in Western Australia. But banding (and hence flagging) cannot be connected to this decrease in reported numbers.

A couple of years ago there was a count of 40,000 Curlew Sandpipers at Lake Macleod north of Carnarvon. This population has never been banded. A cyclone flooded this lake shortly after and the water levels are still higher than recent history. A survey this year found only about 1,000 Curlew Sandpipers at Lake Macleod. It will be next summer before the water returns to previous levels, and possibly another year (maybe more) before the biomass regenerates. So hopefully the Curlew Sandpipers will return. There are annual surveys (hopefully twice a year if it can be arranged).

Lake McLarty near Pinjarra (south of Perth) has had up to 2,000 Curlew Sandpipers in January / February. Lake McLarty dried by New Year this summer. This population has never been banded.

Alfred Cove in Perth sometimes has up to 1,000 Curlew Sandpipers in early summer. Very few came this year. This population has never been banded.

It is very unlikely that these birds have all died. It is still a very high chance that the floods up north and in the interior have created suitable areas inland for them for the last two summers. The flooded areas are effectively inaccessible. Let's hope this is the case.

Possibly the only true way to roughly check for large changes in the population is for surveys on the breeding grounds. The birds are very spread out, but researchers who have surveyed the same area before would be able to notice large population changes. Does anyone have information on this?

And has been previously said on birding-aus, the results and numbers of birds banded and retrapped are published regularly in journals. This information is very easy to find if you are willing to go to a library and do a proper literature search. Just because you can't find it on the internet (and I admit that I haven't checked this so the information may be available and I must doubt that Marilyn has checked), doesn't mean that the information is not publicly available.

Thank you if you have had the patience and interest to read this far. May the waders continue to be safe, and the researchers need to be strongly supported in their studies here in Australia, on their stop over locations and their breeding grounds. They are the people who care enough to get off their butts and actually do something in their own time with their own money to try to ensure the waders continue with minimum threats.

Frank O'Connor     Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694                Email : 

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