WHAT'S ALL THIS ABOUT THEN?
Nobody knows what Australian Painted Snipe do in the winter. The one thing
we are sure of is that they manage to elude birdwatchers - fewer than 10% of
past Painted Snipe sightings have been made in the austral winter. Do they
vanish into undiscovered wintering areas, perhaps in the sparsely
inhabitated centre or north of Australia? Or does their behaviour change so
they become even harder to find? Or does birdwatcher behaviour change, with
wetlands in southern Australia being checked less carefully in winter than
in summer? In an attempt to find out, we are holding a winter survey of
Painted Snipe and are inviting people to join in.
WHAT SORT OF FIELDWORK IS INVOLVED?
It's fairly simple: Go to a likely looking wetland or wetlands, search it
for Painted Snipe, and let us know how you go. The scheduled survey date is
the weekend of 6-7 July. This serves as some kind of focal date, but if that
weekend doesn't suit, we would also be interested in searches made at any
other time in the winter.
OK, we might have glossed over one tricky bit. Painted Snipe are not easy
to find. A fair proportion of those found are found standing in quite open
sites (usually on mud or very shallow water) and are located by simply
scanning wetlands, especially (but not always) at dawn or dusk. However,
Painted Snipe are capable of being very bashful, and to search a wetland
really thoroughly for them, it is best to walk through surrounding
vegetation to see if any are flushed. Usually they camp in grasslands (and
probably less often in reeds) but it is hard to know what to expect in
winter. Some recent records suggest that Painted Snipe "campsites" can be
several hundred metres from the focal wetland, even in apparently
unpromising habitats like improved pasture or ditches. We are aware that
this kind of search is not always possible, and would welcome assistance
even in cases where scanning is the only searching option.
In all honesty, volunteers for this winter survey are not that likely to see
a Painted Snipe - we would be pleased if one in twenty reported success, as
that might be enough to give us some idea of what Painted snipes are up to
in winter. So why get involved? Well, there is the never-failing pleasure of
birding in wetlands, the virtuous feeling that you are doing something
positive that hasn't been tried before, and the remote but real possibility
that you will get to see one of the worlds most striking birds.
ANY BUREACRACY OR PAPERWORK?
Hopefully not too much. It would help us a great deal if volunteers who are
able to go searching on or around the survey date could contact us before
the end of June, so we can co-ordinate matters to some extent - e.g. making
sure that we don't have situations where several people search one wetland
while another nearby one remains unserached. There is a simple form to fill
in, whether or not a Painted Snipe is located. This can emailed or
snail-mailed on request.
The Painted Snipe survey is a joint project of the Threatened Bird Network
(TBN) and the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG), co-ordinated by
Danny Rogers, Chris Tzaros, Ian Hance and Steve Paton.
For any enquiries, please contact:
Co-ordinator, Threatened Bird Network
Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union)
415 Riversdale Rd
Hawthorn East, Vic., 3123
Website address: http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au
Australian Partner of BirdLife International. Are you a member of Birds
Australia? If not, why not join us?
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