September survey results and the EAAF Shorebird Science Meeting

The start of the 2020-2021 snipe season has gone much better than expected. The total number of snipe counted for the September 26 survey was 1347 for 150 sites – 24 of these sites were new for the National Surveys and accounted for 149 snipe. This result compares favourably to the September 2019 survey, where we had 1229 snipe for 126.

A snipe snapped landing at a new survey site in Craigieburn, Greater Melbourne. Photo: Beverley Van Praagh
Some of highest snipe numbers were recorded in Astonville, northern NSW . Photo: David Charley
Hearts Morass in East Gippsland had high numbers of snipe in the Sept survey. Photo: Jack Winterbottom

We were expecting potentially poor results this time around after the >40% decline in snipe numbers was detected during the Japanese breeding ground surveys in May. This was thought to be a consequence of the bushfires and drought effects. It is still possible these factors have had an impact on the snipe population, but the effect could have been diluted by the nature of our survey sites – as many are in urban areas they may be more stable and less likely to fluctuate with large population changes. But there is no evidence yet to support this theory.

EAAF Shorebird Science Meeting

In other news, the EAAFSSM is currently underway in Korea, although the whole conference has been moved online. Birgita has presented some findings from the Latham’s Snipe Projet satellite tracking, showing the importance of Papua New Guinea to migrating snipe. The abstract of the talk is below.

Latham’s Snipe is one of two Gallinago species confirmed in Papua New Guinea, the other being Swinhoe’s Snipe. Both species are essentially identical in the field, and extreme care and perseverance is required to differentiate them based on observations alone. As a consequence, where the species overlap, sight-based records are often unable to be verified and the distribution of each species in overlap zones is difficult to determine. This is the case for Papua New Guinea, where Swinhoe’s Snipe is considered the dominant species, and the majority of accepted records for Latham’s Snipe stem from coastal locations near the capital of Port Moresby. Between 2016 and 2020, light-level geolocators and satellite transmitters were deployed to obtain migration information for the species. Two geolocator retrievals in south-eastern Australia indicated use of Papua New Guinea on northward and / or southward migration, although the resolution of the data were insufficient to determine stopover locations. Three satellite transmitter deployments (two in Canberra, Australia, and one in Hokkaido, Japan) have provided high resolution location information, and the first conclusive evidence of staging by Latham’s Snipe in the Papua New Guinean highlands (between 1500-2500m ASL). The two Canberra-tagged snipe used modified wetlands and agricultural areas near human habitation in the highlands, while the Hokkaido-tagged snipe stopped on the Papuan coast near the border with Papua New Guinea. While these represent only a small sample size, they nevertheless demonstrate that Latham’s Snipe distribution is significantly broader than officially documented. These findings also highlight the importance of this region for migrating snipe. Targeted investigation of the population extent, habitat use and priority areas for conservation in New Guinea is urgently required.

Please contact Birgita if you would like more information

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