News

Snipe talk series 2018

Birgita is conducting a roving series of talks on the Latham’s Snipe project, beginning this coming weekend in south-east South Australia. These talks are open to anyone who has an interest, but they will also be providing updates on the key findings and outcomes from the project for volunteers who have been involved.

The schedule at the moment is:

  • July 7 – Mt Gambier Public Library; 1230pm
  • July 8 – “Snipe, Sushi and Swamps” at Port Fairy Community Centre; 130pm
  • August 17 – Wallace Park, Noosaville (via video; lead presenter Lynn Scott)
  • September 12 – Canberra Ornithologists Group meeting, Canberra Girls Grammar School, Deakin; 745pm
  • September 18 or 19 (TBC) – East Gippsland (Traralgon or Bairnsdale)
  • November 8 – Field Naturalist’s Club of Victoria, Blackburn

This page will be updated from time-to-time. So if you’re interested in attending talks but can’t make the next one, keep a watch on this page for the next upcoming talks.

Please contact Birgita (b.hansen@federation.edu.au) if you want more information.

South-west talks July 7 & 8

Both the Mt Gambier and Port Fairy talks were well attended, despite crappy weather over the weekend which might have otherwise kept people at home! We had 25 people attend the Mt Gambier session, which was held in a really nice seminar space at the Public library – we even had catering. In addition to providing a project update, Birgita outlined the current survey coverage for south-east SA, identifying where there were survey gaps. She also visited Lake McIntyre with Rosey Pounsett and Noel Boyle.

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Lake McIntyre in Millicent

The following day at the community centre in Port Fairy there were 26 people and we had a fabulous feast of sushi thanks to the South Beach Wetlands and Landcare Group. Birgita gave a similar overview on the project, and there were some great questions about the tracking and data specific to Port Fairy.

A short article was written about the event: News article in The Standard 

Birgita would like to thank Bryan and Toni for organising the talk and catering in Mt Gambier, and Jodie, Don and Sherril for organising the Snipe, Sushi and Swamps event. And many thanks to all the attendees who took time out of their weekends to attend.

The next talk in the snipe series will be in Canberra, followed closely by a talk in East Gippsland.

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Children’s International Conservation Collaboration

The Latham’s Snipe project team has returned from Japan after a fabulous trip to Hokkaido with the Canberra Young Rangers. Between May 18 and 23, Birgita, Lori, Jodie and Richard, accompanied by Ted, Carol and the Young Rangers Connor, Kelly, Olivia, Ryu and Sophie, joined the Wild Bird Society of Japan team at Lake Utonai Nature Center to exchange information and stories about Latham’s Snipe.

The trip began with a visit to Tomakomai City Council to meet with the Mayor Hirofumi Iwakura. Nakamura-san gave an overview about Latham’s Snipe research and monitoring in Japan and Birgita followed with complementary information from Australia. The mayor asked some very insightful questions about the birds and their conservation. This visit was a very great honour for the team and even featured in the local news!

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Lori and Usui presenting the Mayor, Iwakura-san with Dave Wilson’s now famous tea towell design
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In the Tomakomai news

After that we had a weekend of meeting and greeting children and their parents from the local community, learning about snipe research and monitoring in Hokkaido, and Then participating in snipe surveys around Tomakomai. On a freezing cold sunday morning at 5am, with snow still visible on the hills in the distance, the Australian team joined around 20 Japanese children and parents, and Hokkaido Television Broadcasting, lead by WBSJ members Tatsuya Ura, Takemae Asako, Hironobu Tajiri, Satoshi Nakamura, and Usui Shunji to count displaying snipe at survey grids (meshes) located around the area.

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Team A, lead by Tatsuya, counting displaying snipe in Tomakomai area
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Some of the counting team at Utonai-ko Nature Center

The following week, the team then visited 2 schools in the Tomakomai area, the first being Uenae Elementary School and the second being Utonai Elementary School. The team was really pleased to meet up again with some of the school students they met in 2016 at Uenae. Participants exchanged greetings in each other’s languages, learned about the current status of the global snipe population and then joined in on the snipe games and art.

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Jodie and Usui showing the Uenae school children how to make snipe prints on a 3D-printed printing press

A much bigger group of students awaited the team at Utonai, but all were fantastic and hugely attentive, remembering facts and figures about snipe provide during introductory talks by Satoshi and Birgita. The team also got a tour of the school and its fantastic facilities.

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Utonai Elementary School, Tomakomai

We are exceptionally grateful to staff at both schools for hosting our visit and giving us the opportunity to interact with school children. We are also immensely grateful to Nakamura-san for organising our visits and especially, arranging the honour of a visit with the Tomakomai Mayor.

After the school visits, some of the team members joined the WBSJ to undertake snipe surveys in other parts of Hokkaido. This was a really great opportunity not only to see snipe in their breeding habitats and observe their amazing display flights, but also to see the wonders of Hokkaido’s landscapes in spring when the cherry blossums were still flowering and the snow still lying on the hills.

 

And here’s a short video of a snipe display flight taken on Bigita’s phone – turn the volume up for this one! If anyone has a better video they’d like to contribute, we’d be very happy to replace Birgita’s video with it.

Nabe: a Japanese classic

And of course tasting the local cuisine is always high on the list of visiting priorities!

Dinner on the last night with the WBSJ was at an Izakaya restaurant in Tomakomai where we were treated to delicious Japanese food – a classic Nabe (hot pot) pictured right.

 

The Latham’s Snipe project would like to thank all the staff at the Wild Bird Society of Japan for being such fabulous hosts and generously giving up so much of their time. We would particularly like to thank the nature center staff Satoshi, Rika, Rumi and Hiro for having us stay. And many thanks also to our delightful and entertaining translator Usui Shunji.

We gratefully acknowledge the support provided by the Australia Japan Foundation that allowed us to make this trip.

Latham’s Snipe project team head off to Japan for the breeding season

This May, the team is heading back to Hokkaido this time in the company of a small group of able youngsters from the Young Rangers program in Canberra. Birgita, Lori, Jodie and Rich will be accompanied by Sophie, Connor, Olivia, Kelly and Ryu. We have a fantastic program planned, thanks to Satoshi Nakamura at the Lake Utonai Nature Centre, Tomakomai. The team will be visiting some of the schools in Tomakomai including Uenae Elementary school, which we also visited in 2016. We are also honoured to have a visit scheduled with the Mayor of Tomakomai.

Some of the team members will stay on after the school visits to help Tatsuya Ura and his team at the Wild Bird Society of Japan with a census of breeding sites across a wide range of sites.

Find out more about Lake Utonai sanctuary and the Wild Bird Society of Japan.

 

2017-2018 count results

The numbers are in, and what a great season it has been! The number of sites counted ranged from 88 during the September count to 100 in January! A sensational effort! And that brought with it totals of 585, 1459 and 914 snipe. The count in January was remarkable in some ways as, even though we didn’t have the massive count of 550 birds in Robe, we still had a big total count across all the sites. This was driven by larger than usual numbers in East Gippsland, north-west Tasmania, and northern NSW, as well as high numbers again in places like Geelong-Bellarine and Peterborough. And as with previous January counts, the numbers at many sites were higher than during spring. It was also interesting to see quite a few snipe in the north, as well as in the south at this time.

Once again, we’d like to thank our volunteers who have made such a great effort over the season. We are immensely grateful for the contribution from around the eastern states and we really hope that everyone can be available again next season.

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Snipe habitat in Robe, January 2018. Photo: Sarah Campbell

The count dates for 2018-2019 are:

  • September 15
  • November 10
  • January 12

South-western Victoria wrap up

With the last catch in Port Fairy the weekend of January 13, 2018, the Latham’s Snipe Project officially wound up its geolocator and radio tracking program in Victoria.

The project completed its third season of catching with various successes and disappointments. The well-known success of course was the recapture of T0 in spring 2016. Add to this success was the two between-year recaptures of snipe not fitted with geolocators, and a further 12 same-season recaptures (5 in 2016-2017 and 7 in 2017-2018). Other successes included the deployment of two years worth of radio transmitters and a heap of new information about night time foraging and day time roosting locations. And the sheer number of snipe captured, at nearly 130 birds, well exceeded the team’s expectations! As a result, we have learn so much about the species – how to catch them, more about their biometrics including ageing birds, how they behave, where they like to hang out, and most importantly, what migration routes they are using or are likely to use (given the limited migration information we could obtain).

The disappointments were of course the failure to obtain another geolcoator with a full migration track. This has been hard for the project team, who has worked tirelessly trying to recapture previous years’ birds. The large number of birds caught during the 2017-2018 season attests to the efforts the team has put in, but luck just wasn’t on our side this time. And movement of birds through the site was also greater this season, meaning that proportionally fewer radio-tracker birds remained around Port Fairy. But we consider that the knowledge and insights gained far outweigh these disappointments, and so look forward to new insights from the project.

The next stage of the project includes the compiling, analysing and writing up of the data. Andrew is on the case for the radio tracking analyses, as he nears the end of his field season and begins the next stage of his honours research. The team has another visit to Japan planned for May 2018. And the project is also continuing in Canberra, where a similar but smaller geolocator and radio tracking program is underway. The sighting of one of last year’s birds at Jerrabomberra during spring 2017 gives us hope that we may retrieve at least one geolocator in Canberra during the 2018-2019 catching season.

Finally, our other great success has been the SE Australian counts, which is a misnomer really as counts now cover all the eastern states. These have steadily built momentum over the last 2 years and now have input from a large number of people across a wide variety of sites and regions. During the November 2017 count, we had the highest snipe count on record of 550 birds at Robe. This was mind-blowing for the team and the counters, given that our maximum counts have never exceeded 200 during the surveys. On September 23, the count total was 585 birds across 84 sites, and on November 25 we had a whopping 1459 snipe across 90 sites. Absolutely fabulous!

The results of the January 20 count are slowly filtering in, and we hope to have more exciting snipe news to report soon.

Lastly, we farewell Rich Chamberlain from the field work teams. He has made an enormous contribution to the Latham’s Snipe project, and has been critical to the successes and experiences we have enjoyed. He will be greatly missed by the team.

Many thanks once again to all our volunteers, both our dedicated counters and our tireless catch team. What a massive difference you have all made!

Happy snipe Christmas!

Hi everyone,

As the end of the year fast approaches, we’re reflecting on another successful year on the snipe project.

We’ve caught record numbers of snipe at Port Fairy and Canberra (even though we didn’t get any more geolocators), had a great involvement in the two south-eastern snipe counts so far this year (stay tuned for results) and the radio-tracking at Port Fairy is delivering some fascinating results.

2018 is also looking busy with a trip to Japan in May to assist in population surveys in Hokkaido and outreach with Japanese schools, plus a lot data analysis.

Thanks for all your efforts and interest this year, and stay tuned! We leave you this year with a great little animation of snipe from a remote camera trap at St Helens from the Basalt to Bay Landcare Network:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UL5xUezs30Q&feature=youtu.be.

 

Image (c) Richard Chamberlain

Update on spring 2017 catching and counting

It has been a hectic time for the Latham’s Snipe project team, so much so that we have been very slack in providing updates! So here they are all bundled into one.

Firstly, the bittersweet news from recent catching. We have experienced phenomenal catching success, with 2 catches of 13 birds and our record-breaking catch last weekend of 14! These numbers way surpass anything from last year and we think are an indication of both our increased experience with this species, and more birds being present in Port Fairy than during the previous years of monitoring. But in all this success, we have only managed to retrieve a single geolocator from bird U8. U8 was first captured on September 11 2016 at Powling Street wetlands and was recaptured on Monday 6th November in the wetland itself. However, the logger battery had died so we sent it to Migrate Technology in England to try and retrieve the data. Alas! The logger battery died in early February, before the bird migrated. What a blow to the team.

A misty morning reveals our biggest catch ever of 14 snipe, with our special visitor Rika from Japan in the background

We have also made 2 other between-year recaptures, but neither bird was fitted with a geolocator last year. So we have reached the end of 2017 after 3 months of intensive catching efforts, to not obtain another migration track. We are sorely disappointed, but will make one last attempt in January 2018.

On the plus side we have deployed 26 radio transmitters which our honours student Andrew is tracking as part of his research project. So far around a third of those birds have stayed in the area, providing an interesting comparison to the radio tracking results from last year.

Andrew tracks our faithful snipe in Port Fairy. Photo Rich Chamberlain

Onto counting, and this year has proved far more successful in terms of count effort, site coverage and relative numbers of snipe observed. We are proud to say that well over 80 sites were counted on September 23, contributed by a large number of fabulous volunteers from across all the eastern states and territories. That produced a count of 584 birds, which compares favourably to last January when 639 birds were counted from a similar number of sites, but at a time of the year when there are typically more birds around at core sites. In contrast, a lot of the other sites which usually hold small numbers of snipe had few or no birds at all. The conditions this year have been quite unusual, with SW Victoria, SE South Australia and SW Tasmania all being quite wet, and everywhere being quite dry, particularly NSW and SE Queensland. We wonder if birds have overflown and overlooked smaller sites when passing through the drier lands to return to their regular and reliable sites.

We look forward to the result of this weekend’s count November 25, to find out if this pattern still holds. Please do join the counts if you can. Contact Birgita or Richard for more information.