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).
Birgita talks to a team of volunteers from Tafe. Photo Jodie Honan.
Ready to go! Photo Jodie Honan.
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.
R2 resighted a year later at Jerrabomberra. Photo Con Boekel.
Two team members out catching at dawn.
Canberra snipe team ready for processing.
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!