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.

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:


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.

Jodie receives Environmental Achiever Award

Congratulations to Jodie for recently receiving an Environmental Achievers Individual Award from the Glenelg-Hopkins CMA. Jodie has been involved in monitoring, and more recently trying to protect, the Powling Street wetlands for the last 20 years, and has been a driving force of the snipe project since its inception.

Later this year Jodie will head to government house for the state awards. Congratulations and good luck from the snipe team!

This from the Glenelg-Hopkins CMA ‘As an educator, biodiversity officer and writer, Jodie has been a member of the South Beach Wetlands and Landcare Group in Port Fairy since the 1980’s. Jodie’s commitment to conservation and the community education around Port Fairy has provided an outstanding contribution to the protecting and enhancement of the area’s environment’.


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Jodie receiving her award (via the Glenelg-Hopkins Facebook page


Latham’s snipe team’s second visit to Japan

By Richard Chamberlain and Jodie Honan

Jodie and Richard have just returned from a second trip to Japan to participate in a survey of Latham’s Snipe around the Yufutsu plain in Tomakomai. This is the same location that the team joined Japanese researchers from the Wild Bird Society of Japan (WBSJ) last year as part of their catching program and fitting of satellite transmitters at Lake Benten in July. From the visit it is apparent that the area not only constitutes an important staging area for the species but is also a breeding site for a number of individuals. Unfortunately, results from the survey show that the number of individuals present in the area has declined by about 28% when compared to the same survey in 2001.

Japanese and Australian researchers together with some of the 30 volunteers from the Latham’s Snipe survey. (Photo: WBSJ)

Continue reading Latham’s snipe team’s second visit to Japan