Recent Wader Quest grants.

Like everyone else, Wader Quest has suffered from the recent lean times, but, we have still been able to fund some very interesting projects already this year. As the income has been reduced due to a lack of events and tough economic times, squeezing people’s ability to donate or renew Friend subscriptions, we have fallen back on the reserves that we built up over the previous years. We now hope that a return to ‘normal service’ with regard to lockdowns and live events means we will be able to rebuild our funds, although the heartbreaking events in eastern Europe and the global effect on economies is unsettling to say the very least.

We have made grants to two new projects involving new species for us and three projects we have helped before.

Wilson’s Plover Charadrius wilsonia; £1,000

Wilson’s Plover Charadrius wilsonia cinnamominus © Virginia Sanz D’Angelo

There are no good population or trend estimations for this species outside the USA. The only estimation for the subspecies present in Venezuela, C. wilsonia cinnamominus, is of only 6,500–8,500 breeding adults, and this is an extrapolation of abundances in the USA. The population on Marguerita Island, the venue for the project has declined by 61% between 2006 and 2014.

The environments used for reproduction were mainly salt mudflats and sandy beaches. These habitats are structurally different: mudflats have mangroves around them that can serve as a vigilance point to predators, but also offer good protection to chicks once hatched, because they can hide in the mangrove vegetation if in peril. On the other hand, beaches are completely open, with few sites to be used as perches by aerial predators, and in many cases breeding can be associated with the Least tern Sternulla antillarum, or even other shorebirds as the Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus, that can offer anti-predator defense. But, on the contrary, there are few sites to hide the chicks.

Given these low rates of hatching success, the identification of the causes of nest failures and the most productive habitats are key factors for the protection of the breeding areas and the implementation of management practices, to allow for the species recovery.

Fuegian Snipe Gallinago stricklandii; £1,000

Fuegian Snipe Gallinago stricklandii © Fernando Díaz

The Fuegian Snipe is a Near Threatened wader from the southern cone of South America and is considered one of South America’s most poorly known shorebirds. Current knowledge is mostly restricted to historic data from museum specimens and anecdotal records. Over the last two decades, the few reported records for this species have been restricted to the island of Cape Horn and a handful of sporadic records in the Magallanes region of Chilean Patagonia.

Our current knowledge about this species is restricted to only 44 records, from museum specimens and historic sightings, with only a handful of contemporary data. However, an exciting discovery made by our team of a breeding site in the fjords of southern Chile, the northernmost breeding area recorded for the species. identified a breeding site and confirmed the feasibility of capturing them with mist nets, opening the door for addressing many exciting questions for this species.

Historic non-breeding records report this species as having a distribution that extended to south-central Chile, roughly 1000 kilometres further north than any contemporary records, suggesting population declines and thus a reduction in its distribution. A longstanding mystery for this species is its presumed migration. Historically, they have been thought to undergo austral migration, however no concrete evidence exists. The goal of this project is to describe the seasonal movements of Fuegian Snipes, throughout a full annual cycle, by using GPS trackers. In addition, basic aspects of their distribution, biology and ecology remain largely unknown. These trackers will allow us to map the full annual cycle, giving us insight into their annual distribution and habitats they use throughout the year. This will also allow estimates of home range requirements on breeding and wintering grounds for the species. These data can will give a better understanding of the conservation context for this poorly-known species.

Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola; £1,000

Searching for Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola in the Himalayas © Hari Basnet

Wood Snipe is globally Vulnerable and one of the least known wader species that breeds in subalpine and alpine meadows between 3,650–4,520 m. Very limited information available on breeding biology of the Wood Snipe with no first-hand record of nests or its eggs. This project is designed to document the breeding biology and nesting habitats of Wood Snipe along with its relationship with alpine grazing system in Langtang National Park.

The breeding biology of the Wood Snipe remains poorly understood among ornithologists and conservationist with no first hand record of nesting sites. In 2019, with Wader Quest’s support one of the best sites for Wood Snipe habitat was discovered in the Lauribina-Buddha area on the trekking route to Gosainkunda. However, our survey focused on the population estimation along with general ecology of the species. Therefore, taking background information and experience from an earlier study, the proposed project is designed to document the breeding biology of Wood Snipe in Lauribina-Buddha Mandir area in Langtang National Park.

Understanding the breeding biology of these species is essential to allow the formulation of effective conservation and management plans for both the bird and its habitat. Moreover, findings of this study will be the foundation for future monitoring and advance researches like radio or satellite telemetry to study migration patterns in future. In addition, the species breeds in the extreme climactic conditions so this study could create a platform to study Wood Snipe as a climate change indicator species.

Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer; £1,500

Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer © Philipp Maleko

Nordmann’s Greenshanks are endemic to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF), and are among the rarest waders in the world. Due to a small and declining population of only 1,200–2,000 individuals, the species is listed as Endangered . They breed only in the Russian Far East in the RFE, in remote sites along the Sea of Okhotsk coast that contain sparse larch forests and inland bogs for nesting, coastal meadows for brood-rearing, and intertidal mudflats for foraging.

In June and July 2019–2021the project captured and individually colour-ringed breeding adult Nordmann’s Greenshanks. The nests are extremely hard to locate and as they breed at low densities this situation is exacerbated. Prior to the commencement of the project in which 6 nests were found and described only 4 other active nests had ever been found, the most recent being in 1976.

The aim of this project is to learn as much as possible about the needs of Nordmann’s Greenshank on its breeding grounds so that limited remaining habitat can be conserved and managed to prevent the extinction of the species.

Projeto Aves Limícolas, Brazil; £2,000

Collared Plover Charadrius collaris © Karina Ávila

In addition we have made a grant to Projeto Aves Limícolas as we wished to continue our support for the marvellous work they are doing along the São Paulo coast in protecting waders on the beaches by raising awareness about the birds’ needs and encouraging local authorities to close beaches, with a surprising amount of success. These beaches may not be the final destination for many of the waders that appear there, however this project greatly enhances the idea that it is not just the breeding and wintering areas that need protecting, but the entire flyway in between, where suitable habitat still remains, to enable the movement of the birds from one to the other to ensure the survival of the species.