Wader Quest has two main aims; to raise funds to support wader conservation and to raise awareness about the problems waders are facing across the world. As such we do not generally create and run wader conservation projects but our Wader Quest projects support those already in existence. We have listed some of the projects we have supported below; select a title to read more.
Fund raising projects
Fund raising projects
This is how it all started, this was the original Wader Quest project. Elis and Rick Simpson travelled, at their own expense, in search of waders in 14 countries on six continents. The idea of the project was to highlight the problems that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper was facing and to raise money to support the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Spoon-billed Sandpiper captive breeding programme. Target £3,000 – £3,526.06 raised and donated to WWT Slimbridge Spoon-billed Sandpiper captive breeding programme.
Whilst travelling Elis and Rick encountered many distressing problems that a variety of waders were facing. One of those was the Hooded Plover which at that time lost its funding from the Australian government. This led Wader Quest to diversify for the first time and an appeal was launched, alongside the Spoon-billed sandpiper appeal, to raise £1,000 to present to BirdLife Australia for their beach-nesting birds programme. Target £1,000 – £1,316.33 donated to BirdLife Australia beach nesting birds programme.
The Magellanic Plover breeds at the southern tip of the South American cone and migrates north from there in the Austral winter. When planning their travels Elis and Rick became aware that there was a perception among local birders, and conservationists, that the population was declining but the reason for this was unclear. If something needed to be done to manage the conservation of this restricted species then it was paramount to find out what was going wrong and where.
Initially, working with Ricardo Matus in Punta Arenas various birds were given identification flags. This was the first step to establishing longevity and site faithfulness, both of which could be decisive in survival terms. It was discovered that the birds were quite site faithful, suggesting that further investigation by geolocator may be viable, but that they were not above changing their mate each season.
The next stage of the project was to put geolocators on some of the birds in order to find out where they go once they leave the breeding grounds. Wader Quest purchased 5 geolocators which were sent to Ricardo in Chile. He managed to catch 4 plovers and attach the locators to them on the breeding grounds. The drawback with geolocators is that you need to relocate and recapture the birds to remove the apparatus and have the data analysed. In the end only one of the four locators was retrieved and sent to Ron Porter in the USA for analysis.
Ron kindly analysed the data and discovered, against expectation that the bird did not appear to travel north nor did it stay put, either of which we had been prepared for, instead it went due west for only about 50km, possibly to a salt lake in that region.
This project was designed to be a first step to discovering what is happening to the Magellanic Plover and it was hoped that we would be able to provide enough information to set a larger and more expensive project in motion carried out by another, or a combination of other, larger organisations, the like of which would be beyond Wader Quest’s scope. To date sadly as yet this has not happened. Target £3,000 – £3,000 raised some of which remains in a reserve fund for future developments.
A portion of a vital wintering ground for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Khok Kham in Thailand was converted from salt pans into a solar farm. This set alarm bells ringing. The profitability of the salt farms was diminishing and suddenly it became apparent that this classic wintering ground, not just for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper but for many thousands of other species was not secure.
The Birdwatching and Conservation Society of Thailand leapt into action with support from other parties to try to secure a part of the salt pans to preserve and protect in perpetuity. Wader Quest was alarmed by the development fearing that the easily accessed and reliable site for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper may be lost forever and so we decided that we should raise £1K to help to secure the purchase of some salt pan property.
It turns out that this was not as simple as it perhaps should have been and negotiations are still under way. Wader Quest succeeded in reaching its target, however, it soon became clear the process was stalling. Wader Quest does not, as a rule, send money abroad except in certain circumstances and so we have retained the money which is ring-fenced in the reserve fund and will hopefully one day pay for or be part of the funding of a hide on any new reserve that is created. The reason for choosing this option is that we believe that eco-tourism and the involvement of local societies and communities play and important role in the conservation of waders.
If the project never comes to fruition the money will be used in a different way but will specifically benefit the Spoon-billed Sandpiper as that is where the generous public wished their donations to go when they paid in to the appeal. Target £1,000 – £1,000 raised which remains in a reserve fund for the project to progress.
Conservation is dependent upon science. In the same way that a doctor cannot cure you without first discovering what ails you, conservationists cannot protect wildlife if they do not know where and how to do so. That is why the sometimes-controversial practice of trapping, ringing and tagging are so important in this process.
Waders are often caught in large numbers due to their tendency to flock together, something that the coastal gunners in the past used to their advantage. Now the capturing of these birds is for their benefit, not ours, and one of the best ways to capture a large number of birds in one go is by using cannon nets. These rather alarming sounding bits of equipment fire nets over a feeding or roosting flock of birds trapping them on the ground. They are then removed and processed by qualified ringers. One of the drawbacks of these cannon nets is that they have an impact on the environment in that they make a loud explosive noise which startles the birds and will frighten even those beyond the reach of the net.
The Humber Ringing group set about devising an alternative and came up with the ‘phutt net’. Instead of using explosives to fire the nets they devised a technique using compressed air instead, an altogether much quieter method of catching the birds.
These units are in the early stages of development so Wader Quest offered to fund one such unit, of which there will need to be many more. Target £1,500 – £1,500 raised and donated to Humber Wader Ringing Group.
Awareness raising projects
Every year on the first weekend of November we celebrate the Anniversary of the start of Wader Quest which occurred on the 1st of November 2012 when we started our travels to find waders around the world.
The first WCWW was in 2014 the year we finished our travels. Each year since then it has grown in the number of people taking part and also the number of locations and species involved.
The purpose of WCWW is not just to highlight waders and the problems they are facing, but also to celebrate the people who are involved, either professionally or voluntarily, in their conservation. Whether a person’s involvement is as a researcher, a ringer, a conservationist, a birdwatcher or a fundraiser, this event is there to say ‘thank you’ to them and for the participants to say ‘I Care’ about what is happening to the worlds waders. (See the WCWW page for more details.)
- Wirral Wader Festival – This was the first of its kind in the UK in 2016. We took the idea to the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens organisation in the Wirral in the north-west of England and they brought on board the Wirral Borough Council Rangers, the RSPB and the Cheshire Wildlife Trust.
- Wash Wader Festival – Shortly after the Wirral event the Wash Wader Festival took place at Titchwell RSPB reserve in North Norfolk with the Wash Wader Ringing Group and of course the RSPB. It can only be described as a wash out as rain and wind lashed the coast for the entire festival. It has not been repeated but each year since on the 16th of September Wader Quest celebrates Plover Appreciation Day at the reserve in the Parrinder Hide instead.
- Walney Wader Festival – The Cumbria Wildlife Trust decided to hold a Wader Festival event at their South Walney reserve on Walney Island, and invited wader Quest to be part of the celebrations in 2016 and 2017.
- Severn Wader Festival – Wader Quest and the WWT at Slimbridge have been cooperating since Rick and Elis started raising money for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper captive breeding programme in 2012. It was with great pleasure that Wader Quest joined the WWT in celebrating waders at this festival held at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre for the first time in 2017.
It has long been known that all the ‘Eastern’ Willets which breed in the USA depart from those shores for the northern winter, but where they go has not been fully understood. Wader Quest joined forces with the WHSRN, Calidris and Audubon Panama to encourage observers to look for ‘Eastern’ Willets in their non- breeding areas. A number of well-known Wader ID experts have joined the team as well as Joe Smith who is researching this very subject by tagging ‘Eastern’ Willets. (There are more details on the Where’s Willet? page.)