Western Atlantic Shorebird Association


These news reports are filed by WASA project members.

Students in Argentina learn about shorebirds

On April 20, students from Tomas Espora School in San Antonio Oeste, Rio Negro, Argentina went on the first of a series of planned field trips to local habitats used by shorebirds. Together with members of Fundación Inalafquen (FI), they went to a beach located 100 meters away from the school. They learned to use binoculars and scopes, and saw a small flock of Greater Yellowlegs, Hudsonian Godwits and American Oystercatchers.

Students have started a letter-writting exchange with students in schools in Massachusetts, United States, as part of the "Save the Shorebirds" program run by the Manomet Centre for Conservation Sciences. This program is being coordinated in South America by Adriana Cafferata, from the Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA). This activity is the result of a workshop "The Coastal Wetlands of Bahia San Antonio", organized by FI and FVSA. The workshop included the field trip where participants played educational games and observed migratory and resident birds.

A number of teachers decided to start the letter exchange program to allow their students to learn about the history, geography, and social and political organization of the different areas visited by the birds, as well as learning about the problems affecting the habitats used by these birds during their migration. Both students and teachers were highly enthusiastic, and we expect to have more news about their activities soon.

International Shorebird Banding Expeditions, 1999

Since 1995 international teams under general direction of Allan Baker from Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, have carried out a concerted programme of research on Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) populations along the Atlantic coast of the Americas. This year, we visited Lagoa do Peixe National Park in southern Brazil from April 21 to May 5. There we have been work with Ines do Nascimento, Scherizino Scherer and Paulo Antas of CEMAVE, who have been banding shorebirds for many years in the National Park. Our visit was timed to coincide with later stages of the northwards migration, but even so we found many fewer Red Knots than expected from earlier work. The birds were using ‘snail meadows’ surrounding lagoons or Atlantic seashore habitats. We were able to catch and band 91 Red Knots, of which 19 of were fitted with radio-transmitters.

Simultaneously, at Delaware Bay, USA, teams started to catch, band and radio-track arriving Red Knots. By early June, when most of the birds had departed for the breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic, about 7,200 birds have been banded, 2600 of which were Red Knots marked with year and locality-specific combinations of colour bands. Analysis of weight data revealed that rates of fattening in Delaware Bay are high for Red Knots, and points to the importance of horseshoe crab eggs in providing the vital reserves of fat necessary for successful breeding in the Arctic. This year the migration was delayed by persistent head winds, and many birds arrived late or did not make it to Delaware Bay. Only two of 19 Red Knots radio-tagged in Brazil were detected at Delaware Bay about one month after their capture in Lagoa do Peixe.

An additional 65 radio-transmitters were fitted to Red Knots in New Jersey by the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife staff lead by Larry Niles and Kathy Clark. Larry then obtained funding for an aerial search in the arctic in late-June, and ably assisted by Mark Peck from the Royal Ontario Museum they lead the assault on the final frontier. The team struck ‘gold’ in flights around Southampton Island at the head of Hudson Bay, and detected eight transmitter birds one of which was trapped on the nest.

International Banding Project (ISBP) Expedition to Tierra del Fuego, February 2000

The ISBP team has just completed successful aerial censuses of shorebird flocks in the Chilean portion of Tierra del Fuego. They have now moved to Argentina to conduct aerial and ground surveys.

This expedition is reproducing censuses taken in 1988 of the wintering populations in this region. The new census data will yield information about population trends over the intervening 12 year period. It will help scientists and managers establish whether, and by how much, shorebird populations have declined recently.

The expedition is composed of ISBP members from Argentina, United States and Canada, and it is being led by Larry Niles, New Jersey Fish, Game and Wildlife. In addition to estimating flock sizes of Red Knots, members are looking for colour-banded birds. The census results and band resightings are being uploaded regularly over the Internet to the WASA Web site. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has provided the expedition with a satellite phone which enables the team to connect to the Internet in the field. The expedition will be in Tierra del Fuego until mid-February.

HORSESHOE CRABS: No-fishing sanctuary established in Delaware Bay

The Commerce Department has finalized plans to establish a horseshoe crab sanctuary in Delaware Bay that will ban fishing to protect the ancient crustaceans.

Beginning March 7, the roughly rectangular 1,500-acre sanctuary will ban horseshoe crab fishing in federal waters south of Atlantic City, N.J., to just north of Ocean City, Md. Commerce proposed a 2,400-square-mile area last August for the sanctuary, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission successfully adopted guidelines to reduce horseshoe crab bait catch by 25 percent.

The Carl N. Schuster Jr. Horseshoe Crab Reserve, honoring a horseshoe crab biologist and researcher, "is critically important for the preservation of horseshoe crabs, the well-being of migratory birds and the commitment to preserve our ocean's resources," said Delaware Sen. Tom Carper (D).

The new reserve sits at the "epicenter" of horseshoe crabbing, said Paul Perra, a fisheries biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service. Horseshoe crabs as a species are 350 million years old and fill a variety of needs. Fishermen use them for bait for conch, eel and whelk fishing, migratory birds need them for food, and the pharmaceutical industry finds their blood remarkably useful in detecting bacteria in drugs and medical equipment that holds human blood. To obtain the blood, a portion of it is extracted and the crabs returned to sea alive.


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