International Migratory Shorebirds:
The migratory shorebirds have been back on King Island since last October, and disappointingly, smaller numbers of Ruddy Turnstone. However, last November when the Victorian Wader Study Group visited the island they captured 30 Turnstone with geolocators in six days. They now have excellent data for the last 10 years and there are suggestions of changes taking place in the Ruddy Turnstone migratory behaviour. Tagging of Turnstone will be an ongoing project, as they nearly all return to the same locations every summer which makes studying them much easier.
Geolocators are very small electronic devices attached to the birds leg which are light sensitive. As daylight and dark are monitored, the location of the birds can be determined, as the day lengths vary on the birds journey to and from the Arctic. The geolocator is attached to the left tibia while the right leg has an engraved orange flag on the tibia and a blue flag on the tarsus.
Have you seen the Ruddy Turnstone with WMA engraved on his orange flag? He is also carrying a yellow geolocator and has spent a considerable amount of time at Newcastle in NSW. He has moved on again. Has he come back to King Island, as the Turnstone usually fly back to the same place every year. Is he lost? Has anyone seen him? Maybe he thinks Newcastle is a better place to stay. He was captured in February 2015 at Burgess Bay.
Ruddy Turnstone on the KI shoreline. Can you spot the Geolocator? Photo by Margaret Bennett.
Latham’s Snipe: (Previously known as Japanese Snipe)
During the last few years there has been a considerable amount of time and research in Victoria locating the whereabouts of Latham’s Snipe when they return to Australia after their migration. A few Snipe have been captured at Port Fairy and geolocators applied. In the long term this should help us to learn where they go on migration as well as in Australia. Latham’s Snipe depart earlier than most migratory birds, leaving southern Australia as early as February. Has anyone seen any this summer?
Breeding on King Island, the young birds are being badly attacked by feral cats and Forest Ravens in the rookeries particularly as they start to come out of their burrows. There have even been unconfirmed reports of Ravens learning to behave like an adult shearwater on their return to the rookery with food, to entice the young out of the burrows. Then of course, there is the annual ‘harvest’ by people, which is still legal in Tasmania. We need to be putting more time and research into protecting these birds before they too become endangered.
Australian Migrants and local King Island Shorebirds:
There has been a small successful nesting colony of Fairy Tern at Yellow Rock. This is good news as these birds are endangered in Tasmania.
The larger Crested Tern have had a good breeding season. A colony of about 700 pair nested at Burgess Bay and a much larger colony was successful at Bold Head this year. Most of the chicks from these colonies have recently fledged.
The Oystercatchers, Pied and Sooty, along with the Hooded Plover (vulnerable) and the Red-capped Plover who live on King Island full time have had a hard year breeding successfully this summer. With rough seas, high tides and the ever-present threat of feral cats, these birds seem to be doing it tougher every year. The islanders have to get behind the cat eradication programme before these birds become another extinction.