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Far-Eastern Curlew and Whimbrel Satellite Tracking 2017/2018

Far-Eastern Curlew AAD with transmitter at Toorbul, just prior to release

In 2017/18 QWSG and the University of Queensland (UQ) funded 10 tracking devices for use on Far-Eastern Curlew as part of a broader initiative under the Far-Eastern Curlew recovery initiative. The idea being to generate detailed data on migration routes and local movements on non-breeding, staging and breeding locations. Another project sponsored by Fudan University in China has also seen us deploy 5 tracking devices on Whimbrel for the same purpose.

For the Curlew, two types of device were purchased for use in Queensland, five devices were sourced Microwave Telemetry and were standard Platform Terminal Transmitters (PTT’s) using Doppler positioning to establish locations. The other five devices were sourced from Ornitrak and use a more accurate GPS positioning capability. All five devices used on Whimbrel were standard PTT’s from Microwave Telemetry.

In the 2017/18 season PTT’s were deployed on Far-Eastern Curlew at King Street, Thornlands (1), Toorbul (1) and Geoff Skinner Reserve, Wellington Point (2). One Ornitrak device was fitted at Wellington Point. Of these, the device fitted at King Street proved faulty but the remaining devices are all transmitting as expected. For Whimbrel, five PTT’s were deployed at Wellington Point (1) and Toorbul (4), all of which are functioning and transmitting data normally.

Thanks to the many volunteers from the combined QWSG and UQ team who’s dedication to the fieldwork required to deploy these devices has resulted in such success. If you have any questions on the project please contact Jon Coleman

Update 20th October 2018 – the Whimbrel return to Moreton Bay

Two of our three satellite tracked Whimbrel have now returned to Australia, with the third bird still in Papua New Guinea, hopefully following the other two soon and returning. The following maps show the routes taken by all three birds. Two of the birds staged in the Yellow Sea with one taking a more easterly route and staging in Japan. All three birds presumably bred in Northern Russia, north

Migration tracks of all three Whimbrel returning to Moreton Bay from their breeding grounds (c) QWSG 2018

of the Kamchatka peninsular and post breeding spent time in the south of Kamchatka, presumably feeding up before migrating south.  While one bird went back to the Yellow Sea, spending time in South Korea, the other two flew south to Papua New Guinea where they spent over two week on the coast before returning to Brisbane. The bird that spent time in South Korea on southward migration also flew to Papua New Guinea where the bird is still present, and will presumably finish the final stage of his journey soon. Thanks to Fudan University in China for providing the PTT’s for the tracking as part of a broader study and thank you to the many QWSG volunteers who helped with the catching of these birds in what has been an incredibly successful exercise in tracking the migration routes of this species.



Update 5th August 2018

AAD, full migration track for the 2018 migration

AAK full migration track for the 2018 migration

Both of our Esatern Curlews, AAK and AAD have now returned to Australia. Both birds stayed at Rudong, near Shanghai in China until the 26th July when they started heading south towards Australia. AAD, the bird from Toorbul still has a little way to go after arriving in Gladstone in the early hours of the 4th August. From there, its just a short hop back to Toorbul after the rest of the journey.

AAK is back in southern Moreton Bay already having arrived in the afternoon of the 3rd August. AAK also left Rudong on the 26th July with the China to Australia leg taking between 8 and 9 days for the two birds. The full migration tracks for both birds are in the included images.




Whimbrel migration, the southward migration starts!

In other news, the three Whimbrel, from our joint project with Fudan University have now started their southward migration, leaving their breeding grounds and now staging in southern Kamchatka, presumably preparing for their return to Australia.






Update 10th June 2018

Eastern Curlew tracks as of 10th June 2018 (c) QWSG 2018

The Curlew have remained at the sites in Northern China and Southern Russia until very recently. While AAH has remained close to Jiamusi near the Chinese /Russian border and is presumably breeding,  AAD the bird near Khabarovsk in Russia is now back on the Yellow Sea. Whether AAD did not breed, or is a failed breeder we will not know but its interesting to see the bird already starting its southward migration while the other bird remains on the breeding grounds.




Whinbrel tracks as of 10th June 2018 (c) QWSG 2018

Of the five Whimbrel being tracked, three have now made it onto the breeding grounds. Those three individuals staged in Northern China, South Korea and Japan and then all moved north along the Kamchatka peninsular with two now in coastal Chukotka and one in far north Kamchatka. They’ve been in the same locations for some days now so are assumed to be on their breeding grounds.

The remaining two whimbrel stopped transmitting before reaching the Yellow Sea with one ceasing to function as the bird approached the yellow sea. The other bird encountered bad weather in the Pacific and tried to reach the Philippines but the transmitter ceased while the bird was still offshore.


Update 25th April 2018

DBL, with transmitter, being released at Toorbul

This update is dedicated to the Whimbrel!

The whimbrel, caught and satellite tagged as part of the joint project with Fudan University, QWSG and UQ are now on the move. Thanks to Fenliang Kuang for the following information from the transmitters which Fudan University  provided for this study.

DBL was the first to leave Toorbul, Moreton Bay on the 17th April and is currently approaching South Korea. This bird flew over 5,500km in the first 5-6 days of its journey. DBN left on the 18th April covering just over 6,000km in the first 4-5 days of its journey and is en-route still, to either Japan or the Yellow Sea. DBC left on the 19th April, closely followed by DBS who departed on the 20th. DBC appears to be heading for the Japanese coast while DBS seems headed for the Yellow Sea.

Initial Migration tracks for four migrating Whimbre

Some fantastic data and remarkable speeds recorded. We have had very few international flag sightings of Whimbrel although one on the Pribilof Islands, off the coast of Alaska may give a clue as to where at least some of our Whimbrel go to breed.

In contrast to the above information, the fifth bird DAC has not left yet and is still moving around the Pumicestone Passage at Toorbul. Roosting at the artificial roost, or in the Mangrove banks in the middle of the channel and feeding on the mudflats in the main channel and surrounding network of creeks. Time will tell, whether this bird has chosen not to migrate or whether it is just a late starter.

Thanks again to Fenliang for keeping us informed as our Whimbrel hit the road and we start learning about what this species really does when it migrates from our local beaches.

Briefly, on our two Eastern Curlew which were in residence near the Chinese, Russian Border. Both are still at the same locations and ranging within a very small area suggesting that the may be at their destination and on their breeding grounds.

Update 15th April 2018.

As of the 15th April the Whimbrel have still not departed and are moving locally in the Toorbul and Wellington Point areas. The Curlews have continued their migration with two birds (AAD and AAK) on the Chinese/Russian border and now potentially on their breeding grounds. The third bird (AAH), was last recorded on Okinawa Island, Japan. AAD and AAK have the Microwave Telemetry devices which transmit regularly irrespective of location. AAH has an Ornitrak device, which uses 3G to share its data. We therefore now await this bird coming back into range when the data will be uploaded from the device.


Eastern Curlew Migration activity to 15th April 2018

Since the last update AAD left Taiwan on the 20th March and moved to Rudong, China, then to the North Korean/ Chinese Border for several days. AAD is now near a town called Khabarovsk in Russia, some 8,700km from Brisbane. AAK moved from Rudong, China to Jindo, South Korea for several days and then flew to Jiamusi near the Chinese /Russian border. AAK has remained there for over a week now. This is approximately 8,500km from Brisbane.



Update 17th March 2018.

Movements of AAD in the Toorbul area prior to migration

The Whimbrel are all still local to Toorbul and Wellington Point and have not left yet. The curlew have started to migrate now with two of the four birds with active devices en-route already. Locally, the devices have provided detailed information on roosting and feeding areas in Moreton Bay. At Toorbul, there appear to be several roosting locations in the Toorbul area with AAD feeding locally in the southern Pumicestone Passage. However the bird clearly spent the majority of its time at or adjacent to the artificial roost.

Further South, the two birds with PTT’s fitted at Geoff Skinner wetlands, Wellington Point roost at Geoff Skinner but are regularly crossing Moreton Bay to feed on the shoreline of Peel Island and

Local movements of AAJ and AAK in the Wellington Point area

near Dunwich. AAJ, was a sub-adult bird and while we don’t expect that one to migrate we will learn an enormous amount about local movements over the coming year as he moves around the local area. AAK has now migrated north and AAH is expected to leave Moreton Bay any time now.

Both AAD from Toorbul and AAK from Wellington Point left Moreton Bay between the 6th and 8th March and took almost identical paths north along the Queensland coast to Cape York. Both birds then headed north, over Papua New Guinea towards Guam before turning westwards towards the coast of Asia.

Migration tracks for AAD and AAK

AAD is now on the east coast of Taiwan having arrived there on the 15th March, taking approximately 7 days from Brisbane. AAK moved further north and is staging near Rudong in China, also arriving on the 15th March after 7 days of flying. AAH, the bird with Ornitrak device is expected to migrate soon and I’ll provide more information in the next update. The map on the left shows the migration track to date.