Tracking the Oriental Pratincole – Update #22

And they’re off…. AGAIN

This project continues to produce fantastic results. We still have three birds with functioning Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs), SHE and SEC are currently on location on their 2019 breeding sites, and from the data it seems they have returned to the exact location.  Despite continued infrequent transmissions, we have enough information to confidently locate SEP in Sumatra at the time of this report.

Also when looking at Australian movements since the commencement of this project, the birds seem to utilised very similar areas for both years only expanding around 200km either side of their 2019 range (Figure 2).

Google Earth map showing migration tracks of three oriental pratincoles between February 2019 and March 2020
Figure 1. Migration tracks of three satellite-tagged Oriental Pratincoles, SHE, SEC and SEP, February 2019 to March 2020.
Map or northern Australia showing movements of Oriental Pratincoles fitted with satelilte tags between February 2019 to March 2020
Figure 2. Australian tracks of all Oriental Praticoles from February 2019 to March 2020. **Note: White tracks recording SUN's movements in February 2019 are not listed in the legend due to PTT failure shortly after reaching Taiwan.

Oriental Pratincoles on the move

First to leave Australian shores again!

Leg Flag SHE (PTT 83595)

In February 2019, SHE left Australia around the 16th February, 8 days after being fitted with a PTT, ten days before any of the other birds in this project. This year SHE took flight over Eighty Mile Beach, 15km south of the initial release site, towards Java around the 4th February. 

The tracks leading to this year’s northward flight are as follows –

Returned to Australia on the 21st December 2019 via the Legune Coastal Floodplain, 103km north of Kununurra. From around the 23rd of December to the 9th January 2020, SHE remained in the Northern Territory, reaching as far as the northern fringes of the Barkly Tableland. SHE then headed southwest toward Eighty Mile Beach and from the 16th to the 31st January, was located approximately 1600 km further south around the area near Marble Bar and Port Hedland before heading back towards Anna Plains station and leaving Australia around the 4th February.

The next accurate location data on the 7th February positioned SHE over the South China Sea 130 km east of the Malaysian coast, by the 13th February SHE was once again in Cambodia 130 km west of the 2019 Tonle Sap Lake breeding site. On the 15th February data showed SHE at the actual 2019 breeding site until around the 23rd February with a short flight 160km north west to the nearby province of Banteay Meanchey returning the it’s Tonle Sap breeding site on the 26th February. SHE remains at this site at the time of this report and is currently 4000 km from the 2019 release site. 

Map of all migration tracks of Oriental Pratincole, SHE, since being fitted with a satellite tag in February 2019
Figure 3. All migration track of Oriental Pratincole, SHE, since being fitted with a satellite tag (PTT) in February 2019. She has completed one full migration (green and blue lines) and started a second northward migration in 2020 (yellow line).
Map of Australian movements of Oriental Pratincole, SHE as of 21st December 2019
Figure 4. Oriental Pratincole SHE's movements in Australia as of 21st December, 2019, before leaving on northward migration in 2020 from almost the same location as it did in 2019 (yellow line).
Map of Oriental Pratincole, SHE's location in Tonle Sap Reserve Cambodia, 26th February 2020
Figure 5. SHE's location in Tonle Sap Reserve, Cambodia as of 26th February 2020, 130km west of its breeding site in 2019. Green tracks indicate movements in 2019. Yellow tracks indicate current movements in 2020.

Back in Prey Veng Province

SEC (PTT 83596)

After arriving back in Australia on the 9th December, SEC remained mainly around the banks of Lake Argyle approximately 80 km south of Kununurra until the 7th January. The next five days or so, SEC spent in the region between Mt House and Mornington Stations, situated between Lake Argyle and Derby. SEC then headed south with data positioning SEC on Anna Plains Station from around the 14th January, approximately 15 km from the 2019 release site.

SEC remained between Anna Plains, Mandora Marsh and further south towards the Great Sandy Desert before embarking on its next flight north around the 18th February, flying almost directly over the 2019 release site on its way towards Java. The next accurate reading on the 27th February found SEC 7 km east of the tin mining town of Sungai Lembing in the Kuantan District in Malaysia.  Following a further flight north, SEC returned to its 2019 breeding site in the Prey Veng Province, Cambodia 35 km east of Phnom Penh, around the 8th March. SEC remains in this area at the time of this report and is 3870 km from the 2019 release site.

Map of northward and southward migration tracks of Oriental Pratincole, SEC, since being fitted with a satelllite transmitter in February 2019
Figure 6. All migration tracks for Oriental Pratincole, SEC since being fitted with a PTT in February 2019. Map shows flight path for north and south migration in 2019 (pink and dark pink lines) and current northward migration in 2020 (dark purple line).
Map showing Australian movements of Oriental Pratincole, SEC, since returning to Australia in 2019 and departure in February 2020
Figure 7. Australian movements of Oriental Pratincole, SEC since returning to Australia in 2019 on the banks of Lake Argyle before flying south to Anna Plains. SEC departed Australia on northward migration on 18th February, 2020.
Map showing location of Oriental Pratincole, SEC, in Prey Veng Province, Cambodia, 12th March 2020
Figure 8. Oriental Pratincole, SEC's current location in Prey Veng Province, Cambodia as of 12th March 2020. This is the same breeding location that SEC used in 2019.

Never Say Die


Leg Flag SEP (PTT 83593)

With hopes of a return to India, limited data continues to taunt the team and have us wondering how much longer before this PTT stops transmitting signals altogether!

The first accurate reading received in Australia after the 2019 breeding season was received on the 2nd January 2020. On the 24th January, SEP was situated 75 km north east of the Eighty Mile Beach release site then 121 km south west of this on the 2nd February. Inaccurate readings suggest that SEP may have ventured as far south as Warroora Station 15 km southwest of Coral Bay in Western Australia around the 9th February, further analysis is needed to determine how accurate these signals were. However, what can be confirmed is that on the 12th March, SEP was located 3130 km from the Eighty Mile Beach release site in Sumatra, 33 km west of Bengkalis in the Bengkalis Regency.

Map showing all tracks of Oriental Pratincole, SEP, since being fitted with a satellite transmitter in February 2019
Figure 9. All tracks of Oriental Pratincole, SEP, since being fitted with a satellite transmitter in February, 2019. Based on limited data. One complete migration and northward flight for 2020 represented by the salmon-pink line. Last known location in Sumatra.
Map showing movements on Oriental Pratincole, SEP in Australia between 2019 and 2020
Figure 10. Movements of Oriental Pratincole, SEP, in Australia in 2019 (pink) and 2020 (orange).
Map showing zoomed in view of location of Oriental Pratincole, SEP's location in Sumatra, Indonesia, 12th March 2020
Figure 11. Close-up of SEP's location in Sumatra, Indonesia as of 12th March, 2020.

The journey has come to an end

With input from Chung-Yu Chiang

Leg Flag SUN (PTT 83591)

We have not received any signals from SUN since the 1st September, 2019.

Map showing migration path of Oriental Pratincole, SUN, from Australia to Taiwan in 2019
Figure 12. The migration path of Oriental Pratincole, SUN, on migration in 2019 before unexplained signal failures.

Download a PDF copy of this report – Oriental Pratincole Satellite Tracking Report 22


Clive Minton

The extensive and expensive satellite tracking program we have set up in NWA has only been possible through the efforts and generosity of a large number of people and organizations. It is difficult to know where to start with the formal acknowledgements so I will list them – but not in any particular order of priority.

  1. The members of the AWSG NWA 2019 Wader and Tern Expedition and similar NWA expeditions in previous years, are particularly thanked for their efforts in the field in catching, banding and deploying transmitters on a range of species.
  2. Landowners are especially thanked for permission to go onto their property to enable us to catch various species in order to deploy the satellite transmitters. In particular we thank Anna Plains Station for giving us the freedom to roam over large areas of grazed grassland when counting and catching target species.
  3. AWSG acknowledges the Yawuru People via the offices of Nyamba Buru Yawuru Limited for permission to catch birds on the shores of Roebuck Bay, traditional lands of the Yawuru people.
  4. AWSG acknowledges the Karajarri and Nyangumarta people for permission to catch birds to be marked for this project on the shores of 80 Mile Beach, traditional lands of the Karajarri and Nyangumarta.
  5. The cost of the satellite transmitters, which cost around $5000 each, and the satellite downloading costs (around $1000-1500 per month) have been met by a variety of sources. Private individuals (Charles Allen and Doris Graham) have made most generous individual contributions. Kate Gorringe-Smith and her team of artists involved in The Overwintering Project made a large, generous donation from funds raised during their various public exhibitions. The annual NWA Expedition members, collectively, also provided significant funds each year.
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Grace Maglio
Grace began working in conservation in the late 1990’s, but it wasn’t until she stopped in Broome halfway into a trip around Australia in 2013, that she discovered migratory shorebirds. She was spellbound and has been promoting their conservation ever since.
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