I’m a zoologist turned pilot intending to fly a microlight aircraft following the migratory route of the Red-necked Stint to promote urgent action for shorebird conservation.
Weighing about as much as a Tim Tam, the Red-necked Stint is the smallest of about 36 migratory Australian shorebird species – a group of mostly coastal wetland-dwelling birds that perform the longest feats of migration known to the natural world.
Joined by flocks of shorebirds numbering in the millions, these tiny birds fly 25,000 kilometres every year from Australia to breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra and back following the migratory route known as the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF). Some will fly the equivalent distance to the moon over the course of their lifetimes.
Sadly, due to habitat loss this precious migratory phenomenon is under threat. Without intervention some shorebird species, like the Far Eastern Curlew and Curlew Sandpiper, are predicted to face extinction in as little as a decade.
By mimicking the Red-necked Stints’ feat of endurance, I aim to build a narrative that will inspire awe and captivate a broad international audience outside of the birdwatching and scientific communities.
The flight from Australia to Siberia will be a 12,500km journey that will take me around three months to complete. I am planning to test my wings on a shorter flight from Melbourne to Broome—visiting key Australian shorebird sites to produce a documentary film—at the beginning of 2019 before heading to Siberia in 2022.
Using creative means, Wing Threads: Flight to the Tundra aims to collaborate with people from science, aviation, the arts and adventure to conduct a research project and produce a documentary film to raise the public profile of threats facing shorebirds, promote eco-stewardship and contribute to global scientific research.
Header image: Flock of Red-necked Stints (Credit: Dan Weller) Used with permission.