On A Whimbrel & A Prayer #10

Seeing is believing

Whimbrel JX

“Well we don’t need to wait until JX’s PTT [satellite transmitter] turns on again….” said Chris Hassell and Kerry Hadley at Wader Beach, Roebuck Bay, Broome – JX is the first Whimbrel back home! (Header photo)

170812 Whimbrel Migration tracks
Migration tracks & summary of satellite-tagged Whimbrels, KU, KS, JX & LA as of 12 August, 2017

It was a real excitement to see JX appear at Roebuck Bay (12:01pm) well before we received the signal from the satellite transmitter later in the same afternoon (15:21pm).

JX was spotted roosting at Wader Beach during high tide, mixing with a flock of Knots, Godwits, and Sandpipers. JX is looking a bit thin (abdominal profile = 2) after the continuous flight from Indonesia (Figure 1.).

Whimbrel JX's migration path to Roebuck Bay
Figure 1. Satellite signals showing JX’s home run back to Roebuck Bay

In order to reach Broome at 12:01pm on 12th August, JX made a second 1,091km flight from Bima, Indonesia. Based on the last signal JX sent from Bima at 19:00 on 10th August, JX could have either stayed at Bima for a short while, or it flew directly back to Broome. If JX maintained its speed at 41.3kph as per its earlier flight from Palawan to Bima, it could have reached Broome on 11th August at around 21:00 (even before I was typing Project Update #9)!

Complete migration path of whimbrel JX
Figure 2. The complete migration route of JX

Observation from the field shows that the satellite transmitter and antenna are still in the perfect position. Given the sunny weather in Broome, the transmitter must have been well charged by solar power to show us JX’s movement around the Bay after it came home.

JX is now in the good hands (eyes) of the Broome local birdwatchers. After such an amazing journey, we hope JX will replenish and continue to thrive in Roebuck Bay.

It would of course be even better if JX’s transmitter continues to work until the 201 migration season!


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.
Nyangumarta logo
Kara Jarri Rangers logo
Katherine Leung
Katherine Leung is an ecologist from Hong Kong and one of the leaders of the satellite-tracking projects run by the Australasian Wader Studies Group in north-west Australia since 2016.
Image credits:
Book cover for A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

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Join Milly on her microlight and discover how amazing and awesome migratory shorebirds are!

Milly Formby is a zoologist and illustrator of the children’s book A Shorebird Flying Adventure. Available now through CSIRO Publishing.

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