On A Whimbrel & A Prayer #13

Detour before home

About 2 weeks ago, we were all expecting KS to soon be back home in Broome, but it has surprised us again with another detour.

170925 Whimbrel migration tracks
Migration tracks & summary of satellite-tagged Whimbrels, KU, KS, JX & LA as of 25 September, 2017

Whimbrel KS

After flying 4,900km for 6 days non-stop from North Korea, KS suddenly made a north-east turn before heading offshore from South Sulawesi, Indonesia on September 12th. Within 6 hours, KS again traveled at its maximum speed of 55kph for 330km to arrive at a reef area in South East Sulawesi.

Figure 1. KS’s sudden twist in direction at Sulawesi

KS has been staying at South East Sulawesi for 13 days since midnight of September 13th. Besides the beautiful coral reef and sandy beaches, it is also using farmland again. According to weather charts, there haven’t been any days with southerly winds blowing in the past 13 days. We hope KS has been able to rest and refuel with plenty of energy, ready to head back to Broome.

Figure 2. Whimbrel Update #13
Figure 2. Local movement of KS in South East Sulawesi

Whimbrel KU

Let’s not forget KU – the other successful runner returning from the breeding grounds, has stayed at Yingkou, Liaoning Province for 50 days! This is the longest period for a stopover between our two Whimbrels, KS and KU, which made it to the breeding grounds.

KU appears to be in no real hurry at all for its journey home to Australia compared to the race of northward migration. In Yingkou, KU is spending time in both aquaculture ponds and intertidal mudflats.

Figure 3. Whimbrel Update #13
Figure 3. KU’s movement at Yingkou, Liaoning Province

We are also still receiving regular signals from JX and LA from Broome and Eighty Mile Beach.


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:
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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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