For the first time ever the world is watching the Latham’s Snipe mysterious journey from Japan to Australia.
Five satellite tracked Latham’s Snipe are currently making their 9000 kilometre journey from Japan to Southern Australia, with one now as close as Papua, and the public can now follow their progress via an innovative research project being done in conjunction with Jerrabomberra Wetlands.
The Latham’s Snipe is a migratory shorebird that spends half the year in South-East Australia and the other half in Japan. “Amazingly, it can take as short as two days to travel from Japan to Australia, and usually arrives in early Spring. Every year in Canberra, we are lucky to welcome this species to Jerrabomberra Wetlands”, says Lori Gould, Program Manager at the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust. Snipe beat their mottled wings halfway around the world to take refuge amongst the reeds next to Kingston Foreshore.
Due to the migratory nature of these birds, conservation of the wild population presents special challenges. Dr Birgita Hansen, Latham’s Snipe researcher from Federation University in Victoria, explains:
“With their major habitats spread over both hemispheres, and vital refueling stopovers scattered in between locations, it is difficult to manage the species in a conservation sense. In addition, not much is known about the use of their habitats and behaviour”.
For the first time, a handful of these birds have been fitted with satellite trackers to establish information about their flight path between Japan and Australia, as well as where they disperse to once reaching their destinations. As the Latham’s Snipe is a global species, the initiative to track them involves the collaboration of Research and Environment groups based in four locations. That is, the Wild Bird Society of Japan, the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust in Canberra, South Beach Wetlands and Landcare Group (SBWLG) in Port Fairy and Federation University Australia in Ballarat, Victoria.
Until recently, these groups were separately studying the same population of birds. Excitingly, they have now combined their efforts in ‘The Snipe Project’ by sharing research methods, awareness building and some funding.
The Wild Bird Society of Japan (WBSJ) Japan has led the way, and in July of this year they attached satellite trackers to five Latham’s Snipe in Hokkaido. Representatives of the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust, SBWLG and Federation University, visited the location at the time to learn more about the process and share knowledge about the much loved bird.
With the help of Facebook translate, updates of the current journey of the five birds can be tracked via the WBSJ Facebook page. One of these individuals is nearing Australia now.
Once the population of Latham’s Snipe settle into their Australian routines, four more individuals will be caught and fitted with trackers to observe their movements both within Australia and their long journey back to Japan. The birds will be captured over the summer months at Jerrabomberra Wetlands by an experienced ornithological team led by Dr Birgita Hansen, who has extensive experience in bird banding and capture of the Latham’s Snipe, and in partnership with the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust. Three satellite trackers were funded by the ACT Government and one by the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust.
In the meantime, follow the movements of the jet-setting Latham’s Snipes online, and keep an eye out for blue and orange leg flags around Jerrabomberra Wetlands during our Snipe field surveys. Who knows, one of these long-beaked caramel birds could be a member of the infamous five making their way to their second summer home.
The WBSJ have asked that bird surveyors keep an eye out for blue leg flags and particular leg flags while they are undertaking surveys. Further details of these can be provided by emailing Lori Gould at firstname.lastname@example.org from the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust.
Media contact: Lori Gould, 0439 030 058