Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hope lives on

Excuse me for the cheesy title, but Twan thought this would be an outstanding story to share with everyone, and I wholeheartedly agree. The below tale is from a posting on the Shorebirds listserv. You can see Whimbrels at the Coastal Center at Milford Point and Stratford Point each summer, even if they are just flying by on a distant journey like Hope. Every time I have seen a Whimbrel in the past two years I have thought of her and this project. This is the sort of work we hope (no pun intended) to do at Connecticut Audubon Society in future years with species important to our state.

The odyssey of Hope, a whimbrel carrying a satellite transmitter, continues
to amaze scientists. Hope was originally captured on 19 May, 2009 on the
southern Delmarva Peninsula of Virginia. She left Virginia on May 26 and
since that time has logged more than 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) flying
between a breeding territory on the MacKenzie River near Alaska and a winter
territory on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. On Friday (8 April,
2011), Hope returned to Virginia following a 75 hour, 1,850 mile (2,900
kilometer) flight out over the Atlantic Ocean.

During the course of two full migration cycles, Hope has clearly
demonstrated how distant locations are interconnected in the life of
migratory species and how their conservation requires collaboration on a
multi-national scale. For three consecutive springs, Hope has returned to
the same creek in Virginia where she has fed on fiddler crabs preparing for
a transcontinental flight to her breeding grounds. The creek, located in
the the Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve, is part of the
Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, a network of international
sites considered critical to populations of declining shorebirds. Hope's
breeding grounds on the MacKenzie River are part of an International
Important Bird Area and one of the areas of highest conservation value in
Canada. Efforts are ongoing to protect the area considered by many to be
one of the most pristine watersheds remaining in North America. For the
past 2 years, Hope has wintered at Great Pond, a Birdlife International
Important Bird Area on St. Croix. Protection of long-distance migrants like
Hope requires that countries recognize the importance of vulnerable
populations and work together toward effective conservation solutions.

Hope is one of several birds that have been fitted with state of the art
9.5-gram, satellite transmitters in a collaborative effort by the Center for
Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary, Virginia
Commonwealth University and the Virginia Coast Reserve of The Nature
Conservancy to discover migratory routes that connect breeding and winter
areas and to identify en route migratory staging areas that are critical to
the conservation of this declining species.

Updated tracking maps may be viewed online.

Satellite tracking represents only one aspect of a broader, integrated
investigation of whimbrel migration. During the past 4 years, the Center
for Conservation in partnership with The Nature Conservancy has used
conventional transmitters to examine stopover duration, conducted aerial
surveys to estimate seasonal numbers, collected feather samples to locate
summer and winter areas through stable-isotope analysis, and has initiated a
whimbrel watch program. Continued research is planned to further link
populations across staging, breeding, and wintering areas. Funding has been
provided by The Nature Conservancy, the Center for Conservation Biology, The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management
Program, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Toronto Ornithological
Club, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Willow Beach Field
Naturalists, and the Northern Neck Audubon Society.

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