Making connections across borders, languages, and many miles to build a collective capacity for shorebird conservation
Posted on: March 7, 2016
Author: Brad Winn
Lagoa do Peixe National Park sits 500 miles south of the Tropic of Capricorn on the Atlantic Coast of Southern Brazil. The Park, one of the early Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network sites (WHSRN) to be dedicated, was recognized in 1990 as an area of International Importance. That status was given mostly for the large numbers of Hudsonian Godwit and Red Knot using the vast coastal system as a staging location during migration.
Manomet’s Habitats for Shorebirds project staff and collaborators have been conducting a shorebird workshop here for the last several days. Our partner, SAVE-Brasil, along with the personnel from the Park have been working hard to pull this gathering of professional shorebird biologists, coastal land managers, university professors, and graduate students together in this wildlife-rich landscape.
Our goal for this workshop is to help create an atmosphere of collaboration, understanding, and broadened appreciation for shorebirds. We hope that the participants will come away with the tools needed to implement active management and protective measures that will help stabilize and increase imperiled populations. We gave presentations on shorebird ecology, migration and reproduction threats, management strategies, and conservation mechanisms.
Lagoa do Peixe National Park, like all protected areas, has management-related challenges to maintaining optimum conditions for shorebirds. We had many valuable discussions with all of the experts in the room on approaches to habitat management that could alleviate threats to shorebirds in some areas of the park, while exploring ways to maintain favorable conditions that exist for species like Buff-breasted Sandpipers that now rely on some level of cattle grazing for ideal habitat conditions.
Rob Clay, Director of the WHSRN Executive Office, joined us at this workshop, which gave him an opportunity to connect with managers of the Lagoa do Peixe, engage with contacts from Laguna de Rocha, a WHSRN sister site in Uruguay, and collaborate with us on developing approaches to management needs of both sites.
The southern coast of Brazil, and the coast of Uruguay are known to support the majority of the world’s Buff-breasted Sandpipers or “Buffy’s.” Juliana Almeida, our host and partner from the nonprofit SAVE-Brasil, conducted her dissertation work here in and around the park. Juliana banded a Buffy on its breeding site on the north coast of Alaska and then found the same bird on her study site in Brazil several months later. This was equivalent to winning the megabucks lottery for a shorebird biologist.
A big surprise to us was finding 66 Semipalmated Sandpipers at the mouth of the tidal lagoon. We checked to see if any were carrying bands or geolocators from Manomet’s population connectivity study across the arctic, but didn’t find any. With the Semipalmated Sandpipers was a rather lost Least Sandpiper, well south of its normal winter range along the north coast of South America.
The mouth of the lagoon on incoming tide was very active with many long-distance migrant shorebirds. We had a flock of more than 200 Hudsonian Godwit standing in shallow water with about 75 Red Knots. A flock of nearly 500 American Oystercatchers at roost was a real treat, and reminded us of all of the good work by the species U.S. Atlantic working group led by our own Shiloh Schulte. The species is at the end of its breeding season here, and we had a close encounter with an adult, shepherding two large chicks that walked boldly by us as we completed a census of the lagoon mouth.
The shorebird workshop group, pictured above, represents participants from the United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. Despite the challenges of conversing between three different languages, we all came away enriched by the experience, and rewarded with a much deeper understanding of the regional issues and challenges of maintaining and managing important shorebird habitat that supports birds shared by all nations and peoples of the Atlantic Flyway.