Guest blog by Jason A. Mobley PhD, Coordinator AQUASIS Coastal Birds Project Brazil/Projecto Aves Costeiras Brasil
In just three years, World Shorebirds Day has become a popular way to communicate with the public about shorebird population declines and the importance of long-term monitoring in the international shorebird conservation effort. In Brazil, WSD has been fully embraced by various organizations as an opportunity to highlight the plight of shorebirds and divulge their commitment to conservation. Social media in Brazil was blowing up this year as NGOs like the Associação de Pesquisa e Preservação de Ecossistemas Aquáticos (Aquasis), SAVE, the Fundação Mamíferos Aquáticos and many other individuals and organizations, including the bird conservation center of the federal government, Centro Nacional de Pesquisa para a Conservação das Aves Silvestres (CEMAVE) of the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), pledged their support of WSD by participating in shorebird counts and promoting the event.
For our part, the Aquasis Coastal Birds Conservation Project (CBPB) team commemorated World Shorebirds Day 2016 with a youth outreach event at our headquarters and by organizing shorebird counts at two locations in the semi-arid coastal region of northeastern Brazil. On September 5th, Aquasis CBPB shorebird biologists Onofre Monteiro and Gabriela Ramires hosted colleagues Marcel Lucena and Kalyl Silvino from Ceará State University (UECE) and Bruno Araujo and Giovanna Rodrigues from the Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB) to execute a census at the Banco dos Cajuais, a very important stopover and wintering area for various Nearctic migrants located in eastern Ceará, Brazil. On this day the group recorded 17 shorebird species, the most abundant being Red Knot with nearly 600 individuals and 7 positive flag code re-sightings of birds marked in the United States, Canada, and Brazil, followed by Short-billed Dowitcher with 325 individuals. The Banco dos Cajuais is also an important breeding site for certain resident shorebird species and the group even registered the presence of fledgling American Oystercatcher and Wilson’s Plover during their WSD survey.
On September 6th, Gabriela and Onofre joined forces with members of the Projeto Brigada da Natureza, a community outreach group devoted to organizing environmentally themed activities with local kids between the ages of 9 to 14, to realize a WSD event at Aquasis headquarters in Caucaia, CE. The event included presentations about shorebird ecology and conservation issues, followed by a simulated migration in which the participants acted as flocks of shorebirds facing different challenges such as shrinking habitat, resource availability, and threats such as hunting and domestic animals throughout their arduous journey. By all accounts the activity was a great success and will be replicated in our future outreach efforts.
Also on September 6th, I was joined by colleagues Ricardo Duarte, Marcelo Câmara Rodrigues and Jorge Luiz Dantas from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) to commemorate WSD by exploring a poorly known site called Porto do Mangue that we have reason to believe is also important for shorebirds in the northeast region of Brazil. This area is located on the northwest coast of Rio Grande do Norte state, just 75km, as the Semipalmated Sandpiper flies east, from the Banco dos Cajuais. On this day, our group registered 15 shorebird species, probably 16 had we managed to get better looks at the flocks of peeps moving about, but this time of year the migrants always seem especially wary and won’t let us get too close no matter how patient we are. One of the most notable differences between the two sites we surveyed for WSD, was the occurrence of Red Knot, which we had hoped to register at Porto do Mangue because there are still so few areas in the semi-arid coastline of Brazil where we know the species may occur. On the other hand, we found far greater numbers of Willet and Whimbrel at Porto do Mangue, an interesting contrast that warrants further observation.
As evidenced by the record number of checklists submitted this year, World Shorebirds Day is steadily gaining ground everywhere and helping to unite people from all sorts of backgrounds and places around the world in a singular effort to support shorebird monitoring as a principal tool in coastal bird conservation. Aquasis CBPB is proud to be a part of this movement and will continue to participate in Global Shorebird Counting and work even harder to develop our capacity for conducting long-term monitoring research, supporting the creation of new environmentally protected areas, and coordinating the development and execution of management plans for existing conservation units where we can have a positive impact on protecting shorebirds in northeastern Brazil.