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GLIN==> USFWS Shorebird Sister Schools eNews for May

                              SHOREBIRD eNEWS
             From the Shorebird Sister Schools E-mail Network

Welcome to the Shorebird Sister Schools information exchange for shorebird
enthusiasts. This newsletter provides information about bird science,
shorebird sightings, education programs, initiatives, funding
opportunities, and professional development.

In the interest of keeping the file size small, the table of contents is
not interactive. It does provide a quick review of the materials included
and highlights items with short turn-around times.

I hope you find the information useful and look forward to hearing about
your programs.

In This Shorebird eNews Update:
1.   What's Happening at the Website
        Update: Post your sightings now!
        Tracking Projects
2.   The All-Bird Bulletin
        "A Blueprint for the Future of Migratory Birds"
3.   May's Playa Post!
4.   WHSRN News
5.    Yamashina Institute for Ornithology
        New bird banding website

1.  What's Happening at the Website

In case you're new to the Shorebird Sister Schools Program (SSSP), or
haven't been to the website in a while, sssp.fws.gov is undergoing many
great changes. First, our contractor has upgraded the services for the SSSP
web site which will increase its reliability. This change should enable
shorebird sightings to be posted quickly and easily.  Give it a try. Post
your sightings. The migration is on and we want to know where the birds

New features on the website include:

Under Reference Desk:
- an expanded list of shorebird profiles,
- information on five shorebird flyways -- American Atlantic, American
Central, American Pacific,  Central Pacific, East Asian-Australasian

     Under Tracking:
- Shorebird Tracking Projects: see real science in action.  Monitor the
movements of the
American oystercatcher, Western sandpiper, and Long-billed curlew*

* for the 21 April to 5 May Long-billed curlew update, please scroll to the
bottom of the newsletter.

2. The All-Bird Bulletin

The All-Bird Bulletin is a news and information-sharing publication for
participants of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. The lead
article for April 2004 announces the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's new
10-year strategic plan for the Service's bird conservation work over the
next decade. To download an electronic copy of the plan, A Blueprint for
the Future of Migratory Birds visit:

For the April issue of The All-Bird Bulletin go to

To receive The All-Bird Bulletin, contact Roxanne_Bogart@fws.gov

3. May's Playa Post!

In this issue:

1. PLJV/State Planning Meetings in Full Swing
2. PLJV Board to Meet in Colby, Kansas Next Month
3. Playa Festivals Plentiful in Texas and Oklahoma
4. Kansas NRCS Promoting WRP for Playas
5. Colorado Educators Shore Up on Playa Lakes
6. Landowner Tells PLJV Story on Texas Radio

Follow this link for the Playa Post:

4. WHSRN News

Vega Picos - 15 April 2004
The Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences announced the winner of the
Pablo Canevari Memorial Award** for 2004: Xicoténcatl Vega Picos, Director
of Conservation in Sinaloa, México, for Pronatura Noroeste Mar de Cortés,
and Associate Professor of Ecology and Sustainable Development at ITESM
Campus Sinaloa.   Xicoténcatl -- "Xico" to many --  was recognized for his
work in conserving shorebirds in Northwest Mexico.

**Pablo Canevari was the first Director of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird
Reserve Network (WHSRN), a scientist, a skilled illustrator, a colleague,
and a dear friend to those who knew him.

For more information about Xicoténcatl Vega and Pablo Canevari, as well as
previous winners of the Canevari Award, visit the WHSRN website,

In late March, the WHSRN Council met in Spokane, Washington, USA, as part
of the 69th North American Wildlife Conference.  At the meeting, the WHSRN
Strategic Plan for 2004-2008 was approved. A copy of the plan can be found
at: http://www.manomet.org/WHSRN/strategic_plan.htm

5. Yamashina Institute for Ornithology - New bird banding website

The Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, the authorized organization for
bird banding in Japan, has a new English page for Banding & Color
Leg-flagging. To visit the page go to:



* Long-billed curlew ? updates from the field. Submitted by: Suzanne D.
Assistant Nongame Migratory Bird Coordinator, US Fish & Wildlife Service

21 April 2004: There weren't any curlews on the Oberlin route.  The next
day I drove out to Waubay National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota.  It is
not in the curlew survey area but they do have a lot of other shorebird
species in the area.  The city of Milbank puts on a Shorebird Festival
during the summer and uses both Waubay and Big Stone NWR (in Minnesota) to
teach folks about shorebirds.  They practice identification skills and
learn about their natural history.  Yesterday I spent in Jamestown, North
Dakota.  It was a rainy day so I spent it getting caught up on paper work
and washing clothes.  This morning I went to Long Lake NWR, outside of
Moffit, North Dakota, to meet with the biologist and a graduate student who
will be working on long-billed curlew in the southwestern part of the state
next year.  We got out into the field and saw, among other things, a badger
and three pectoral sandpipers.

22 April 2004: Today I drove a route outside of Stanton, North Dakota.  No
curlews!  This was the area that Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery
spent the winter of 1804-05.  This was home to the Hidatsa and Mandan and
where Sacagawea was living before she joined the expedition.  They
described 178 plants and 122 animals that were formerly unknown to science.
One of them was the long-billed curlew.  Evidently they first described it
from near Great Falls, Montana.  Long-billed curlews used to be hunted.  I
wonder if Lewis and Clark ate any?  I wonder what they taste like.

23 April 2004:  I was outside of Dickinson, North Dakota today.  Still no
curlews!!!  But there were a pair of burrowing owls whose burrow was right
along side of the road so I got a great look at them.  There were also two
sharp-tailed grouse.  They are among the species that use a lek.  These are
traditional "dancing grounds" where the males come to strut their stuff and
the females come choose who they want to mate with.  When there are a bunch
of males together and a female appears, the males puff up their air sacs
and start drumming their feet on the ground and making a cool sound.  It is
quite spectacular and worth getting up early to see.  There are a few
shorebird species which have a lek mating system as well.  One are ruffs,
an Old World species, which look quite gaudy in pictures.  The other is the
buff-breasted sandpiper which breed up along the arctic coasts, winter in
South America and migrate through the middle of the continent.  Like
long-billed curlew, buff-breasted sandpipers are a grassland species.

24 April 2004: Up by Cartwright, North Dakota today.  Curlews aren't here
either.  Today was extremely windy though.  Usually on a day like today I
wouldn't have surveyed?no point because you could have barely heard a
curlew calling and they would have probably been hunkered down and trying
to stay out of the wind if there were any here.  That is what any sensible
animal should have been doing!  Guess biologists aren't that sensible!
But, I have run out of time to redo the survey because I head through
Montana tomorrow on my way to the Canadian border.

25 April 2004: On my way through last night I was driving along the road
and something caught my eye?I circled back and sure enough!  It was a
long-billed curlew!  It was calling and making circle flights near a little
wet meadow.  Since I was almost at Malta, Montana I decided to stop there
for the night.  Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge is outside of Malta so
this morning I went out and drove along their tour route.  There has been a
biologist out there who has done some banding of long-billed curlews and
found some interesting information out about them so I knew they were
there.  And I found some!  Right there along the auto tour route there were
12 all paired up.  It was very exciting to get a chance to watch them!
Most of the time they were feeding but occasionally one would stretch its
wings up high and straight over its back!  The females were bigger than the
males and had longer bills.  Tomorrow I cross the border and start on the
Canadian portion of the survey.  Looking forward to it!

26 April 2004: I crossed the border this morning at Wild Horse, Alberta.
It's a small border crossing and was relatively easy.  I drove around the
area and went to Medicine Hat where I exchanged money so I could have some
local currency.  Then I headed for Manyberries where I was supposed to meet
with the Alberta provincial wildlife biologist.  This week several of the
biologists from around the area are getting together for a meeting to talk
about the sage grouse lek surveys they will be doing in the area.  I have
been invited to come along tomorrow morning as this is the only time I will
have to talk with Richard Quinlan and get my maps and routes for the curlew
surveys.  We had a pre-survey briefing with the teams?there are about 30 of
us and our instructions for the next day's adventure.  This is an isolated
population of sage grouse and has been declining rapidly.  Last year there
were several birds that died of West Nile Virus, a disease carried by
mosquitoes.  Richard and I then went and checked out the sage grouse lek we
will be watching tomorrow.  It looks like it is active?we found fresh scat
and some feathers.  We will have to get up at about 430 am and walk into it
before sunrise.  Early to bed for me!

27 April 2004: This morning was exciting!  We got out to the lek early and
just about the time we had decided the birds weren't going to show up we
had 3 males come in!  One of the males put on quite a show, puffing up his
air sacs and dancing around.  The other two put on half hearted attempts.
No females showed up though.  Several hours later they flew off.  We
collected some feathers for one of the researchers who is doing some DNA
work and then headed back for a breakfast, some hot coffee and some curlew
planning.  Richard lined me out with maps and suggested routes and I headed
out to check out the routes for the next day.  I will have 20 routes and
the provincial biologists will do another 20.  Since I only have until 15
May, I will have to double up on some and do two routes a day.  I will be
doing a lot of driving and seeing a lot of interesting country.  This
afternoon I drove around for awhile and actually saw some curlews!  This is
going to be great!

28 April 2004: My route this morning is right along the south east corner
of the province near the Wild Horse border crossing.  It is sleeting and
raining and blowing this morning.  Very miserable!  I didn't see any
curlews either.  But I did see several pairs of marbled godwits, another
grassland nesting species we are curious about.  When I got done with the
route I drove the next day's to make sure I could find it ok in the
morning.  I saw a badger right next to the road.  It didn't seem to be
bothered by me so I got a really good look at it.

29 April 2004: My route this morning was near Onefour.  There is a station
there where they do research on cattle.  This area down here is mostly
ranching lands with some oil and gas drilling and a bit of farming.  Towns
are pretty far between and the services in them is limited.  You have to
make sure your gas tank is full when you have the chance to fill up!  I am
doing pretty well with most of the conversions?litres to gallons,
kilometers to miles.  Only one I am having problems with is temperatures.
I know 20oC is a comfortable temperature, 35oC is hot and 0oC is freezing.
This morning was wonderfully still and sharp?one of those perfect mornings
after a storm.  I finally heard long-billed curlews on my route!  Several
of them!  But so far I haven't seen any.  This morning I also had a pair of
golden eagles, coyotes yapping, a prairie falcon, a ferruginous hawk and a
short eared owl on the route.  The scenery is wonderful too?wide open

30 April 2004:  This morning I ran my last route in the Manyberries area.
I have enjoyed the community.  Good people, wonderful hospitality and some
nice wide-open land.  My route this morning was right outside of town and I
finally saw long-billed curlews on my route!  I actually ended up with 2
pairs and several others were heard in the distance.  Good day!  Tonight I
am in Cardston and have a route near Hillspring tomorrow.  I got here late
tonight so wasn't able to scout the route.  Hope I can find it!

1 May 2004:  Well, I found the route this morning.  There weren't any
curlews on it but there were a few marbled godwits.  The range wide survey
is based on a lot of the work done here in Alberta in 2001.  The results of
their study gave an Alberta population estimate of over 20,000 birds?which
is what the entire population was thought to be!  After their survey, the
provincial biologists have continued to monitor some of the routes to get
trend information.  It will be interesting to see how the years compare.  I
don't know how many birds were seen on the routes I am running but will
find out once I have completed the surveys.

2 May 2004: My route today was in an area outside of Pincher Creek.  The
first part of the route is being developed into a wind farm.  The wind does
blow here and using it to produce energy is seen as an alternative to
producing energy from coal.  There were several wind towers in the process
of being erected.  It was interesting to see them lying on the ground
waiting for the crane to come put them together.  They are huge!  From what
the provincial biologist was telling me, the consultant working on the wind
farm has been seeing curlews in the area.  At the other end of the route is
a site called Head Smashed In.  It is a buffalo jump site which was used to
herd bison over the cliff so the early native people could have meat.  It
was used for many thousands of years and is a World Heritage Site.  Pretty
impressive.  The best thing about the route was that it was a haven for
curlews.  I had about a dozen birds that were either seen or heard across
the 40 km route.  Amazing!  Makes up for the routes where I haven't had
any.  I also had a good sighting of a coyote out walking along a pasture.
It looked pretty fat?I imagine they feed on the Richardson's ground
squirrels (which are everywhere).  The ground squirrels here are like the
prairie dog and are considered a keystone species?one that a lot of other
species depend on.  All sorts of animals will eat them and species like
burrowing owls will use their mounds to nest in.  Noisy little creatures.
Most of this area is still native grasslands and is quite beautiful.

3 May 2004: Outside of Nobleford today.  No curlews but again, lots of
marbled godwits.  I could see where people could confuse them if they just
got a glimpse.  Both are relatively large, brown and long billed.  If you
didn't get a good look at the bill you might not see that the marbled
godwits' bill is straight and the curlews' is curved downwards.  Speaking
of which, there is an excellent identification guide for shorebirds on
line?its part of the Shorebird Sister Schools Program Pacific Region's
electronic field trip.  I hope people get a chance to view it.  It gives a
lot of great hints about characteristics to look for to help tell these
birds apart.  Heard from a couple of the other teams today.  One down in
Texas had curlews on their routes.  Another group working in the U.S. saw
24 in one stop!  I don't know where that was though.  Glad folks are seeing
them?I hope they are having fun and enjoying the countryside too.

4 May 2004: Today was busy.  I did two routes.  First I was in the
Porcupine Hills west of Claresholm?beautiful country but no curlews.  A lot
of young calves?its mostly ranches up in this area.  The second route was a
bit north near Nanton.  It was pretty much farming country.  I did see
curlews along this route.  It is hard doing back-to-back routes.  After
waking up at 4 am, spending about 6 hours on the first route and driving a
lot, the second route was a lot harder to stay awake for!  When I started
the heat waves were pretty bad and the sun was pretty strong.  Towards the
end of the route the wind picked up, storm clouds gathered and the
temperature dropped.  I kept an eye out for hail but nothing happened.
When I finished it began to spit rain so I would have had to stop anyway.

5 May 2004:  I spent the night in Brooks.  It is a fairly good sized town
west of Medicine Hat that caters to the oil and gas industry.  It was the
first night that I had trouble finding a hotel that wasn't filled up.
Almost thought I was going to have to spend it in the cab of the truck.  I
woke up at 4 am to get to my site and got all ready to go.  When I opened
the door it was snowing out!  Since we can't survey in the snow, I got the
morning off!  What a nice surprise.  It will give me a chance to get caught
up on my paper work.

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