Tag Archives: Pacific Golden Plover

Asia’s Shorebirds in Decline

Asia’s shorebirds in decline.

1-DSC09023-001

Common Redshanks roosting in the mangroves at Sungei Buloh during high tides. Fortunately their yearly numbers are still good.

Many of Asia’s migratory shorebirds are in decline. This is especially so for species migrating along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, a major migratory corridor that includes Singapore. In the past decade, conservationists have identified the loss of coastal wetland habitats, especially in eastern Asia as among the key reasons driving the decline of migratory shorebirds. Illegal and unsustainable hunting across many parts of the region is also a major threat to migratory species.

The Nature Society (Singapore), in a recent interview on Channel News Asia’s “Singapore Today”, highlighted the decline of migratory shorebirds in Singapore, and more broadly in the region, based on the data collected from our bird censuses. Many viewers were alarmed by the absolute low numbers displayed for the Pacific Golden Plovers, Lesser Sand Plovers and Whimbrels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first Annual Bird Census was conducted by the Nature Society in March 1986 and had been faithfully carried out every March since. These single day counts from sites surveyed across Singapore provided us with 33 years of continuous data to determine the population trends of the country’s bird fauna.

Every year about 200 Whimbrels winter over at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

 

Together with the data from the Annual Waterbird Census, which started in 1990, the declining numbers of shorebirds such as the Pacific Golden Plovers, Marsh Sandpipers, Lesser Sand Plovers and Curlew Sandpipers are very clear to field observers. The loss of Serangoon Estuary and Senoko Wetlands is thought to have contributed to the decline of many shorebirds in Singapore. The Common Redshank has suffered less, and there are still good numbers annually, fortunately. 

1-P1080952

Some Pacific Golden Plovers choose to roost inland or even on the fish farms at the Straits of Johor instead of the dry ponds at Sungei Buloh.

Their numbers were in the thousands in the 1990s, but the counts were in their tens or low hundreds during recent surveys.

 

20191218_205317

Figure 1. Abundance trends for Pacific Golden Plover (1997-2017) based on Annual Bird Census data.

20191218_205344

Figure 2. Abundance trends for Marsh Sandpiper (1997-2017) based on Annual Bird Census data.

20191218_205426

Figure 3. Abundance trends for Common Redshanks (1997-2017) based on Annual Bird Census data.

Seletar Jetties

Rich coastal ecosytems like the Seletar mudflats must be conserved as they are irreplaceable.

So how can we stop or reverse these trends for our declining shorebirds? For a start we must continue work to conserve all our remaining wetlands like the rich coastal ecosystems at Mandai Mudflats, Seletar and Chek Java, which are highly irreplaceable. More importantly, we would need to continue with our long term monitoring work through bird censuses as tools to guide our ongoing and future conservation efforts.

Reference. NSS Bird Group Annual Bird Census 1995-2019.

Yishun Dam and the returning Shorebirds.

Text and Photos by Mohamad Zahidi. 1st Oct, 2016.

There are a few places in Singapore we can go for shorebirds but I chose Yishun Dam as its close to where I live. For the shorebirds that flew thousands of miles from their Arctic breeding ground, the rich sand banks and mud flats provide a great refueling stop and a natural habitat to document them.

august-06Some of the early migrants to Yishun Dam. Small numbers of the Lesser Sand Plovers were seen.(6 Aug 2016).

c-august-15Increased in numbers in the following week. (15 Aug 2016)

I normally spend few hours playing the ‘waiting game’ under the hot sun and try to scan that area for some lifer or uncommon shorebird. The birds there also tend to forage for food at Khatib Bongsu and at some smaller island nearby.

img-20160825-wa0001Shorebirds shooting at low tide under the hot sun at the Yishun Dam. Photo: AlanOwYong

 

This year I am so determined to see the uncommon Greater Sand Plover. During my last Pelagic Trip in May, I was asking around about this Plover which I dipped during my unofficial Big Year in 2014. FrancisYap and See Toh suggested that I should go visit YD frequently in the month of Aug so that I can have a better chance to see the Greater Sand Plover there. 

september-22Lesser Sand Plovers at the sandbank. Background is the shoreline of Khatib Bongsu.

I finally decided to visit Yishun Dam (sandbank) somewhere in late July in order to see some early migrants with my birding kaki, David Tan. We ended up finding the Great-Billed Heron which Alan OwYong said was a new record for Yishun Dam (sandbank). The Western Osprey also made a brief appearance towards the end of our morning session there.

c-july-23Great–billed Heron adjusting to a new standing position. (23 July 2016)

a-july-23
Western Osprey was seen hunting for fish (23 July 2016)

b-july-23Western Osprey dropped its catch in mid-air (23 July 2016)

The news that a Great Knot landed in Yishun was sent to many by Francis Yap on a Saturday morning while I was at work. It attracted many photographers and avid birdwatchers to Yishun Dam again. It was time for me to get some new shot of this globally endangered star bird. There was a chance of getting the Greater Sand Plover as well.

a-august-15

b-august-15Great Knot was seen flying with the Lesser Sand Plover (15 Aug 2016).

Finally, on 22 August Lawrence Cher alerted us about Greater Sand Plover spotted in Yishun Dam. I was eager to go down asap but only managed to do it on 26 Aug 2016 despite the haze that morning.

aug-26Greater Sand Plover foraging along the shoreline (26 Aug 2016)

september-17-1Spotted another Greater Sand Plover at the sandbank. (17 Sep 2016)

Yishun Dam is a perfect place to see these great shorebirds and really hope that it will not be lost to development. I would like to thank Singapore Bird Group for the invite to write this article.

Below are some of my collection of birds taken recently at Yishun Dam.

september-22Common Sandpiper with baby cobra in threat posture (22 Sep 2016)

b-sep-22A pair of Pacific Golden Plover (22 Sep 2016)

a-sep-22Terek Sandpipers foraging on sandbank. (22 Sep 2016), Their numbers are in decline over the years.

oct-5-2014A juvenile Yellow Wagtail was spotted catching insects at Yishun Dam (5 Oct 2014)

sep-28-2014-1Ruddy Turnstone (28 Sep 2014)

oct-23-2013Close-up shot of Ruddy Turnstone (5 Oct 2013)

Reference: A Naturalsit’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited 2013.