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Members: Below is the official press release concerning the,
satellite-tracked, Whimbrel (Machi) and its tragic demise on the island of
Guadeloupe, West Indies. I will post updates as the "out fall" from this
event develop. Please note: I may have "garbled" my prior post concerning
recently shot shorebirds. Per this PR, the Whimbrel was shot on Guadeloupe,
whereas the banded Red knot was shot in French Guiana on the NE coast of
South America. If the date we were provided is correct, the REKN was shot in
May, thus exacerbating and expanding the impact of shorebird shooting in
this hemisphere.  

 

Patrick Leary, Fernandina Beach, FL

 

Press Release: 

 

"Scientists at the Center for Conservation Biology at The College of William
and Mary & Virginia Commonwealth University learned today that a whimbrel
that they had been tracking via satellite for 2 years as part of a migration
study had been shot by a hunting party this morning on the Caribbean island
of Guadeloupe (French West Indies).  The bird named "Machi" had just flown
through Tropical Storm Maria and made landfall on Montserrat before flying
to Guadeloupe.  Machi had been tracked for over 27,000 miles (44,000 km)
back and forth between breeding grounds in the Hudson Bay Lowlands of Canada
to wintering grounds on the coast of Brazil.  The bird was tracked on 7
nonstop flights of more than 2,000 miles.  During the spring of 2010, Machi
flew more than 3,400 miles directly from Brazil to South Carolina.  Machi
serves as an example of birds that interact with many landscapes and
cultures throughout the year and a reminder of how international cooperation
is required for their continued existence.

 

Guadeloupe, Martinique and Barbados continue to operate "shooting swamps"
some of which are artificial wetlands created to attract migrant shorebirds
for sport shooting during fall migration.  It is estimated that tens of
thousands of shorebirds continue to be taken annually by hunting clubs on
just these three islands.  This practice is a throwback to more than a
century ago when gunners hunted shorebirds throughout the Americas.  The
Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed, in part, to protect dwindling numbers
of birds that migrate across country borders.  Operated as a French overseas
department, both Guadeloupe and Martinique are part of the European Union
and are not party to the Treaty.  Barbados, once a British colony is now an
independent state and also not party to the Treaty.  The last Eskimo Curlew
known to science was shot on Barbados in 1963.  Shorebird hunting within
these areas continues to be unregulated to the present time. Conservation
organizations continue to work toward some compromise that will reduce
pressures on declining species.

 

Worldwide, many shorebird populations are experiencing dramatic declines.
Most of the migratory shorebird species breeding in eastern North America
and the Arctic pass over the Caribbean region during the late summer and
early fall on their way to wintering grounds.  When they encounter severe
storms the birds use the islands as refuges before moving on to their final
destinations.  Hunting clubs take advantage of these events and shoot large
numbers of downed birds following the passage of these storms.  During the
2009 and 2010 fall migrations, Machi did not stop on any of the islands but
flew directly from Virginia to Paramaribo, Suriname before moving on to
winter near Sao Luis, Brazil.  It appears that the encounter with Tropical
Storm Maria caused the bird to stop on Guadeloupe.

 

Machi contributed a great deal to what we know about whimbrel migration
along the western Atlantic.  Satellite tracks of this bird over 4 full
migrations (http://www.ccb-wm.org/programs/migration/Whimbrel/whimbrel.htm)
linked breeding and wintering areas, defined migration routes, identified
important migration staging areas, and demonstrated how these birds interact
with major tropical systems.  This tracking project is a collaborative
effort between The Center for Conservation Biology, The Nature Conservancy,
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources,
the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, and Manomet Center for
Conservation Sciences."

 

Posted by:

 

Fletcher Smith

Research Biologist

The Center for Conservation Biology

The College of William and Mary/Virginia Commonwealth University
Williamsburg, VA

757-221-1617 (Office)

 


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