From May-August June 2019, we began our second year of fieldwork studying Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) and Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) at the Bay of Sсhastye (“Happiness”), in the remote southwestern corner of the Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Far East (approx. 53.46500 N, 140.91100 E).
Our most important result was the discovery of a Nordmann’s Greenshank nest, which had never been found on the Russian mainland, and had not been seen anywhere since 1976. This discovery garnered considerable attention in the media, including an article in the New York Times. Unlike most shorebird species, Nordmann’s Greenshanks place their nests in trees. The one we found, situated on a branch nearly four meters up a larch tree, was constructed of twigs and lined with lichens that helped camouflage the eggs.
Nordmann’s Greenshank, one of the most endangered shorebirds in the world, is thought to have a population of fewer than 2000 individuals and nest only in Russia. They have experienced a steep population decline in recent decades, linked largely to habitat destruction and illegal hunting in Southeast Asia where they spend their winters. Unfortunately the nest we found failed, with at least two of the four eggs depredated by a crow. This demonstrates that the threats to the survival of this endangered species extend beyond the problems encountered during migration and on the wintering grounds.
We extensively observed, photographed, and recorded several Nordmann’s Greenshank behaviors such as foraging, mating, and bathing, as well as took the first-ever video of a Nordmann’s Greenshank nest, the first photos of an incubating adult, and recorded the first vocalizations of chicks. We also captured, banded, and released 7 adult greenshanks and 8 of their chicks, laying the groundwork for future tagging and tracking efforts. By early August, 3 of the adults had already been seen by birdwatchers in Shanghai, China, some 3,000 kilometers (1.864 miles) to the south.
With respect to Common Redshank, we recovered six of the eight geolocators initially deployed at the Bay of Happiness in 2018. Data from these tags will reveal the annual migration route and stopover locations for this common but relatively unstudied shorebird. We also captured, banded, and released 17 adults, and found 23 nests. At least four nests fledged chicks, with a fifth nest still active when we left at the end of the season.
We anticipate returning to the Bay of Happiness in 2020 to continue studying both of these species, with the hopes to learn more about their breeding ecology and perhaps equip more birds with tracking devices.
This important work was funded by the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership Small Grant Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and with additional support from the University of Florida School of Natural Resources, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, theInstitute of Aquatic and Ecological Problems (Russian Academy of Sciences), BirdsRussia, and the Federal Scientific Center of East Asian Terrestrial Biodiversity (Russian Academy of Sciences).
Photo 1. A Nordmann’s Greenshank on the nest. Photograph © Philipp Maleko
Photo 2. The first color photograph of a Nordmann’s Greenshank nest, and the first nest of this species found in more than forty years. Photograph © Konstantin Maslovskii
Photo 3. A Nordmann’s Greenshank chick. Photograph © Vladimir Pronkevich
Article prepared by
Dr. Vladimir Pronkevich (Institute of Aquatic and Ecological Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences, Khabarovsk)
Mr. Philipp Maleko (University of Florida, Gainesville)
Mr. Konstantin Maslovskii (Federal Scientific Center of East Asian Terrestrial Biodiversity, Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok)