This project surveyed the wading birds in the Khairusovo–Belogolovaya estuary, on the Western coast of Kamchatka. This estuary is a key location for protected wader species on the East Asian–Australasian migratory flyway.
Previous informal ornithological investigations in 2010 and 2012 indicated that the area – with its 47 square kilometres of mudflats – was the largest wader stop-over on the western coast of the Peninsula, and that it could consequently be in need of formal protection.
The key to deciding if the estuary should become a protected area was to determine whether the Spoon-billed sandpiper, Great knot and other endangered wading species were using the area to forage after breeding before their long southward migration. If so, there would be grounds to prepare the necessary documents and evidence to establish the area as a sanctuary for these important visitors.
During fieldwork in 2016 the team counted the number of the species in the area, observed and monitored birds marked with leg bands to learn how long individuals foraged there, and sampled the invertebrates in the birds’ most popular feeding spots to identify important prey species.
The project ultimately confirmed that the Khairusovo–Belogolovaya estuary is one of the largest and most important stopovers on the Kamchatka Peninsula for the Great knot. The mudflats were also identified as an important location for the Spoon-billed sandpiper, and a key breeding and migration area for the Far-Eastern curlew.
The next step for the researchers is to pursue the formation of a special protected area in the estuary to ensure these elegant waders may continue to comb the mud flats in search of much-needed fuel for their epic annual journeys.
Project 150510745 location - Russia, Asia