Latham's snipe study produces 'significant' results about the bird's movements

A bird study that began in Port Fairy has produced some “significant results” with one migratory bird tracked travelling from Japan to Australia in three days. 

The water bird Latham’s snipe, which visits Port Fairy annually, has been tracked as part of a four-year international study.

Successful: Dr Hansen, from the Latham’s Snipe Project, shared research findings and future plans for the study on the weekend, which has included collaborations with other south-eastern Australia locations and Japan.

Successful: Dr Hansen, from the Latham’s Snipe Project, shared research findings and future plans for the study on the weekend, which has included collaborations with other south-eastern Australia locations and Japan.

It has been observed and counted by Port Fairy-based volunteers for 20 years and a more formal study began four years ago when Ballarat researcher Birgita Hansen came on board. 

Dr Hansen, from the Latham’s Snipe Project, was in Port Fairy on Sunday sharing research findings and future plans for the study, which has included collaborations with other south-eastern Australia locations and Japan.

She said they had a wealth of knowledge on the birds’ movements thanks to the committed volunteers. “It’s been a really productive project not only in terms of building the science but also building the partnerships with community and building a story that the community can connect with,” she said. “This project has been really valuable in getting the community involved from the outset and that changes the way in which you approach the research and how you tell the stories.” 

Two devices, including a geolocator to monitor international movements and a radio tracker that looked at the different local habitats the bird frequents, have helped glean the vital information. She said volunteers in Port Fairy would continue counting the birds. “It’s a core site because they’ve got the longest time series of data for that site but also the community has a very strong connection to the site and knowledge about that site and it’s important we maintain that monitoring and community involvement.”

South Beach Wetlands and Landcare group member Jodie Honan organised the event and said the bird was incredible. “We had one bird that the geolocator worked on that flew all the way to Japan and then back to Port Fairy and we caught it just over a year after we let it go, almost at the same place we let it go,” Ms Honan said. “That was the first time in the world that had been done for Latham’s snipe. That was amazing. That included one trip where it flew from Japan to south-east Queensland it flew 7000 kilometres in three days, for a little bird smaller than a seagull.”

“It’s been really good. Whenever you do a project like this it is a lot of work but to get such significant results, and a group of volunteers getting those really significant results, is something pretty special. That work’s going to be written up and published and obviously there’s consequences for how we manage the bird in the future.”