Little bird goes a long way

Snipe tagging

Every year as winter finishes an intriguing yet little known migratory bird arrives in our bush capital where it stays til the end of summer.

The Latham’s Snipe is a migratory shorebird that spends half the year in Japan then heads south. For some, the riparian reeds of the urban oasis that is Jerrabomberra Wetlands have become a welcome refuge over these last few months.  

Little is known of this intrepid traveller’s international journey. From a broad perspective if we don’t know a lot about a species it can prove to be a challenge to conserve its overall habitat requirements.  As an itinerant bird, Latham’s Snipe have critical habitat needs. A negative impact on one key ecological niche could spell disaster for these plucky birds.

However some of our knowledge is improving. Through collaboration between Federation University in Ballarat, South Beach Landcare Group in Port Fairy, the Wild Bird Society of Japan, the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust and the ACT Government, research is being carried out on a number of fronts. Methods include large scale surveys across Australia, sensitively attaching geo-locators and leg flags to 50 birds in Port Fairy, and satellite tracking of eight birds – three in Canberra and five in Japan.

In our own backyard, the Canberra Ornithologists Group as project partners, along with members of our Young Rangers Club, have been instrumental in setting up monthly snipe surveys across our region. With early morning starts and late evenings, these passionate volunteers have been instrumental in advancing our collective knowledge of this globetrotting visitor.

Akin to a military style operation the three birds were earlier this month fitted with remote sensing trackers under the watchful lens of a Japanese film crew capturing these spellbinding moments for a forthcoming documentary.

‘Lucky’ by name and by nature had her tracker eventually removed after her harness proved to be rather problematic. The other two birds: Nozomi, which is Japanese for ‘hope’, and Tsubasa meaning ‘wing’ continue to roam freely providing fascinating insights as they explore the Jerrabomberra Wetlands and surrounding environs. Not so surprisingly the nearby sewage treatment works appear to be a favoured locale for our fearless travellers, who are obviously keen to check out the vast variety of aquatic habitats on offer.

With an international airline recently touching down, it’s rather fitting a globetrotting migratory species is also calling our bush capital a temporary home. To follow the jet-setting progress of our fearless duo visit The Snipe Project

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful Platypus.

Article also appeared in The Chronicle