Wednesday, 2 February 2011

More on World Wetlands Day - Hands across countries ... wings across the world.

Incredibly important day at Wheldrake Ings today, this information comes from various sources (e.g. Natural England, Ramsar amongst others). Remarkable bird journeys link communities across Europe and Africa, and bring home the importance of sharing responsibilities of bird conservation. Today the Lord Mayor of York went international for Britain with a global message to people of countries where birds ringed in Britain have been recorded, of which there are about 26 countries.

The Lord Mayor of York, the Rt Honourable Cllr. Susan Galloway of the internationally-renowned historic walled City of York, England, wearing ceremonial regalia, today (2 February) celebrated World Wetlands Day by sending a message of goodwill and commitment to communities in 26 countries from Northern Russia to central and southern Africa. She also symbolically ringed and released a Mute Swan.

Lord Mayor of York, the Rt Honourable Cllr. Susan Galloway enjoying a cuppa! © Natural England 2011.

Of the stories and information provided, the following relating to Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau caught my attention due to my love of Africa, and interest in wader migrations (see earlier posts on Turnstones and Sociable Plovers).

Over the last 30 years more than 30,000 birds have been ringed by researchers in the Lower Derwent Valley (see some of my earlier posts), which lies close to the City of York in Yorkshire, England - and is bang next door to my house! Some of the birds’ journeys have been recorded by satellite tracking. Of the birds ringed more than 2000 have been recovered or sighted by ornithologists, wildfowlers and members of the public, from as far away as Northern Russia and central Southern Africa.

More than 50 birds ringed in other countries have also been recovered or recorded in the Lower Derwent Valley.

Speaking about the worldwide importance of wetlands, the Lord Mayor emphasised the City's commitment to look after its wetland wildlife for its own sake and for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

"We are committed to playing our part on the world stage by looking after the wetlands close to the City of York and send good wishes to communities in other countries throughout the world with whom we are linked in a common responsibility by the birds. What better way could we celebrate World Wetlands Day?"

Some of the journeys the birds make are spectacular said Craig Ralston, Natural England's manager of the Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve where many of the birds have been ringed.

"There could be no better example of international co-operation between local people in countries far and wide, than ensuring that the birds which make such epic journeys on migration between them always have a home in which to breed, winter or feed on passage when they arrive. It is a responsibility we have to each other."

As far as countries in West Africa are concerned, Whimbrels with satellite tags have been recorded on extraordinary long distance flights, with one nicknamed 'Wallace' being satellite-tracked from Ireland to Africa in just two days. Full details of the Whimbrels' journeys are included below.

In May 2005 a Whimbrel stopping off to roost at Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve was fitted with a solar powered lightweight satellite tag weighing just 12 grams (see below), then the fun began:

Wally the Whimbrel © Steve Huddlestone 2007 more images here.


  • 2nd May 2005 Stopped off at Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve in the Lower Derwent Valley (LDV) near York, England. (fitted with satellite tag) .

  • 12th May, left the Nature Reserve after a good feed on leather jackets at a field in Storwood in the LDV.

  • Two days and 1000 miles later she arrived in Iceland where it is considered she may have bred.

  • 20th July, moved over to Western Iceland, 141 miles.

  • 1st August left Iceland and flew the 1346 miles to Brest in Brittany, France. She stayed here until 13th August.

  • 13th August, left France and by the 18th of August was off the coast of Morocco Africa.

  • 22nd August, moved through Mauritania.

  • 26th August, moved through Senegal.

  • 30th August, arrived to spend the winter in Guinea.

  • Wally stayed here until 22nd April 2006 when she flew back to Senegal then back to Guinea again!! She stayed there until 17th June 2006 when unfortunately the Satellite tag stopped sending signals. It is not known why.

In April 2007, the team who tagged Wally the Whimbrel decided to try again.

They caught and satellite tagged another Whimbrel on the 28th April. The Whimbrel stayed in 'the valley' for a further 14 days and left on the 12th May. Local school children from Bubwith Primary School (the next village along from where I live) where told about the tagged bird and they adopted him and named him Wallace.

Whimbrel ready for release © Steve Huddlestone 2007 more images here.


  • 14th May arrived near Jokulsarlon the largest glacial lake in Iceland.

  • After a long tour of Iceland and possibly raising young Wallace left on 4th August.

  • 6th August satellite tag bleeped at sea south East of Ireland.

  • 8th August Wallace had reached southeast of Bissau, capital of Guinea, Africa, what a mammoth flight.

Over the coming days I'll not be out birding due to office commitments so I'll try and digest some of the other data received. No doubt there will be more interesting outcomes, keep a check of Natural England's website for updates, and don't forget about the events on this weekend too.

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