Abaj, Dina and Dana are on the move…

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In addition to the eyewitness reports we’ve received confirming Sociable Lapwing migration is now well underway; Abaj, Dina and Dana, three of the four birds we are satellite-tracking this autumn, have also begun their post-breeding migrations.

On August 11th Abaj was still at Esil, where he had summered, but he then made his move and by August 13th he’d travelled some 200 km south west to Karamendy in north west Kazakhstan. He was still close by between the Naurzum reserve and the Russian border on August 30th at least.

Dina being tagged by Maxim Koshkin and Ruslan Urazaliyev - May 2011

We now know that Dina, who lost her clutch to predation on May 28th, left her breeding site at Kaskatau just 16 days later on June 14th and moved 300km west to the Torghay valley – a known staging site for breeders from around Korgalzhyn. Dina’s movement marks the earliest record on any of our satellite-tagged birds departing their breeding location and indicates it is sadly unlikely that she would have made another breeding attempt. Dina then stayed in the Torghay valley for nearly two months before commencing her migration properly on the evening of August 11th when she departed for south western Kazakhstan 700 km west of her breeding site near the south Russian border. A further transmission from September 1st shows she has moved to Oktyabrskoe – a further 160km south west of the last location (green line 3) plotted on the map below.

Dana stayed close to her breeding site at Amangeldy until July 27th but then began her amazing journey by surprising us with a 250 km easterly move the following day. This is the first confirmed immediate post-breeding movement eastwards we have ever recorded and might point to her heading off along the still relatively unknown easterly flyway – perhaps beginning a long migration to India. Two further high quality transmissions on September 1st confirm she is still close by near Novostroika – just 20km north east of Temirtau/Karaganda.  Needless to say, we eagerly await her next transmission.

Sociable Lapwing tracking June 2010 - August 2011. Click for larger image

This map shows the movements of Dinara and Abaj since June 2010 and Dina and Dana since they were tagged in May 2011.

It will be interesting to see whether Abaj (red line 2) continues south west and returns to north western Saudi Arabia as he did last year. The lines indicating his 2010 routes are dotted because we were unable to receive any satellite tracked locations from him during either leg of his journey. We can already see from signals received this year that he has started his migration by travelling south west from his breeding site though on a slightly more northerly trajectory than the direct line we’ve plotted for him last year.

Dinara (blue line 1) has yet to move from her breeding grounds at Atasu in south central Kazakhstan. This is a rather warm area where there is typically plenty of food (grasshoppers) well into September. Earlier this year Dinara had stayed in Gujarat, India until 7th March and then moved to the Indus Valley in Pakistan where she staged until March 13th. This was close to the same location she stopped at during her outward leg to India, in November 2010, and probably indicates a regular staging site for birds moving along the relatively unknown eastern flyway. Dinara continued to move north on March 20th but with no further strong signals we can’t tell exactly which route she took from there. We believe she was in eastern Afghanistan on March 20th and could then have taken a direct flight via the Pamir mountains in Tadjikistan north to Kazakhstan where she reached her 2011 breeding grounds near Atasu on April 22nd. This area is right on the southerly edge of the known Sociable Lapwing breeding range and is where several colonies were monitored during surveys conducted in 2006.

This autumn our four operative satellite-tracked birds will be closely monitored again and any new location details quickly passed on to national project partners along the Sociable Lapwing’s flyways.   Coordination and funding of this cooperative international conservation effort has been made possible by support provided by BirdLife Species Champion for Sociable Lapwing Swarovski Optik, who announced continued funding for the species through the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme earlier this year.

Our Sociable Lapwing project partner based in Stavropol in Russia and BirdLife Partners, Doga Dernegi in Turkey and Nature Iraq are currently on standby to respond to news of any of our satellite-tagged birds moving west and south. If birds are tracked to these countries in the next few weeks, coordinates will be provided to them so they can undertake rapid response searches on the ground. It is unlikely any birds found moving through Syria will be monitored by teams in the field this autumn because of the continuing unrest in the country.

If you’d like to keep in touch with our satellite-tracked Sociable Lapwings’ amazing journeys this autumn, you can sign up for email alerts here that will advise you whenever we add new information to this website.