Jerra Snipe’s super flight

For the first time, the flight of the Latham’s Snipe from Canberra to Japan and back has been tracked, and the results are unexpected.

The journey taken by P3 from Canberra to Japan and back. Image provided by the Latham’s Snipe Project.

The journey taken by P3 from Canberra to Japan and back. Image provided by the Latham’s Snipe Project.

The Latham’s Snipe is a migratory bird that spends half the year in South Eastern Australia filling up on wetland bugs, and the other half in Hokkaido, Japan, breeding and hatching its young.

Jerrabomberra Wetlands is a known safe-haven for this species, and through a collaboration between the Federation University (Ballarat), South Beach Wetlands and Landcare Group (Port Fairy) the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust, ACT Government, Canberra Ornithologists Group and the Wild Bird Society of Japan, scientists are rapidly learning more about their mysterious behaviour.

P3 back in the hands of researchers after an epic journey. Image provided by the Latham’s Snipe Project.

P3 back in the hands of researchers after an epic journey. Image provided by the Latham’s Snipe Project.

Every year at Jerrabomberra Wetlands a team of volunteers and researchers traverse the swamps to set up mist nets in an effort to catch and tag individuals.

Last year several birds were fitted with geolocators, tiny light sensitive gadgets that track where the bird has been over time.

This year the project managed to recapture one of these birds, P3, and retrieve its geolocator, one year after it was fitted with the device.

A Latham’s Snipe at Jerrabomberra Wetlands by Julie Clark. Image provided by the Latham’s Snipe Project.

A Latham’s Snipe at Jerrabomberra Wetlands by Julie Clark. Image provided by the Latham’s Snipe Project.

After analysing the data captured on the geolocator, lead researcher Dr Birgita Hansen found that the details of the journey seemed to differ to that of the bird captured two years ago in Port Fairy.

“We can say for sure that P3 has staged somewhere in south-east Queensland on its northward migration, it has spent the breeding season in either the very north of Hokkaido or southern Sakhalin in Russia, around late April to early August, and then returned to Australia via central Honshu and possibly even Papua New Guinea,” Dr Hansen said.

Why the birds stop in these locations is yet to be deciphered, and the exact whereabouts is yet to be confirmed.

However, like other migratory species, it highlights the need for international conservation of the species and cross-country collaboration.

The journey from Australia to Japan is fundamental to their existence, and if the Latham’s Snipe is to survive into the future, the wetlands they depend on need to be protected.

“We are proud to work with research teams and volunteers from Victoria all the way to Japan, and ages 7 through to 70.

“The passion, hours, skills and sharing of knowledge is one-of-a-kind and shows what is possible in other parts of the world.

“In May this year, five of our Young Rangers travelled to Japan to learn about the conservation efforts being carried out internationally.

“Their trip was made possible with funding from the Australia Japan Foundation,” Dr Hansen said.