Twenty-Five Years and Counting
Harrington, Brian, Natural History
Every ten days during April and May, whatever the weather, John and Florence head for their local marsh near Virginia Beach with binoculars and spotting scopes to watch birds. They are particularly careful to identify the many shorebirds coming through this part of the mid-Atlantic coast on northward migrations and to estimate their numbers. John and Florence, who are not biologists but volunteers in the International Shorebird Survey (ISS), are using their birding skills to contribute to a vast data bank on the birds and their migratory routes. To date, more than 800 shorebird watchers have collected information from 1,650 locations throughout the hemisphere. Since the organization's beginnings in 1974, I have helped coordinate this New World network of volunteers.
Organized by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, the survey provided information that led to the creation of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. The ISS is ongoing. Every year, survey biologists and volunteers add to the data on migration routes, the timing of peak migrations, and locations of key stopover areas for globetrotting shorebirds. We have identified 146 new sites in both North and South America that may qualify for inclusion in the WHSRN (recent additions to the network are Chaplin/Old Wives/Reed Lakes, in Saskatchewan, and San Antonio Oeste, in Argentina), and we are hard at work on a shorebird migration atlas, which will give those who make policy and conservation decisions the basic "when and where" information. …