Just as if they knew that today we celebrate World Shorebirds Day, the Buff-breasted Sandpipers are back at Armonia’s Barba Azul Nature Reserve, the only Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site in Bolivia.
During their fall migration, the Buff-breasted Sandpipers travel more than 1,300 miles over the Amazon rainforest to forage on the prime river edge short-grass habitat at the Barba Azul Nature Reserve.
Funded by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conseírvation Act (NMBCA) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect Buff-breasted Sandpiper habitat, Armonía is executing their 5th Buff-breasted Sandpiper population survey at the Barba Azul Nature Reserve. This year a group of four students the Universidad Mayor de San Simón de Cochabamba will survey buffies from the first to the 16th of September. A fifth student will spend a week before and after the survey to study the presence of early and late birds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation Plan for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper also recognizes the Barba Azul Nature Reserve as the most important stopover site for Buff-breasted Sandpipers in Bolivia. The birds depend on the river edge short-grass foraging habitat around the Omi and Tiniji River where they fatten up to continue their journey further south.
“With the worldwide population of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper in serious decline, it is essential to protect and increase stop-over foraging habitat for the species.”
– said Tjalle Boorsma, Conservation Program Coordinator of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve.
„In expanding and managing the reserve for the world’s highest concentrations of the Critically Endangered Endemic Blue-throated Macaw and four threatened savanna species, we also want to ensure large areas of ideal foraging habitat for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the Barba Azul Nature Reserve” – pointed out Boorsma.
As priority conservation actions for the Beni Savanna in USFWS Conservation Plan for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Armonía actively engages with private landowners and stewards of public lands to promote alternative land-use management practices that protect appropriate habitat conditions for the Buffies.
In order to shed light on the population dynamics and migration pattern of the species, Armonía conducts yearly population surveys and experimental plots of foraging habitat to better understand habitat preferences of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper.
The savanna habitat of the Beni – an endemic ecosystem in Bolivia – is highly threatened by poorly managed cattle ranching, including overgrazing, overstocking, yearly grassland burning, woodland clearing, agricultural demands and the introduction of African grasses. Also we will manage habitat at Barba Azul through mowing marsh vegetation and tall grasses around the Omi river system to enlarge prime river edge foraging habitat for the Buff-breasted.
We also look at the impact of cattle and horse presence on the foraging preference of the buffies compared to areas without grazing. As the newest, 2016 population survey’s result will be shortly on our hand, exciting new details could be revealed about this elegant little master-migrant of the Americas.