Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Wader Quest - an introduction by Rick and Elis Simpson

Wader Quest is a charity that aims to encourage more people to get involved in Community Wader Conservation projects by highlighting the need for such projects and for those that can’t get directly involved, to do so indirectly through Wader Quest.

I have been a birder nearly all my life - some 50 odd years, in that time life has become less tolerable for birds and not least among them the waders. While I have been alive 60% of the intertidal zone in the Yellow Sea has been destroyed, Lapwings have tumbled by 50% in the UK and now 48% of all known wader populations are in decline. The realisation that all is not well with the waders is a relatively new one, we watched from the sidelines as the Slender-billed Curlew slipped through our fingers, only reacting when it was too late.

Northern Lapwing 50% decline in the UK in 30 years

It was the Spoon-billed Sandpiper that brought everything into sharp focus, it became an iconic symbol of all that was, and is, going wrong and in looking at the threats which were nudging it ever closer to extinction, we realised that the same threats were also having a devastating effect on other previously common wader species.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Thailand.

If you were to go out into your local high street and stop 100 passers-by and ask them to name a natural environment that was being destroyed at an unsustainable rate, of those that would have the slightest notion of what you are talking about (such is the disconnect between people and the environment these days) I can almost guarantee that 100% of them would cite rainforests in one form or another.

The chronic problem that rainforest face is unrelenting, it has been going on all my life, it has been widely publicised and has been given much attention by conservationists with varying degrees of success, however the same cannot be said of the intertidal zone and other, mostly wetland habitats, upon which our favourite birds depend. For many years, these have been swallowed up piecemeal, the cumulative effect of which has been devastating and it all happened under the radar. Only now, due to one little enigmatic bird, when the problem has become acute and pivotal, has it come to our attention; hopefully though it is not too late.

It’s easy to turn people onto forest conservation, not so easy when you are trying to save mud! Photo: Elis Simpson

With the aim of widening awareness about these issues, Wader Quest devised and created, with the support of Birdwatching Magazine, the Wader Conservation November initiative. This is a series of events designed to draw attention to the plight of waders around the world and what better way to start it off than a world-wide event?

On the 7th and 8th of November this year we are inviting people around the world to go out and look at waders. We then ask them to let us know what they have seen. For our part we will compile a list of the waders seen around the world and participants will have their name published on the Wader Quest website in a roll of honour. They will also be entered into a Prize Daw, the prize of which is a wonderful signed Lars Jonsson wader poster and a set of Wader Quest wader pin badges.

Does it matter if you don’t see a huge number of species? Does it matter if you just see common species? Not one bit of it, a contribution containing a single abundant species is just as valid as one with several exotic species and this is because it is the taking part that is important, by doing so you are saying ‘Yes! I care!’

Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Hooded Plover  and Magellanic Plover; our three main projects so far. Photo: Elis Simpson

We also have initiated the first ever wader festivals in the UK at two locations, the Wirral Wader Festival (14th and 15th November) and the Wash Wader Festival (28th and 29th November); both are celebrations of areas of immense importance to waders in the UK and it would be fantastic to see some NGB members there to help us celebrate.

As young people you will want to believe that as you get older there will still be places such as these to celebrate, Elis and I are passionate about our waders and will continue to fight for their collective survival for as long as we can and we hope that you will also want to do the same so that, when you are our age, you will still be able to share the swirling flocks of waders and the huge high tide roosts they settle down to become with the next generation of birders that will follow behind you.

We must not let this become a thing of the past.
Becoming a Friend of Wader Quest costs just £5.00 a year; we hope that this low rate will make anyone who wants to, feel they are able to be part of our growing community of wader loving friends. Wader Quest is totally voluntary and 100% of all donations and Friends’ fees are used to assist lower budget wader conservation and research projects.


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