On Saturday “Team Swift” undertook the next stage of the Beijing Swift Project at the Summer Palace, here in Beijing. The Chinese “catching team”, led by Professor Zhao Xinru, was on site at the inhuman hour of 0230 to set up the nets and, by the time I arrived at 0400 with the Europeans, there were already a couple of birds waiting to be tagged.
This year was another hugely successful operation involving more than 60 people, all volunteers, organised into highly efficient teams by the China Birdwatching Society. From Europe there was Chris Hewson (BTO), Dick Newell and Rob Jolliffe (Action For Swifts), Lyndon Kearsley, Geert De Smet and Gie Goris (Belgium) and Susanne Åkesson and Aron Hejdstrom from Lund University.
We succeeded in catching 10 birds with geolocators fitted in the previous 2 years. Nine of these had good data, six from birds tagged in 2015 and three from birds tagged in 2014. Two of these we had caught in 2015, but one was a new bird carrying 2 years worth of data. So we now have 23 complete tracks, 14 of the 2014/15 migration and 9 of the 2015/16 migration.
Preliminary analysis shows the birds doing similar things in the 2 migrations – ie migrating to and from southern Africa using a route north of the Himalayas. It’s one of the most incredible migrations of any bird and to think they do it without landing is awe-inspiring…
We also succeeded in fitting 46 new loggers of various types: GPS loggers, loggers with accelerometers and pressure sensors, as well as some more light level geolocators. These should give us more valuable information in 2017.
Once again, it was a real privilege to be part of this incredible project… a project that is not only contributing to scientific discovery and facilitating superb collaboration between scientists and volunteers from China and Europe but also engaging the public about these amazing birds and their incredible migrations.
Huge thanks to Wu Lan for, again, being the spider at the centre of the web, to Dick, Lyndon, Chris, Rob, Geert, Gie, Susanne and Aron for their valuable contributions to this project and, most of all, to the many young Chinese volunteers who worked so well together to make this year’s catching such a success.