Shorebirds were researched at Snæfellsness Research Centre in the years 2006-2008, managed by Tómas G. Gunnarsson. Tómas now works at Suðurland Research Centre.
Ecology of Black-tailed godwits
The Icelandic Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa islandica (IBTG) is one of the three subspecies of the Black tailed godwit. This subspecies breeds almost exclusively in Iceland and winters in W. Europe. The spring migration of the IBTG to Iceland is from mid April to early May. The IBTG breeds in different types of wet marshes and mesic grasslands in lowland areas around Iceland. Up until 1920, the IBTG was a rare bird. General increase has occurred in all parts of the country and the godwits are found breeding in new locations every year.
In recent years an international research group has been using the Icelandic black-tailed godwit system to answer novel questions in the ecology of migratory populations - particularly how breeding and wintering processes interact in population regulation.
The IBTG is a very suitable system to study seasonal links. Ca. 2% of the entire population has been individually marked with color rings and hundreds of volunteer observers throughout Europe report sightings of ringed birds. This valuable effort allows us to track a large number of birds throughout the year and over 90% of all adults ringed in Iceland are seen in winter which is a phenomenal rate!
Ecology of ringed plovers.
The ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula, is a common breeder along the coast of Iceland. It also breeds inland, all the way into the central highlands. During spring and autumn, high-arctic breeding populations of ringed plovers pass through Iceland.
Despite being a suitable model for both behavioral and demographic studies, the ringed plover has received limited attention of researchers in Iceland. Their productivity is much more easily monitored than that of most other waders and they are easily observable as they are both tame and breed in barren habitats.
The Snæfellsnes Research Centre is involved in a study on ringed-plovers which has been running since 2004. Each year, timing of arrival of individually marked individuals is monitored, along with their mate choice, breeding density, breeding success and other factors, on two coastal study sites in NW-Iceland and S-Iceland. Other sites are visited opportunistically.
Migration of shorebirds.
The area in which the Snæfellsnes Research Centre is situated has been identified as one of the key areas on the East-Atlantic Flyway for shorebirds on migration. Along with high-arctic shorebirds that use the area for refueling in spring and autumn, hundreds of thousands of Icelandic breeding waders also rely on the wast mudflats and intricate shores.
The Snæfellsnes Research Centre is organizing and encouraging research and monitoring of the important shorebird traffic that takes place on the shores of Iceland. Studies on the timing and volume of migration on passage sites are valuable for population and ecosystem monitoring and for following the changes in phenology due to global change.
Among other things, we have been studying the potential use of wader age proportions in autumn to monitor large-scale variation in the productivity of Icelandic and high-arctic waders.