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2021 Bird Counts in Taiwan

Hello. This is Mayu Komori from Team SPOON, a Japan-based sister organization of SAVE. I am a graduate student at Tokyo Institute of Technology spending 8 months in Taiwan to study Chinese and participate in bird surveys such as those introduced below.

I participated in the New Year bird count called “Taiwan New Year Bird Count (NYBC)” on 1/9/21 and “International Black-faced Spoonbill Census (IBFSC)” on 1/16/21!

NYBC is a counting event for migratory waterbirds held only in Taiwan. NYBC is organized by Taiwan Wild Bird Federation (TWBF), the Wild Bird Society of Taipei (WBST), the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society (KWBS) and the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI). NYBC started in 2014. It is held every year from the end of December to the beginning of January for 23 days, with January 1st serving as a midpoint. Birds inhabiting each habitat type are counted throughout Taiwan.

It was very cold on 1/9 when I participated in the NYBC, when the second big cold wave was coming to Tainan. In order to survive the cold, many birds that I saw were hiding behind trees and earthen walls and staying still. Mr. Pan of the Wild Bird Society of Tainan, one of the coordinators, said that due to the cold weather, there were few birds and the count was lower than usual. But I was able to observe a total of more than 40 species of birds in the area I counted. It was the first time I saw so many birds and many local species in Taiwan. I was very moved.

IBFSC is an event that counts the Black-faced Spoonbills (BFS) in each of its habitats all over the world, for three days in January. IBFSC began in 1993; the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS) coordinates all of the groups participating from different countries. The survey date for 2021 was from 1/15 to 1/17. The reason for doing it during the three days of January is that most of the BFS have finished migrating, and the BFS stay stably in the wintering spot during this time.

The Tainan area count is led by both the Wild Bird Society of Tainan and the Taiwan Black-Faced Spoonbill Conservation Association (BFSA). The two organizations have different survey areas. They collaborate and count the BFS in Tainan by division of labor. We conducted surveys in four BFS habitats: Tainan, Kaohsiung, Chiayi, and Yunlin. I participated in the count of the area conducted by the Wild Bird Society of Tainan and counted the BFS at the Tainan Tucheng District. The 16th was warm because of the big cold wave had passed, so I was able to observe and count many BFS. I counted from 7 to 10:30 a.m. at Tainan Tucheng District, and I was able to observe about 360 BFS. The time I counted was breakfast time for the BFS, so I searched for them mainly in the fishponds. Mr. Guo, member of the Wild Bird Society of Tainan, said that the BFS are not in the same place every day or every year, so we investigated all the places where the BFS might be.

It seems that counting takes a lot of time. We need to watch BFS carefully so that we don’t miss the flying spoonbills. The flying BFS guides us to the place where other BFS are staying. Fortunately, I was able to observe more than 100 BFS staying in one fishpond, eating, and resting. This scenery was really amazing, so I forgot the time and was fascinated by BFS.

Participating in the NYBC and IBFSC, I was very moved that all the participants love the birds and are working hard to protect them. And I strongly felt that I would continue to do my part to protect this landscape with BFS and many other birds. I appreciate Mr. Pan and Mr. Guo!!

I have more spoonbill news. More than 20 BFSs were infected with botulism throughout Taiwan recently. According to Mr. Guo, 12 BFSs were infected with botulism from December 2020 to early January 2021 in Tainan City. This is more than a typical year. Unfortunately, 6 of the 12 have already died. It seems like there are two causes. First, there was little rainfall in Taiwan in 2020 so the water level in the wetlands has dropped and the water has dried up and many fish died. When a fish dies and its carcass rots, Clostridium botulinum grows. Also, wintering birds are vulnerable to sudden cold weather. They can’t move, so they can’t get enough food to maintain their physical strength. The cold wave is also thought to be a cause of fish die-off, and it is thought that a sudden cold also leads to an increase in Clostridium botulinum. Many fish that are thought to dead due to the cold wave were found in the Budai salt pans on 1/5/21.

Three BFSs were released in the Sicao Wildlife Refuge in Tainan City having recovered from botulism. They were equipped with T95, T97, and T98 foot rings. I participated in this event! When the door of the box that contained the birds opened for release, they came out cautiously and then flew off.

Two of the remaining BFS yet to be released are said to have eye problems and are still being treated. The other is undergoing rehabilitation because its physical strength has not fully recovered.

The following images are courtesy of Mayu Komori, used with permission.
Click on an image to see it at higher resolution.

Birds hiding behind trees and staying still on 1/9/21

Black-faced Spoonbills eating breakfast at fishpond on 1/16/21

Counting the Black-faced Spoonbills for IBFSC on 1/16/21

Releasing three Black-faced Spoonbills — T95, T97, and T98 — on 1/19/21

News from Hwaseong Wetlands

by Jared Busen, October 1, 2019

I am a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk pilot, rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2. My wife, Shira McDonald, and I have been stationed in South Korea since October of 2015. We live in Pyeongtaek, which is about an hour and a half south of Seoul. We will be here till October 2019; our time is drawing short as I write this. We both dearly love Korea and will miss it once we return to the States.

I have been an avid bird-watcher since 2003, when I saw my first Black-necked Stilt in a farm pond in the middle of Minnesota. A bird-watcher friend was excited about the stilt and wanted to know if I’d like to see it. I went along to see what the fuss was about and got hooked as I learned the bird didn’t belong there. At the end of 2018, I was introduced to Birds Korea, a Korean NGO dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats in Korea and the wider Yellow Sea eco-region. I had been logging my bird observations into eBird, an online database of bird records worldwide through Cornell University, when Dr. Nial Moores (co-founder of Birds Korea) contacted me regarding an observation of Ruddy Shelducks. After a few back-and-forth emails I offered to volunteer. Nial requested that I bird the Hwaseong Wetlands as frequently as I could and report to him the counts and species I saw.

This year I’ve spent birding the wetlands as much as I can. There are many species of shorebirds that use the area as a stopover along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Birds Korea is interested in all birds in this area but really focuses on 16 key species because of their conservation status: the Black-faced Spoonbill, Chinese Egret, Oriental Stork, Hooded Crane, Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Saunders’s Gull, Far Eastern Oystercatcher, Grey Plover (Black-bellied Plover), Mongolian Plover (Lesser Sandplover), Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Terek Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Dunlin, and Nordmann’s Greenshank. I’ve seen all except for the Hooded Crane in the wetlands. The maximum count I had of the Black-faced Spoonbill occurred just a few weeks ago, at 114 birds.

While birding in the Hwaseong Wetlands, I met many great people. I routinely saw local people pull up and either photograph or watch the birds. Despite my limited Korean, we could still have a brief conversation about what we were seeing. The main bird book I use is published in Korean and English, so it has been very handy to open the same book the locals use and point at the birds seen. Another good way to strike up a conversation has been to put a scope on a unique bird and wave people over. It has always a good bonding experience with new people — I believe the Koreans were excited to see a foreigner appreciating the natural beauty Korea has to offer.

Shira became interested in birding through me. She enjoys going out and watching birds do bird things: foraging, feeding, singing … seeing birds be birds. She has joined me a handful of times at Hwaseong. One afternoon we spent watching a family of Great Crested Grebes; two adults were taking care of three juveniles. We’d watch as one adult dove down and returned with a small fish, feeding it directly to one of the young. Sometimes the juvenile would successfully take the fish, other times the fish would be dropped and the adult would go after it, again. It’s impossible not to find it adorable when a juvenile hops up on the back of an adult and relaxes there for a while.

When Shira and I move back to the States, we will be stationed in Alabama, where I will be an instructor at the Warrant Officer Academy. I have started reaching out to conservation groups there so that I can volunteer and contribute to conservation efforts along the Mississippi Flyway.

Note: SAVE members Randy Hester, Marcia McNally, and Wan-chih Yin met Jared and Shira in May, when they presented the UC Berkeley/SAVE plan for Hwaseong Wetlands at the international symposium, “Designing for Hope: Planning for the Future of the Hwaseong Wetlands and Hwaseong City”.

The following images are courtesy of Jared Busen, used with permission.
Click on an image to see it at higher resolution.

Black-faced Spoonbills

Juvenile Black-faced Spoonbill

Black-tailed Gulls, Far Eastern Oystercatchers, a Little Egret, and a Black-faced Spoonbill

Dunlins and a Black-tailed Gull

Team SPOON in Korea

Hello, everyone. This is Akane Tokorodani, Yu Takaku and Yuki Kobayashi.

We visited Korea from June 26 to 30, 2017. This trip is funded by Act Beyond Trust (ABT), a Japanese-based independent civil society fund that supports initiatives with the goal of harmony between the natural environment and human society.

In Korea, we had meetings with 6 organizations and 17 people have become SPOON members. The organizations we met include Moolseal (물새알), Waterbird Network Korea, Incheon Black-faced Spoonbill Network, WWF Korea, East Asian-Australian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (참여연대). In addition, we met BFS researchers from these organizations, including a fisherman in Ganghwa Island and a woman working for the interaction of Korean and Japanese. We asked about their activities and they gave feedback to SPOON about its activity. And then, we talked about what we can do by our future cooperation. Many people gave us supportive comments and opinions so that we believe we can make new actions. (So, please look forward to our future!)

We were brought to Korea by Black-faced Spoonbills, and the landscapes we saw there were very impressive to us. In Ganghwa, we toured the historical sites of the island and learned about the historical events that happened there, such as the era of the Joseon Dynasty, the war with France, and the Japanese colonial period. We also toured the border of Korea and North Korea. Beyond the river (just 2km away!), we were able to see North Korea and hear loud music played from the opposite side of the river. There were similar rice fields spreading on both sides of the river, but there was a high fence in front of the river.


In Incheon, we saw a jungle of skyscrapers built on the reclaimed land, and we observed Black-faced Spoonbills coming to the reservoir there. In the reservoir, children were learning about Black-faced Spoonbill.


We were brought to Korea by Black-faced Spoonbills, and we learned about the history and we thought deeply about North Korea, the world, and peace. Then, we saw the relation of city and nature. Black-faced Spoonbill may be not only a beautiful bird but also wise bird that tells us many things.

We will create the connection of people and nature, people and people beyond borders based on what we discussed with people, saw, and felt in this time.

NOTE: Team SPOON is a Tokyo-based organization founded in 2015 by SAVE Executive Committee member Professor Masato Dohi and members of his laboratory at Tokyo Institute of Technology. SPOON’s mission is to increase recognition of Black-faced Spoonbills in Japan and help change the outcome for Fukuoka’s Wild Bird Park on Island City. Team SPOON’s vision is to incorporate nature into people’s lives by enabling them to have their own avatars in the wild.

For more information, see the article by Tadao Fujiwara in Spoonbills Speak, Volume 18, Issue 1 (Fall 2015) or the article by Akane Tokorodani in Spoonbills Speak, Volume 19, Issue 1 (Spring 2017), or visit Team SPOON’s website.

Tidal power at Swansea, Wales

The New York Times recently ran an article about the city of Swansea, Wales, which has been in economic depression for years and is looking to a proposal for tidal power as a way to recover. You can find the article here:
“For a Welsh City, the Tides Offer Renewal” (The New York Times, November 18, 2016)

Noting that the article did not mention the possible environmental havoc of tidal-power projects, or give more context for tidal power as a form of “green energy”, we wrote a letter to the editor.  SAVE began studying and publicizing the controversy over tidal power in Korea several years ago, and you can find more information about it at this page (link).

We don’t know whether the Times will publish our letter, but we figured we would share it here.  (They limit letters to 175 words.)

To the Editor:

   We understand that Swansea residents might fear they’ll never get a better offer than this tidal-power project (“For a Welsh City, the Tides Offer Renewal”, Nov 18), but we hope they ask tough questions about its full economic, social, and environmental effects before they sign on. Although tidal energy doesn’t emit carbon and may give a short-term economic boost, it has drawbacks. Almost all suitable locations are ecologically critical, and walling one off would fundamentally change its ecosystem, shifting the natural tidal pattern to a prolonged high and a fast drain through turbines. Various proposals to harness the tides in the Severn Estuary near Cardiff have been raised and ruled out amid controversy. In 2011, we helped South Korean citizens debunk the green claims of two proposed tidal-power projects—the world’s largest—that would have put fishermen out of work and disturbed a Natural Heritage Site and Wetland Protection Area, including key habitat for the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill and many other migratory birds. Swansea’s situation is unique, but it deserves the same scrutiny.

Derek Schubert (President, SAVE International) and Yekang Ko, Ph.D. (Korea Campaign Director, SAVE International; Assistant Professor, University of Oregon)

Jiading Wetlands Youth reflect on renewed activism

by Marcia McNally

Over the past month and a half, the issue of Jiading Wetlands has resurfaced. This time the catalyst has two parts: the recent approval of the second Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Road 1-4 and the determination by Kaohsiung City Government that Jiading’s designation should remain that of “local significance”. See the Jiading campaign page for a detailed history and summary of current activity: .

Local, national, and international outcry has resulted. The on-the-ground response by Jiading supporters has been very active and creative -– street theatre, lobbying of wetlands scientists, television appearances, and a new “Say Hello Market” to reach out to local residents about the issue.

Central to this surge has been Jiading Wetlands Youth (JWY). I recently asked if the group if they would reflect on this experience and provide their thoughts to SAVE to post on our blog. Here is what they say.


Through the workshop [Activism Workshop in 2015], we learned the history of anti-Binnan and the action which SAVE took in Chi-Gu [Chiku] wetland. From these bases, we started to think about how deep-tourism/eco-cultural tourism will change the political and economic situation in Jiading. These precious experiences lighten our faith in achieving conservation goal as well as the future development of Jiading.

Dong-yo got interviewed by TV (2:12-2:38):
茄萣濕地鋪路 黑面琵鷺棲地告急 – 華視新聞網

It is absolutely not an ideal construction. Look at this beautiful place in our hometown. I couldn’t understand why people ask for constructions and factories on it.

Dong-Yo got interviewed after Wetland Reassessment public hearing:

“Some local people are still thinking in the old ways of developmentalism. We are all eager to see a better Jiading, but we forgot that the benefits that Jiading Wetland provided are the most precious and fundamental ones.”


Dr. Randy and Professor Marcia [Randy Hester and Marcia McNally, Workshop instructors and SAVE members],

Long time no see. I really miss you two and your lecture since Jiading Activism Workshop. It provided us with a good opportunity of empowerment. I felt that the most important lesson we learned is the clear direction for the future Jiading rather than the skill in operating protest.

The workshop facilitated us in two perspectives. First, it is fundamental that protestors provide an alternative development blueprint in the process since locals are eager to see the prosperity of their own town; that is why the report from SAVE is so influential in persuading the public. We recently started a new project which is named “siàn hái-hong tshī-á” in Taiwanese (“Say Hello Market” in English) according to the idea. Secondly, our works as organisers and activists require practices on courage and accumulation of experiences as well as skills. As Dr. Randy reminded us, we tried to work equally, creatively and irregularly in running JWY. And our actions proved that only when we are working creatively can we break the limitations in promoting issues to the public, improve our cohesion, and win public support. Specifically, some teenagers, college students studying elsewhere, and young locals with activist experience joined us through the events we held these three years.
最重要的是提出一個在反對運動中的新方向,居民冀望開路是因為開路對於地方發展提出一個希望,既然我們反對開路,就勢必得提出一個新的發展方向,這就是「搧海風市仔(siàn hái-hong tshī-á)」的核心關懷。第二個覺得重要的是組織者/行動者在從事這些運動的時候,平時的習慣積累和心態上的調整,例如Randy教授講的運動習慣,和每天都要從事一些反常規的事情(例如穿越馬路)。這些習慣在類似茄萣濕地的這種長久戰中相當有助益,能夠延長自己在運動中的壽命,不至於只是曇花一現、後繼無力。

On the other hand, the EIA (under local government and Environmental Protection Administration) and Wetland Reassessment (under Ministry of the Interior) is still in process. We have delivered the message that Road 1-4 is unnecessary and the idea of alternative development to the press and at the EIA public hearing. And it is exciting that the supporting rate has decreased from 75%(2014) to 58%(2016). This is encouraging that the public opinion is gradually shifting to our side. Therefore, we will emphasize the “development for the community” and “Plan B” to locals, considering wetland environment.

I am happy to see the recent situation, not only because we are practicing our faith for protecting wetland and community, but also the public opinion has been shifting. Last but not least, it is the cooperation of young locals making the changes for our hometown, the place which raised us. This is more like contributing rather than fighting.

Zhi-Yu got interviewed by Dr. Kuan of PTS News Network:

Zhi-Yu got interviewed by Taiwan Environmental Information Centre:

JWY publish a public letter to EIA committee members, explaining our consideration to wetland. It has been the long time that the policy makers did not even try to understand youth’s opinion. Therefore JWY organized young people in local area, announcing our claim and tried to make positive changes in local economics and environmental protection.


The workshop facilitated us with tool box and visions. It has been useful for past two years. Moreover, the workshop accidentally connect different people and organizations, forming a close network for later cooperation in all kinds of protest.

It was very crucial time in late August and early September. I was speaking in the press conference before the Wetland Reassessment Public Hearing and EIA Conference. The card I hold is with two lines of words: “Local Wetland or International Wetland? Reassessment before EIA.”

Video of press conference (link)
The similar report with full opinion (link)

William questioned that the road cost 1.5 billion NTD is ridiculous and it even cost 7.5 million NTD to run this road according to EIA report. Kaohsiung City has been raising debt heavily every year. It is worth to think twice for EIA members as well as voters. Also the road cutting wetland habitats would be a disaster for wetland ecology as well as eco-tourism. In the contrary, City Government and Ministry of Interior both holds policy tools of park planning and area planning for conservation. It is relatively wise to develop local economics that benefits both conservation and aquaculture fisheries by these policy tools.

Rare Chen

Along with other core members of SAVE’s Jiading network, Rare Chen (not her real name, see below) attended the 2016 International Wetland Convention ( She distributed leaflets to scholars to introduce Jiading Wetland and appeared in many sessions to talk about Jiading Wetland issues. She says some scholars were really surprised that Jiading Wetland is a winter home for so many Black-faced Spoonbills and couldn’t believe that Kaohsiung City Government wants to build a road through it. This collective action made Jiading a hot topic during the convention.

Jiading Wetlands Youth now recommends that their members use a pseudonym when they take action where they might be exposed on media, for their safety. Some members and their families have met trouble in the Jiading area, especially those who run a business or have stores.

(added October 17 – Rare in her own words:)

It was my first time facing press media on September 12th. The focus of the press conference was a mother of one-year-old baby feeling sorry for her child for the situation of not likely to preserve the whole wetland. I was quite nervous at the time, and I just read through the prewritten content, rather than produce “tears” which press expected (a young lady heartily concerning her hometown and motherland). I was wondering whether this affected the media effects and public opinions.

Being a woman in all these activist events, there are some different roles among gender and social formations. For example, people usually think a woman is more approachable than a man, so the role of a young woman or a mother usually helps the promotion of the issue. Also, within the organisation, men usually dominate the leadership position with their bondage of gender roles or personal characteristics. So I intentionally play a flexible role to integrate opinions among organisations.

We obtained the chance to present at the International Wetland Convention (IWC) by friend organisation “Citizen of the Earth”. I was expected to promote the issue to scientists. Initially, I was asked to talk in an NGO-participation seminar and have no idea with approaching scholars in the convention. However I thought that was too passive, so I decided to approach people and raise questions in other seminars. Various scientists provided their own opinion on the case of Jiading after my explanations.

場外,拿著說帖向國外學者遊說,用非常簡略的英文單字和肢體語言說明茄萣濕地正發生什麼事情,這些學者都非常友善,他們不但很樂意給予我們時間和空間慢慢說明,也樂於了解議題,並且留了名片,讓我們將進一步的資訊寄給他們。(包含Ben LePage, James Perry, Joe S.Y. Lee, Machiel Lamers, 文賢繼, 胡正恆, Reiko Nakamura)
At the break time, I carried the poster with illustration and explained the issue of Jiading Wetland. These scholars are nice and patient. We have collected their name cards and sent them further information. (including Ben LePage, James Perry, Joe S.Y. Lee, Machiel Lamers, 文賢繼, 胡正恆, Reiko Nakamura)

People become knowledgeable and experienced as times go. However, it was interesting that scholars and NGOs are happier to see the involvement of young people. That made me conscious that being young is very precious that we can act vigorously and absorb knowledge quickly, and we have the advanced information skills as well as tools to help us with these actions. Just like what we are doing right now. I believe that we can make the positive change.

“Citizen of the Earth” and other friendly environmental organisations had shared their operation skills in issue promotion, as well as organising discussion and press conference. And this made me more confident in what we are doing. I thought that it was great to participate and contribute my efforts on what I sincerely concerned and approved with.

meeting legislator in Taipei

Press conference in front of Executive Yuan
國際保育團體為黑琵請命 三千五百人陳情茄萣濕地是國際級濕地記者會實錄20160912DSCI0002

Press conference in front of Executive Yuan
四千五百人陳情茄萣濕地是國際級濕地 | 地球公民基金會

A Songdo local provides an update

One of SAVE’s affiliates who works at Songdo, Korea, emailed us with this report in August 2016:

“The group of students … (all seniors in high school [at Chadwick International School]) were accepted to attend the IUCN World Conservation Congress so we are heading off next week to present our poster about reclamation on Songdo Tidal Flats. They are using an electronic poster format and you can check it out HERE if you want. It’s all student led and organized and [the faculty] just advised them, helped out with the scientific analysis, editing and grammar. The results are as predicted, that Songdo is losing millions of dollars a year and with conservative economic projections will take 487 years to break even while at the same time destroying irreplaceable stopover areas for birds.
“The loss of the tidal flat is stunning but it’s good to get the kids to understand the complexities of the situation and as future leaders hopefully prevent these stupid ideas from even happening. One of [the] students interned with an Assemblyman this summer and helped push through some legislation to add more teeth to Korea’s Wetlands Protection Act. It’s a small step and still needs to be voted on to be put into law. We got a little TV time on two major news stations so we are trying to keep Korea’s reclamation fiasco and its effects in the news.
“Yes, Namdong Reservoir is looking very bad right now and is mostly dry. Predators can definitely get out to the spoonbill island and a human can almost walk out there. I haven’t heard about the waste treatment plant [a potential threat to the nesting island in Namdong Reservoir] but we have done some bacterial testing and found it was contaminated with fecal coliform. The tidal power plant on the highway side hasn’t been used for 3-4 years and the flow management in and out of the reservoir is irregular and illogical. We don’t see spoonbills or other shorebirds feeding in there and I don’t know if there will be enough water in the reservoir this winter for overwintering waterfowl. We will look into the wastewater treatment plant. Thanks for the heads up.
“Two years ago there was a botulism outbreak in the spring and they closed off Namdong to the public. I agree it’s an indicator of ecosystem health and how poorly things are being managed around here. Incheon is planning to add two more spoonbill islands on the remaining Songdo tidal flat with viewing platforms along the east side of Songdo for ‘tourists and education’. I don’t know what will be left to watch. I wonder if the new spoonbill islands are in response to the planned Namdong construction. We’ll look into it and will check out your website for more info and the letter you wrote to the mayor. We’d like to follow up with more action.”

Gathering momentum against Road 1-4 through the Jiading Wetland

A public hearing called by City Councilman Chang was held today to discuss Road 1-4. Also in attendance was City Councilman Huang. At the end, councilor Chang summarized the meeting in three points:

  1. The consensus of all present at the meeting was that the government should not build the road through the wetland in order to protect BFS; however, most are willing to accept alternatives.
  2. Jiading area has a lot of problems surrounding unreasonable urban planning. This area needs a holistic overview of master plan and urban plan.
  3. The two city councilors present will keep a watchful eye on the budget on Road 1-4 which may give them additional grounds to boycott the road.

While there was no voting or critical decision, today’s key points will be reported word by word to the city government.

We are so very close. The EIA Committee is meeting this Thursday, July 17th to discuss the road.  Let’s hope the committee members keep an open mind and listen to the extensive research and the voice of the people.

IMG_9695 IMG_9689

Technical considerations for successful wildbird park design for Island City, Fukuoka, Japan

Bird habitat has important economic value for city development and should be a central part of the wildbird park proposed for Island City.

Since the 2011 Fukuoka workshop, SAVE has continued to work on the technical aspects of the wildbird park design with the goal of creating a maintenance- and cost-efficient tidal mudflat that shore birds will actually use.  To learn more about our nine main technical considerations for successful wildbird park design, click here.

We are hopeful that our scientifically-based planning metrics are considered as Fukuoka planners evaluate the different ways to meet the agreed-upon goals of this park — to make it a place for birds and people.


Dr. Malcolm Coulter, the lead scientist in SAVE International’s battles to bring the Black-faced Spoonbill back from the brink of extinction, died on January 2, 2013.  SAVE has known no other scientists who could work so seamlessly with planners and community designers in so many cultures to create scientifically based land-use plans. Dr. Coulter will be missed.

SAVE International co-founder, Randy Hester, paid tribute to Malcom’s unique character and his profound contributions to SAVE’s efforts in the Fall newsletter:

Malcolm Coulter, the lead scientist in SAVE International’s battles to bring the Black-faced Spoonbill back from the brink of extinction, died on January 2, 2013. Dr. Coulter was co-chair of the IUCN Stork, Ibis and Spoonbill Specialist Group and from 1997 until his death a SAVE Advisory Committee member. For over a decade Malcolm worked with environmental planners and landscape architects to develop plans for habitat expansion throughout the bird’s flyway.  He applied his singular accumulated knowledge to the spoonbill habitat conservation plan jointly developed by the University of California, Berkeley and National Taiwan University.  When other scientists concluded that the Binnan Industrial Complex would have no impact on the spoonbill’s primary wintering habitat, Dr. Coulter challenged them with precise spatial metrics that showed undeniable detrimental effects. On the basis of Coulter’s science Binnan was defeated.  In Taiwan alone he contributed the spatial ornithology that guided the creation of five stepping stone habitats resulting in the population revival from an extinction vortex low of several hundred spoonbills to almost 2700 birds in 2012. SAVE has known no other scientist who so seamlessly could work with land use planners and community designers in so many cultures to create scientifically-based plans. He will be missed; he can never be replaced.

Upon word of his death SAVE members around the world paid tribute to Dr. Coulter reflecting the breadth of his reach in saving the spoonbill:

The birding community has lost one of its best.

He was our most important ally in the science community without whom the movement would not have succeeded.

His Black-faced Spoonbill friends of the world grieve. I learned important knowledge from his lectures about the Black-faced Spoonbill; he was a fantastic educator about ecology.

Malcolm was a nerdy kind of guy, but very friendly, nice, and often funny. He was always a delight as part of a team here in Taiwan. We will miss him, but we will carry on with a lasting memory of his contributions.

Dr. Coulter held degrees from Stanford, Oxford, and the University of Pennsylvania. He was always at odds with invasive plants and predators and spent his career trying to overcome habitat loss. In his early years he carried out research on birds and plants on the Farallon Islands in California, devising plans to control invasives in order to maintain a rare ecosystem. He worked at the Darwin Research Center in an effort to conserve the Dark-rumped Petrel. At the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory he led a program to create habitat for the American Wood Stork. He worked for years on conservation efforts for the Oriental White Stork and Oriental Crested Ibis. Dr. Coulter posthumously received the Pacific Seabird Group’s Lifetime Conservation Award from Birdlife International for the effort he had so long worked for to protect habitat for the Black-faced Spoonbill.

Ornithology Exchange reported on Malcolm Coulter’s “Last Testament, December 9, 2012.” It is classic Malcolm, ranking up there with the truism he often began his lectures, “The Black-faced Spoonbill is the rarest of all spoonbills…” In Dr. Coulter’s words, “LIFE is the most wonderful thing in this world…If it weren’t for LIFE, none of us would exist.” He went on to say, “There are four or more aspects of our lives that are most important: Honesty, Loving, Caring, Humor…”

Those of us at SAVE experienced all four of his core characteristics. The fact that Malcolm looked and from time-to-time acted like an elder Dennis the Menace reinforced his belief in the value of humor. He extended irresistible love and caring attention to every member of the SAVE team.  And of course Malcolm’s honesty sometimes upset our impulsive activists’ applecart. Exact science was his trade but he never shunned radical activists. He knew the ultimate value of his role: to keep us scientifically informed and honest.  He would never tolerate our overreaching on the basis of his science. “No I didn’t say that exactly” often curbed our jumps to conclusion.

We inspired his science, but activism never tainted his scientific honesty. His precise science, therefore, informed our plans and actions in unique ways which largely explains the success of his work to save the spoonbill in Taiwan. But unlike most scientists he contributed to dramatic innovations by working so effectively with us. In Taiwan when other scientists created questionable findings to support governmental agendas, when they distanced themselves from environmental activists and dismissed SAVE, Dr. Coulter worked the political inside and outside. He was astute but patient. And he expected honesty in every action.

These values of honesty, loving, caring, and humor kept him going. There was no other immediate gratification for one who saw the big picture and the long-term on a low budget beyond the daily joy he shared with those with whom he worked. So it is again classic Malcolm to conclude his testament thus, “It’s not what individuals can do but what we can all do together!”


We would love for Malcolm’s whole community to remember him, celebrate him, share memories, stories, and feelings.  Please feel free to add your voice using the comment-form below.