Monitoring migratory species can be extremely challenging. For example, millions of migratory shorebirds migrate from breeding grounds in northern China, Mongolia and Russia to East Asia and Australasia each year, traversing more than 20 countries while on migration. Studies within individual nations have identified rapid declines in many species, yet progress toward a fully unified scheme for continuous tracking of population change at the scale of the entire East Asian-Australasian Flyway has been slow. To reflect on lessons learned and consider how further progress might be made, we review some of the factors that have limited the full emergence of shorebird monitoring in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, including fragmentation among multiple databases, low data readiness, inadequate metadata and gaps in survey coverage. We conclude that while technical solutions for many of these issues do exist, the biggest challenge is to navigate the significant organisational, socio-cultural and resourcing contexts of those people doing the monitoring. Technical solutions alone will not create a cohesive network of people whose local efforts are pooled to create robust flyway-scale monitoring.