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BirdLife Species Champions strike gold in Chukotka

Excellent news from BirdLife International on July 11, 2011 by Martin Fowlie

Spoon-billed Sandpiper (James Gilroy)

“Heritage Expeditions – a BirdLife Species Champion supporting Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation through the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme – struck gold this week when they, and the passengers they have taken to the Russian Far East, helped discover a previously unknown breeding population of these rapidly declining waders.

Searching for breeding Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the vast coastal expanses of Arctic Russia is like looking for a needle in a haystack, so Heritage’s passengers, guides and crew were delighted when they encountered this Critically Endangered species at a remote location on the Chukotka coast. The first sighting they made was of a pair with three eggs and another bird, they found close by, was behaving in a manner indicating it was also breeding there. A further Spoon-billed Sandpiper was found by a second search team at another suitable breeding location a little way along the coast.

These new surveys have been carefully designed to look for breeding birds in coastal areas where scientists predicted they should be present but had previously been unable to explore. As the only access to these remote areas is by sea, the costs of mounting searches have previously been prohibitive and so they have remained unexplored until now. When Heritage Expeditions became a Species Champion for Spoon-billed Sandpiper the opportunity unfolded and so, with careful planning in conjunction with BirdLife, Heritage Expeditions’ vessel – Spirit of Enderby – provided the ideal access solution. Heritage’s passengers and experienced guides, travelling ashore in zodiacs, were valuable and enthusiastic participants searching under the guidance of experts from the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force.

The Spirit of Enderby is now sailing north to the main Spoon-billed Sandpiper study site at Meinypil’gyno where this year a conservation breeding programme is in progress for the first time.

The conservation breeding team, led by Birds Russia, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), is working there with colleagues from BirdLife International, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), British Trust for Ornithology and Moscow Zoo to protect this species, which would most likely become extinct within a decade if this urgent action was not taken now.

Meanwhile, much advocacy and conservation action remains necessary to address the major threats that the birds and their habitats still face throughout their flyway.

If you would like to support BirdLife’s work for Spoon-billed Sandpiper by also becoming a BirdLife Species Champion please email species.champions@birdlife.org or you can make an online donation here. Please join us in taking action now as time is running out for this most charismatic wader…

You can view a listing of our most recent BirdLife Species Champions here.

In 2012 Heritage Expeditions will run another 15-day ‘In the Wake of Bering – Search for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’ voyage departing from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy on 24 June. If you would like to be part of this amazing conservation-supporting expedition please see details here.

We thank Heritage Expeditions for their considerable support to Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation.”


Find out all the latest news on Spoon-billed Sandpiper by visiting www.birdlife.org/spoonbilledsandpiper