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Update by Guy Anderson (Nature Recovery Unit, RSPB).

The first week after spoonies arrive back on their breeding grounds in early June is a critical time to find territories. This is when they are most vocal – lots of displaying, and lots of singing – a Dunlin-like bubbling trill, given from the ground or during lengthy song-flights, when the sound carries even further. This is a golden opportunity to find out which birds have returned to the tundra around Meinypil’gyno. After a week or so, egg-laying is underway and once incubation starts, the birds will get much quieter and harder to find. So this is why, less than 24 hours after arriving in Meinypil’gyno, I found myself part of a 4-person survey team, off to camp at the far end of the study area. To get there required a zodiac ride across a river, dodging ice-floes, and then an hour’s drive along a shingle spit in the ‘Kerzhak’ – a monster truck version of a transit van. Its massive tyres were ideal for soft snow, sand or shingle, and it was both our transport and bear-proof accommodation for the trip. The shingle ridge separating tundra from the Bering Sea is littered with whale and walrus bones – washed up over decades or possibly centuries. The occasional pair of ringed plovers scurries around between the massive skulls and piles of ribs and vertebrae.

The ‘Kershak’ – definitely the coolest ride in the Arctic. Makes a good tent too. Photo by Guy Anderson.

We set up camp next to an abandoned oil drilling site – established in the 1980s, and abandoned in the 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed. A makeshift grave nearby told of the grim life the original oil prospectors must have faced here. The immediate surroundings were a scene straight from Mad Max – abandoned rusting metalwork everywhere. But wildlife has a habit of capitalising on human additions to the landscape – a pair of ravens were nesting on one of the drilling towers, and greeted us each morning with reproachful ‘quonk’ calls. Snow buntings, white wagtails and – improbably – house martins – were nesting in the old buildings. Standing in bitter wind and a single digit temperatures I wondered how on earth the martins managed to survive, let alone breed, in these conditions. But terraced rows of nests within the ironwork attested to their hardiness.

The abandoned oil drill site. Spooky, but home for a few days. Photo by Guy Anderson.

We soon located a cluster of spoony territories in the surrounding area – territory mapping helped greatly by a few birds being flagged already. But we also needed to check further afield. Long days hiking across tundra just starting to bloom, and along lakeshores still smothered in ice, did not reveal any more however. This made me realise just how hard it is to get a complete picture of where spoonies are nesting – so easy to miss a few scattered pairs of these tiny birds here and there, across the vast tracts of tundra. Exhaustive ground searching of all possible areas in Chukotka would take an impossibly long time.

Surveying for spoonies. Fyodor Kondrashov (IST, Austria) modelling this season’s line in tundra-wear. Photo by Guy Anderson.

Wind-blasted and sunburnt after five days out, we returned to Meinypil’gyno, having found at least five spoony territories, and one nest. The picture of which birds are breeding where is starting to come together for this year. Next job – nest finding, and establishing the headstarting ‘class of 2019’.

Singing male spoony. Photo by Guy Anderson.

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Update from Jodie Clements

The second contingent of field workers arrived in Meinypil’gyno on the 5 June as planned! With good weather in Anadyr and a break in the fog at Meino the helicopter was able to fly with just a couple of hours delay. We were greeted by Sveta, Roman and the team with tea and cakes, and eager to hear of recent sightings of spoon-billed sandpiper.

After a good night’s sleep, the majority of the team set off in all directions of the core area in search of spoonies. I met Ivan and Nikolay at the rearing house; rooms, incubators and equipment already cleaned and set up at the new location ready to receive eggs. I brought with me a new incubator to trial, the same type of incubator used at the spoonie facility at WWT Slimbridge this year. I also brought a new, more portable, portable incubator. Hopefully easier to carry on the quad and boat during egg collections. We cleaned these and set them up for testing.

In the following days, one half the field team continued to search the core area while the other half made a 5 day trip West, taking a boat to the coastal spit where the Kerzhak (their transport/ sleeping quarters for the next few days) was waiting for them. This was driven across the frozen waters earlier in the year in preparation for use in Spring, it will remain until the river freezes over again. Though spoonies started to arrive earlier than last year the rate of new sightings is increasing quite slowly. In better news, the first egg had been found at Ankavie on the 8 June. Pavel decided to check a nest cup from the previous year and by pure chance the resident female had laid in this exact same cup. It also happened to be Pavels birthday that day… so perhaps if this clutch is taken for headstarting, this little spoonie should be named Pavel?!

Safe landing in Meino for the field team.

The Kerzhak Camp. Photo by Tong Mu.

Pavel and Wyatt ringing T8’s partner, newly dubbed ‘88’. Photo by Jodie Clements.

While part of the team were away we made our first egg collection. Nikolay checked a previously located nest in the morning reporting there were three eggs. By the time we arrived with the portable incubator in the afternoon the female had laid the forth so we were able to make a full clutch collection. The male of this pair is T8, a headstarted male. He also bred last year and reared a brood of two to fledging. His female this year is unringed, so we replaced the eggs with dummies to allow Pavel to catch and ring her during her incubation duties.

T8 waiting patiently for us to leave his nest. Photo by Nikolay Yakoshev.

Ivan and I collecting T8’s clutch. Photo by Nikolay Yakoshev.

To date we have collected four clutches, and as I write this Ivan and Nikolay are out collecting the fifth. One of the eggs collected so far was rather unusual; it was in miniature. Perfectly formed in shape and colour but not even the length of the widest part of a normal sized Spoonie egg. When candled this egg contained no yolk. It has been observed in many wild birds on occasion. As there is no chance of it developing it will not be incubated, perhaps taken back for research or a museum piece.

Incubation of spoon-billed sandpiper eggs.

The team exploring the western territories returned yesterday, reporting at least four pairs with a mix of ringed and unringed individuals, and one nest found. The search continues! Stayed tuned for more new from the field.

For a bit of fun, spot the spoonie nest…!

Spot the spoonie nest! Photo by Katya Maksimova. If you can’t find it, click here.

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Update from Christoph Zöckler

A message from the SBS TF Coordinator – Enjoy this anniversary edition of the 20th newsletter and celebrating 15 years of the SBS Task Force and wishing this summer’s expedition good luck. Please find the latest issue here: https://www.eaaflyway.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/SBS-Newsletter-May-2019-web.pdf

20th edition of the SBS Task Force Newsletter, May 2019

Christoph Zöckler
SBS Task Force Coordinator
Manfred-Hermsen Foundation
Goeben str. 1
28209 Bremen, Germany
Christoph.zoeckler@m-h-s.org

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Update from Nikolay Yakoshev

We are anxious to share the early news from the field season. The first team of four scientists has safely arrived in Meinypil’gyno in far eastern Russia. The team, spearheaded by BirdsRussia, surveyed the local habitat and made the first sighting of two returning spoon-billed sandpipers over the last weekend. This year it appears that the risk of flooding may be much lower than in the last couple of years, giving hope for a successful breeding and headstarting season for this charismatic bird.

The village of Meinypil’gyno which will be the teams’ base for the breeding season.

Transporting equipment is the team’s first challenge!

Incredibly, the champion male spoon-billed sandpiper, which was the subject of several press releases last year, Lime 07, was sighted today. He already seems well paired with a mate, a unflagged female, and we are hopeful for a successful breeding season for this bird. The Lime 07 male carried the satellite transmitter the farthest of all birds in history of our observations. It allowed us to track the entire route from the breeding area to the wintering grounds. The tracking last year led the team in Indonesia to make the first record of the spoon-billed sandpiper in that country. We are delighted to see our friend return to us after such an amazing feat.

Lime 07 spotted back at the breeding grounds.

This field season, over 25 scientists from half a dozen countries will work across three different locations in the Chukotka region. Furthermore, our experts with the support of the Chukotka administration are continuing our local community engagement in three villages towards the creation of a Nature Conservation Park provisionally called “The Land of the Spoon-Billed Sandpiper”.

This week, we are expecting the arrival of the second batch of field workers in Meinypil’gyno. The expedition team this year will continue to monitor the species in the field, run the headstarting programme and, for the first time, establish a genetic field station that will test non-invasive methods for DNA extraction for further analysis. Stay tuned for more news from the field.

The field work in Chukotka in 2019 is supported by RSPB, NABU, MHS, WCS, WWT, Bennet Lowell and Bird Conservation Fund and other sources in Russia, including the Chukotka Administration.

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We are pleased to announce that the first eggs of the season have been laid!

As you may remember from the previous update, male Pink Dark Green and his female Pink Red Right have been tending diligently to their nest scrape. He has lined it beautifully with thatch, creating a kind of woven border; and adorned it with tiny pebbles. Neither one has let up on singing nor displaying so we were hopeful she would lay very soon…

She kept us waiting quite a while even after we were sure of imminent lay. Spoon-billed Sandpipers lay large eggs for their body size, with the egg weighing 25% of their body mass! This makes it quite obvious when a female is about to lay as you can see the shape of the egg under her tail. We call this ‘gravid’ or ‘heavy’.

Female Pink Red Right teasing us with her ‘heavy’ appearance! Photo by Tanya Grigg.

Finally, one late April morning, she laid her first egg of the season. Theses eggs are invaluable, and so the same morning we replaced this egg with a dummy and took it into our care. The second and third eggs were laid over the next few days, also replaced with dummy eggs which the pair were none the wiser to.

Left to right: First egg of Pink Red Right. Second egg with dummy. All 3 eggs ready for incubation.

We don’t start artificial incubation until we are sure the final egg of the clutch has been laid. This is similar to the way wild Spoonies behave, ensuring all eggs hatch simultaneously. Spoonies usually lay 4 but 3 is not uncommon. Until the clutch is complete we store the eggs in a temperature controlled chiller at 13°C. This slows down development of the embryo until we are ready to incubate.

The eggs were put into the incubator early May. ‘And so my watch began.’

Stayed tuned to find out if the eggs were fertile…!!

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It wasn’t long after the Spoonies undertook their ‘migration’ to the breeding aviaries before we saw active breeding behaviours!

Similarly to the wild Spoon-billed Sandpipers in Meinypil’gyno, the captive birds wasted no time in getting down to business. Some of the Spoonies, both males and females, have been singing already. Now much of the flock are singing, displaying, establishing territories and courting their partners.

Freshly refurbished breeding aviary with Spoonie pair settling in well.

We have seen some particularly good signs from male ‘Pink Dark Green’ and his female ‘Pink Red Right’. These are the birds that laid fertile eggs last year. Fingers and feathers crossed for them this year! 

The other pair that laid last year, male ‘Pink Red Left’ and female ‘Pink Light Green’, have also settled well and have been observed singing and displaying together. The male can often be seen corralling the female with his wings, or following her closely, head held high and singing vigorously.

Above, Male Pink Red Left advancing on his female Pink Light Green. Though not so successful this time! Video by William Costa.

Nest scrape calls have also been heard! We can keep a close eye on them through CCTV cameras placed in the aviaries to see where the males are scraping without disturbing them. Once located, we can position small cameras close by to monitor ongoing activity.

Above are some examples of scrapes we have seen in the Spoonie facility over the years. Once a male has made a scrape he will summon the female to inspect it. If she is pleased with his efforts and location they will then together tend delicately to the nest, pulling in grass around it and placing small treasures within it, like tiny pebbles. Below you can see female Pink Red Right demonstrating this behaviour.

We hope to have some egg-citing news for you in our next instalment… so stay tuned!

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The Spoonies have been giving all the right signs and signals that they are ready to pair up and move into their breeding aviaries!

Every morning, in recent weeks, the team have been greeted by a chorus of singing Spoonies. Many are reaching full breeding plumage and concentrating on outcompeting one another with song and display whilst they remain as flock.

The team have drawn up a plan for the pairing and locations of the Spoonies this season.

Layout of the breeding aviaries and proposed pairings.

Pair choice is based on our knowledge of successful pairings in the past, condition and activity of the birds and previous years’ experience. The ‘Converted Wintering Aviaries’ are normally where the birds’ winter as a flock. As these are the coolest places within the facility in summer they have been refurbished as breeding aviaries, in hope the cooler temperatures keeps them more comfortable and encourages breeding activity.

As the birds spend winter on the left hand side of the staff corridor, the birds that occupy breeding aviaries on this side can be easily walked through via pop-holes in the side panels of the aviaries.

Behind the Spoonies you can see the rectangular pop-holes through which the birds can be walked. Photo taken some months ago while birds were in full winter plumage.

Those that occupy breeding aviaries on the other side of the corridor need to be caught to be moved. We have found the most stress free way to do this is by simply picking them up one by one. Let me explain… In winter we perform daily observations, sitting on a stool within the wintering aviary to get a close look at each individual. When it comes to catching we use this to our advantage. The birds naturally walk around your feet whilst you sit with them. When they come close you can pick them up with a gentle hand without disturbing the rest of the flock.

Whenever a bird is in the hand we take the opportunity to check them over thoroughly. They have their bills, feet, eyes etc. checked over and are weighed before being released into their aviary.

A quick check up before being released into the breeding aviary.

Stay tuned to find out how the birds have settled!

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Now we’ve finished preparing the facility for the long awaited breeding season, we can keep a close eye on the birds for signs of breeding activity…

Labelled diagram of Spoon-billed Sandpiper External Anatomy.

The first clear indications that the birds are coming into breeding condition is the dropping of their winter feathers. You typically start to notice gaps in their plumage on the shoulders, meaning this is also the first place you see growth of breeding plumage. These feathers are called the scapulars. As you can see from the picture above different groups of feathers have different names. This helps us monitor and record different stages of the moult.

The Spoonies moult at different rates. Most taking around eight weeks to come into breeding plumage.

We record changes in plumage as a code, from 1 to 7, depending what percentage of breeding plumage the individual has acquired. This method of recording was devised by Nigel Clark, one of our advisors for the captive Spoon-billed Sandpiper population. His definitions for wild adults are as follows.

Examples of plumage codes within the captive flock.

Plumage 1 – Adult winter plumage shows an even grey back contrasting with the white breast. The head also appears very white in comparison to all other waders, apart from Sanderling.
Plumage 3 – 25% summer plumage when new breeding plumage feathers are being grown. The feathers on the back look uneven as they do not all grow at the same time.
Plumage 5 – 75% summer plumage. Not all the back feathers have grown but the head and breast feathers are still actively growing.
Plumage 7 – Adult summer plumage. This is easily distinguished by the chestnut/red head and throat. Upper breast is spotted and the back has feathers with black centres bordered by chestnut edges. Sometimes a few winter plumage back feathers are retained. The red colour rapidly fades in sunlight so they appear much paler by the time they have finished breeding.

Moult can be quite rapid. These feathers were collected in one morning!

We also notice many changes in their behaviour. As hormones build so does tension within the flock. We start to see a clearer hierarchy. The bigger females are usually the more dominant but at this time of year the males step up their game. They become more protective of territory and food, posturing with ‘churring’ calls, letting others know they are ready to defend. If one over steps the mark they are chased away wings spread and with battle cries (of the Spoonie variety!), often singing afterwards as a sign of victory. If two Spoonies are evenly matched short tussles can occur. They will try to jump on one another, tugging feathers with their bills until one gives up and runs away.

Spoonie ‘Red Right’ demonstrating a defensive posture, churring as he does so.

The quality and duration of the Spoonie’s songs will increase as days go by. The males sing more regularly, but the females can often be heard singing in response.

These factors, with knowledge of past pairings and the team’s experience, are used to carefully consider who will be paired together each season. Stay tuned to find out the Spoonie couplings and how their ‘migration’ to the breeding aviaries goes!

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Its that time of year again…

The Team are geared up for what looks to be a promising season with the captive Spoon-billed Sandpipers here at WWT Slimbridge. Building on our knowledge and experience with every year, we have entered spring with an open mind and some new ideas. Providing the birds with all they require for a successful breeding season.

Relaxing while Team Spoonie gets down to business! Photo by Jodie Clements.

Spring conditions in the United Kingdom are much different to those the wild Spoonies encounter in the breeding grounds of far-eastern Russia. Weather and day length are the two main challenges we face. In the tundra of Meinypil’gyno the Spoonies encounter temperatures often less than 10 degrees Celsius with almost 24 hours day light when they arrive; a stark contrast to the recording breaking heat wave the UK faced in 2018. To counter these factors we ‘time-shifted’ the Spoonies, artificially bringing the breeding season forward by 6 weeks by altering day length in hope the birds would breed earlier in the cooler months of the year. This proved to be a success!

2018 Spoonie chick (bottom right) with his Mum. Photo by Tanya Grigg.

This year to help cool the aviaries we have installed a misting system to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper aviaries, designed by Rosie Drew, one of our Conservation Breeding Aviculturalists.

The misting system installed over the winter months is an adapted greenhouse cooling system. Due to the low water pressure at the facility during the day, an IBC container is filled overnight and cooled to around 4⁰C. The next morning a pressurised pump delivers the cool water via low flow fogging nozzles running through a pipe at the apex of the aviaries. With the average droplet size only being around 70 microns, the idea is that when hot enough most of the water expelled will evaporate before ever hitting the ground. Water absorbs a relatively large amount of heat in order to evaporate which significantly lowers the temperature of dry air. This allows the cooled air to sink to the ground where the Spoonies reside and the warm air to rise. Any fine mist that does reach the ground is well appreciated by the Spoonies who stand under it to have a good shower and preen!

Just a few of the hundreds of the components for the misting system.

We have also installed a trial underfloor cooling system in two of the breeding aviaries. Rosie tells us more…

“The underfloor cooling system set-up works similarly to underfloor heating in a house, except that instead of using hot water we are using cold. This idea came after discussions with Jay Redbond, WWT Slimbridge’s Living Collections Supervisor of Amphibians, who uses this setup in some of his amphibian enclosures on site. Pumps push water through a cooler then through pipes laid under the sand in the aviaries creating small patches of cool ground for the birds to stand on. Combined with the misting system we are tackling the heat issue from both above and below ground! It has been a challenge finding a chilling unit that will work efficiently in hot temperatures so as summer hits and temperatures increase we hope that they will rise to the challenge.”

Under-floor cooling system.

Early tests of these systems looks promising, reducing the ambient temperature by up to 6 degrees in an already cool environment. Fingers crossed on those hot sunny days the systems have an even greater effect.

Annual preparations include gardening of the aviaries – trimming the grass, adding new turf, shrubs and grasses, creating shallow pools and undulating terrain – ensuring the environment is suitable for the males to make their scrapes in. And as the tunnels/mounds were so well used as singing platforms last year, we’ve made sure there are multiple in each aviary.

The flock enjoying some early spring sunshine. Note the King of the Castle on his newly installed tunnel! Photo by Harriet Clark.

Stay tuned for our next update!

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Update from Baz Hughes

We’ve known for some years now that Spoon-billed Sandpiper Lime 07 is a Super Spoonie, but until this year we didn’t really know how super!

The Birds Russia field team, led by Pavel Tomkovich, caught him on his nest, east of Meinypil’gyno, Chukotka, Russia on 23 June 2013 and fitted him with his Lime 07 leg flag and metal ring number KS18827. His mate was fitted with Lime 08 and their clutch of four eggs was taken for headstarting, all four of which hatched and fledged.

Although Lime 07 wasn’t seen in Russia in 2014, he was most probably present but not located, as he subsequently reappeared in 2015 along with his mate Lime 08. They only laid two eggs this year, both of which were again taken for headstarting, both of which hatched and both of which were released. In 2016, Lime 07 and Lime 08 again bred together but their nest was not found. However they produced three chicks, all of which were ringed and subsequently fledged. In 2017, Lime 07 was observed in spring with a new unmarked female, but his nest was not found (presumed either flooded or predated).

Lime 07, Meinypil’gyno, 11 June 2017. Photo by Nikolai Yakushev.

In 2018, Lime 07 again appeared on the breeding grounds at Meinypil’ gyno and this time he was a bird we were very interested in as part of our quest to locate unknown moulting sites as he had never been seen previously at the main moult site in Jiangsu, China. When his nest failed (freshly damaged eggs were found in and around his nest on 4 July) the Russian field team put dummy eggs into the nest which he subsequently began to incubate. This gave them the chance to catch him, which they duly did on 7 July, and his satellite transmitter was fitted. As with all other tagged spoonies to date, the tag was glued on to the lower back – designed to be a non-permanent attachment, with the tag expected to fall off when the bird next moulted all those back feathers.

Ewan Weston and Evgeny Syroechkovskiy attaching a satellite tag to Lime 07, Meinypil’gyno, 7 July 2018. Photo by Pavel Tomkovich.

Lime 07 started his migration from Meinypil’gyno on 19 July, flying 1,285km south-west to Magadan, were he staged for 8 days before continuing his migration to northern Sakhalin where he stayed for another 8 days (using 2 sites). He set off on the next (1,981km) leg of his migration on 8 August arriving at Yonan, North Korea on the 11 August where he then remained for 67 days, presumably to moult.

We then expected his tag to fall off, as we thought that Spoon-billed Sandpipers undergo a complete post-breeding body moult in autumn, which would mean the feathers supporting the tag would have been lost. Undoubtedly most do, but to our great delight, Lime 07 was to prove an exception to the rule. On 17 October 2018, Lime 07 left North Korea for a non-stop 51 hour 2,400km flight to the south coast of Guangdong Province, China, where he settled on 19 October at a previously unknown staging / wintering site on the west coast of the Leizhou Peninsula.

So where would Lime 07 spend the winter? He had previously been sighted on 4 February 2016 at Khok Kham, Samut Sakhon, Thailand; 21 November 2016 at Sonadia Island, Bangladesh, and then again here on 17 February 2017, indicating that Lime 07 spent the entire winter in Bangladesh in 2017, possibly in and around Sonadia Island.

As spoonies are thought to be faithful to their wintering sites (i.e. once they find a site they like, they return to it year-on-year). However, recent surveys have discovered that there are significant numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpipers remaining to winter in southern China. Would he stay put or would he move on? Flurries of e-mails were speculating he would move on. And they were right.

In the evening (local time) of 28 October, after 9 days in southern China, Lime 07 set off once again. But instead of heading due west towards Bangladesh he headed off south west. As we all waited for the next fix, we expected him to correct his route and thought we’d next find him somewhere over the Thai peninsula heading towards Myanmar and then maybe on to Bangladesh. We waited, and we waited, and we waited until his next fix eventually came in 19 hours later – placing him off the coast of Cambodia! He had continued on his south-westerly bearing and was still flying. And on he flew, and on he flew, and on he flew eventually making landfall in northern Sumatra on the morning (local time) of 30 October after a non-stop 49 hour flight of 2,300km – almost the same distance in the same length of time (and thus at the same speed – 47km/h) as the previous leg of his migration.

Now you might think the story ends here – after a marathon 3 ½ month, 9,000km migration from the far north of arctic Russia to the tropical heat of northern Sumatra. But it does not.

Screenshot from Argos website of Lime 07’s 9,000km migration from the far north of arctic Russia to the tropical heat of northern Sumatra.

After seeing that Lime 07 had made landfall in northern Sumatra, the international Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force swung into action. This was the first ever record of Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Indonesia at a site which was not known to be an important site for shorebirds. We needed to find out how many shorebirds and how many Spoon-billed Sandpipers were using the site and, importantly, whether Lime 07 was looking okay after it’s marathon migration. Visiting a remote site in northern Sumatra isn’t anything like popping down to your local estuary in the UK, or even visiting well known wintering sites along the flyway. Could we manage to find someone who could get out into the field and hopefully find and even photograph Lime 07?

Thankfully the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force has contacts throughout the East Asian – Australasian Flyway – including in Indonesia and, it turns out, even in northern Sumatra! Task Force Coordinator Christoph Zöckler immediately got in touch with Chairunas Adha Putra (Nchay) who runs Sumatera Birding Tours and lives a mere 220km or six hours drive from the site. Nchay immediately agreed to muster a team to visit the site in search of Lime 07. Nchay and his team arrived at the site on Friday 2 November to find over 7,000 waders of more than 15 species, including many Red-necked and Little Stints, plovers and Sanderlings but no Spoon-billed Sandpipers. The team would keep looking.

Then, at 9am UK time on Saturday 3 November, the news we had all been waiting for came through – Christoph e-mailed us to say that Nchay and his team had found Lime 07! It was looking well and actively feeding on some fishponds together with Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Greater Sandplover, and Broad-billed Sandpiper.

And then my eye was drawn to the e-mail attachments. Surely Nchay hadn’t managed to photograph Lime 07. Click. Oh yes he had! Two stunning full frame photos of Lime 07 Super Spoonie along with satellite tag!

Lime 07, northern Sumatra, 3 November 2018. Photo by Chairunas (Nchay) Adha Putra.

Lime 07, northern Sumatra, 3 November 2018. Photo by Chairunas (Nchay) Adha Putra.

Will Lime 07 remain in northern Sumatra for the winter or will be return to his previous wintering area in Bangladesh? Only time will tell, but we’ll all be keeping a close and concerned eye on him and wish him well.

We have now headstarted 163 Spoon-billed Sandpipers at Meinypil’gyno (160 of which were flagged) plus 118 wild chicks and 57 wild adults. This has resulted in over 800 sightings in nine countries along the flyway. Resighting rates suggest that headstarted birds are surviving as well as truly wild birds but further analysis is needed. Flagging, in combination with standardised scan sampling on the wintering grounds in China and Myanmar, allows us to estimate the world population size – the next calculation of this will take place later this year. While these analyses are conducted behind the scenes, they rely on a large network of highly committed and mainly volunteer observers. Without their efforts these important analyses would not be possible. Each and every one of these observers make an essential contribution to this a truly international conservation programme.

We have now satellite tagged a total of 12 Spoon-billed Sandpipers since October 2016 and the results have been breath-taking. The overland migration route to Myanmar proven; a number of previously unknown staging and wintering and possibly breeding sites identified; two important new sites identified in North Korea, including a site which may turn out to be another critical moulting site for the species; and on the ground action at some sites in southern China identified through satellite tracking resulting in prompt removal of illegally set mist nets.

I’d like to end by personally thanking Paul Howey and all at Microwave Telemetry Inc. for supplying us with the amazing satellite tags which has made all of this possible. And obviously to all of our funders and supporters, more information about which you can find here. Also sorry for the length of this blog, but when I started I’m afraid I got so excited that I couldn’t stop!

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