Flyway news

Following the success of the headstarting trials this summer, the spoon-billed sandpipers have been migrating to their wintering grounds.

As Dr Christoph Zöckler has mentioned here previously, between 12 and 15 October, a record 106 spoon-billed sandpipers were counted at Rudong mudflats near Shanghai. The 120km stretch of coast is critically important to waders migrating along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and an international team assembled to carry out a survey of bird numbers this year.


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Among the spoon-billed sandpipers seen there was an adult with a lime green leg flag, indicating that it was a bird hatched and reared in Meinypil’gyno prior to 2012. The head-started birds are also sporting lime green leg flags with a single character engraved on it and a single colour ring. A call has gone out to all birders and ornithologists along the flyway to report these and any other spoon-billed sandpiper sightings to Christoph Zöckler (Christoph.Zockler@consultants.unep-wcmc.org), Coordinator of the East Asian- Australasian Flyway Partnership Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force.

Following the survey, the team met at WWF in Shanghai to discuss the imminent threat that the Rudong mudflats will be transformed for industry, threatening up to half the remaining global population of spoon-billed sandpiper. Recommendations included designating areas for conservation and developing a strategy for managing them, as well as adding the spoon-billed sandpiper to the Chinese Red Data Book.

Dr Christoph Zöckler attended the meeting, saying afterwards:

“All our efforts to safeguard the breeding area in Russia and most important wintering sites in Myanmar and Bangladesh will be in vain if we are unable to protect the Rudong mudflats.’

Back near the breeding grounds in Chukotka, though the birds have now left, conservation efforts have not let up. In Anadyr, the capital of Chukotka, a new exhibition was opened. Spoon-billed Sandpiper – Life Saved features video, photos, artwork and information on the conservation effort. It will run in Anadyr for two months before being moved to a permanent home in Meinypil’gyno.

The opening ceremony was attended by the Governor of Chukotka, Roman Kopin, as well as regional conservation officials and representatives from local parliament and indigenous people’s organizations. In the run up to the launch, the exhibition was featured on local TV and radio every day for five days. While the exhibition remains in Anadyr, every school child in the city will have a chance to visit and get a guided tour.

  1. M.K.Bhaskar Reply
    It is disturbing to note that the population of Spoon-Billed sandpipers have dwindled to such a sorry state! Your pioneering work should bring back this creation of God from extinction. Our prayers are with you and your team.
  2. Wader Quest Reply
    We were recently privileged to see 4 spoon-billed sandpipers in Pak Thale in Thailand, it is critical that the staging posts of these birds are saved or any amount of conservation effort in the breeding and wintering grounds will be pointless. It is so encouraging to know that efforts are being made and we hope that some compromise can be reached with the Chinese government to protect these birds` lifeline. In the meantime, the captive breeding programme will provide a safety net for the species and it is this that Wader Quest is trying to support. Keep up the good work. Rick and Elis Simpson.

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