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Headstarting is a collaborative effort between WWT, BirdsRussia and the RSPB, and occurs as part of the International Arctic Expedition mounted each year by BirdsRussia under the leadership of Dr. Evgeny Syroechkovskiy.

Bad news! – 14 June 2011

14 June 2011

Martin took a break from blogging today and handed the reigns over to Nigel Jarrett for the day.

Nigel Jarrett

Nigel Jarrett

We got an upsetting message from Nigel yesterday. It comes on top of all the stresses of trying to build a safe rearing facility for one of the world’s rarest birds in a very remote location.

Nige reports:

Today was my first day dedicated to nest searching [having been focused on setting up the incubators].

Yours truly only walks straight to the first nest… to see a dead (freshly predated) spoon-billed sandpiper female two metres from a nest with two eaten eggs.

Her mate called forlornly from a tussock 30 metres away as we photographed the carnage.

Our taxidermist-in-residence will post mortem the bird tomorrow. Then we might be able to tell you how she died.

We are feeling quite a bit slaughtered, a lot gutted and truly heartbroken right now,

We did find another pair – probably still egg-laying – and three males (previously with females) on territory but no females. Earlier in the week we saw arctic skuas chasing one of our paired females into the heavens – she’s not been seen since. These birds seem to get a bad deal everywhere it seems.

spoon-billed sandpiper, Photo by Martin McGill

Add to this their concern as to whether the high water level will affect the birds’ breeding. In the back of their minds they know that they have only until early July, when the boat arrives to secure enough eggs to set up the safety net population.

  1. Delip Das Bisharga Reply

    Heartbreaking news!! feeling sorry .

  2. Kathy Valier Reply

    How discouraging! Every mating pair is so precious at this point that to find them and their eggs predated must be devastating. I hope the tide of your luck changes and you are able to gather some eggs and help stave off their extinction.

  3. bill may Reply

    Very hard to take. Hope all works out for the best. What a wonderful bird it is. Great photos. Good luck.

  4. Carol Doty Reply

    Nature isn’t always kind. I wonder if the changes in weather are affecting what skuas and other predators can find to eat?

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