By Nicky Hiscock, Conservation Breeding Assistant
This is our 38th day of showing live footage of the spoon-billed sandpipers to the public via a CCTV link at the conservation breeding facility. Each day at 2.30pm, when the birds are fed, visitors to WWT Slimbridge can watch live video shown on large screen in a 90-seat cinema. Each feed is commentated – usually by myself but also by Nigel Jarrett, WWT’s Head of Conservation Breeding and one of the team who collected and hatched the spoon-billed sandpiper eggs in Russia last summer. So he knows them well!
While we’d love to allow visitors to see the birds in person, we can’t take any risks with their health care. It’s possible someone might “walk” a disease into the facility and so we have a strict and restrictive entrance policy. However the live footage is definitely the next best thing and the views from the ground-level cameras can be mesmerizing!
The birds, although generally less active during the day, really show off their magnificence to the cameras at 2.30 each day. This is when we visually check their well-being and offer them their favourite food, including live mealworms and brine shrimps. By offering them these titbits we can get extremely close to the birds and observe their behaviours as well as check their physical condition.
During the feed, I talk through the many aspects of how we care for the birds as well as some of the challenges we face day-to-day. You are able to see stunning, close-up views of the birds, whilst I tell you about them and their behaviour and the interesting things, even us aviculturists, learn about the birds day-by-day.
A film of the expedition to Russia to collect the birds as eggs is also shown, just before the live commentated feed, and there’s always a member of staff (often a member of the expedition team) around to answer questions.
So if you’re in the area, please pop in to see the spoon-billed sandpipers performing for the camera!