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.

New footage of the spoon-billed sandpipers

Enjoy this video of the birds enjoying a splash in the pool in their new room



  1. Ken Turnip Reply

    There’s something quite joyful about that video. I love the excited chipping and chuntering (of the birds – not Nigel and Nicky in the background!) and the little, slightly trilling ‘prrrreeeee’ notes like blows on old-fashioned whistles with a pea in. (Reminded me of a gathering of over-excited referees!) Really lovely.

    I was recently reminded of the epic expedition you made to collect them last year. I was watching Benedict Allen on his expedition with a sleigh and team of dogs (Icedogs, BBC2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01cz5q7 ). He set off from Anadyr and one of the residents couldn’t understand why he had gone there. I wish I could remember how she described it… but it was along the lines of a god-forsaken dump. Looking forward to getting back there this year? I’d say the video above is incentive enough, but that’s easy for me to say having not experienced it. Wish I was going.

    That’s a while away – just enjoy these little miracles for now.

    All the best
    And thanks, as always, for your hard work

  2. ruralsongbird Reply

    Dear Nigel and Nicky
    Thank you SO much for putting movie footage of the birds so I could hear their excitement. Wow you have the best job in the world. I love the fact that you took it from down at their level so it was possible to see all the lovely colours in their plummage. I am amazed to see some of them have quite a bit of colour on the lower neck and chest area. I thought the winter plummage meant they were pure white underneath. A HUGE pleasure to see them again and to experience their lives. The bathing and drying out activites are SO fascinating. Many thanks from Helena

  3. Keith Ryan Reply

    A breath of fresh air, delightful to see.

  4. Mo warren Reply

    Wonderful video – pity my BB speed is pathetically slow so I could only watch in thirty- second bursts! But I got the message – thanks!
    SO glad they are not only surviving but obviously enjoying life! How could they not when being nurtured by WWT!!

  5. Frank Moffatt Reply

    Fantastic. I’m an ex ref myself and I used one of those whistles that Ken talks about; one with a pea inside. I also heard a Spoon-billed Sandpiper a few years ago and I described the call exactly as Ken does. Like a strong blast from a refs whistle. As Eddie Waring would have said: ‘They’ve gone for an early bath.’ They look in great shape so it’s all to play for in the second half.

  6. Jude Claire Power Reply

    Thank you for making this endearing video available to everyone. It is a joy to watch your trail-blazing Spoonies bathing and otherwise taking to their new home. It appears that some are actively molting into basic plumage, a sign of good nutrition and health. You are to be commended for your excellent surrogate parenting! Thanks again for caring enough to do something daring and potentially life-saving for this species and our planet. I can’t wait to meet a Spoon-bill in “person!”

  7. Mo warren Reply

    Very, very sad that we have just lost one of the precious little birds. She ‘went off her legs’ but
    the vet confirmed that she did not have a contagious or infectious disease, so the others are safe.
    An enormous blow to all who have nurtured and loved these birds. My sincere condolences.

  8. Annette Rumbelow Reply

    What a beautiful video, it’s fantastic to watch well done to the crew and staff that made this possible for us all to share.


  9. Dave Bakewell Reply

    Great footage, especially the calls. At 0.49 the flapping bird in the background appears to have no primaries. Just curious – are their wings clipped?

    • Spoon- billed Sandpiper project Reply

      Yes, the primary (and some secondary) feathers were trimmed on both wings just after the birds fledged in Chukotka. There was a real possibility of the birds seriously hurting themselves by flying into the steel framework of the aviaries we made for them. From 14 days of age (before their wing feathers had grown) the birds would try to take flight whenever they were alarmed by the local feral dogs or peregrines flying overhead.

      The trimmed feathers will be moulted soon. We may decide to trim the replacement feathers, but only to reduce flight speed, if there is a risk the birds might hurt themselves by flying into the sides or ceiling of their new aviary.

      • Dave Bakewell Reply

        Thanks for the prompt reply. I suppose at some stage you’ll have to make the difficult decision to allow them to develop the powers of flight!

  10. Dave Bakewell Reply

    Come to think of it, not much of a primary projection visible on any of them, and birds at 0.37 and 0.43 are similarly bereft. Presumably this is to stop them crashing into things and hurting themselves?

  11. John Holmes Reply

    Seriously cute…. great video. It shows why they’re well worth the effort to save.

  12. Sharon Kast Reply

    I want to help…whan I do?

    • Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Reply

      Hi Sharon
      Thank you for the kind offer. You can support the project financially at http://www.wwt.org.uk/sbs and you can help us spread the word by writing about and sharing news from the project.
      Don’t forget, you’re not just helping the spoon-billed sandpiper, there are some 50 million migratory waterbirds that use the East Asian-Australasian Flyway that face many of the same problems.

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