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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.

Beautiful veins

The past four days have been particularly tense and nerve-wracking for me.  On Friday I set the first clutch of spoon-billed sandpiper eggs in the Hemel incubator (the same machine that was causing grief in an earlier post, but has now been coaxed into running at a stable 37.5°C).  Emotionally I have been all over the place, the majority of the time in absolute terror that I may have inadvertently been incubating these precious eggs at the wrong temperature, humidity or turning regime.  Today came the moment of truth; time to candle and re-weigh the eggs.

Extracting the eggs from the incubator is always fraught with nervous thoughts of dropping eggs, thankfully my hands stayed steady!  With the lights off and in nearly complete darkness I began to shine the candling light into each egg.  One after another I saw the most beautiful sight of developing veins, and even pulsating embryos.  At day four of incubation this is exactly what I was hoping for, and to see it in all four of the eggs was a completely indescribable feeling!

I was so elated that all the eggs are viable and developing that I nearly forgot that I also had to weigh them.  Eggs should lose around 15% of their weight during normal development, and any major deviation can cause a variety of developmental problems.  All four eggs are tracking well for weight loss, meaning the relative humidity of 50-55% is spot on.

The second clutch of spoon-billed sandpiper eggs are due for candling and weighing on Thursday, let’s hope for equally rewarding results.

Beautiful Veins c R D Smith

Beautiful Veins c R D Smith

  1. Baz Hughes Reply

    Hi Liz

    This is fantastic news.

    I well remember Nige’s stories from last year when he experienced exactly the same terror.
    Scroll to 2:46 in the video on the SBS home page and you’ll see his hands shaking as he measures an egg.

    You are all doing an amazing job guys.

    Baz

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