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.


Another apology for the lack of blog posts. Things are still a bit busy here!

Nige and Nicky are fine and the 17 chicks are thriving, although one has a bit of a leg problem which is worrying us, but we hope it will pull through.

It may have fallen over and injured itself (these birds are so fragile) or be the result of a birth defect.

Our expert advisor, Dr. Nigel Clark from the British Trust for Ornithology, tells us that waders with leg problems do breed successfully so we will do everything we can to save our little Nemo (I’ve watched the film loads of times with my kids and Nemo survived – even with his little flipper problems).

They are growning incredibly quickly. We’ll post a photo of one of the oldest birds soon so you can see the difference.

  1. Helena Jefferson Reply

    Congratulations Nigel and Nicky
    17 chicks is brilliant. Are the last 3 eggs showing any sign of hatching? I can’t wait for the photos.

  2. Baz Reply

    Hi Helena
    Unfortunately the last three eggs didn’t make it, but we’re very happy with a 17/20 (85%) success rate. Especially as the eggs had been collected very early in their incubation then, quite literally, transported half way round the world, many at an earlier stage of incubation than ideal for such a journey.
    To quote some facts – which us scientists often do:
    1. Productivity is low in the wild (0.6 chicks fledge per pair).
    2. So about 3 birds fledge from every 20 eggs (5 clutches of 4 eggs each).
    3. In 2012 (and indeed in 2011) we reared 17 chicks to fledging from 20 eggs.
    4. So bringing the eggs to Slimbridge will have resulted in 6 times more fledged chicks than in the wild – assuming they do indeed all make it to fledging.
    At which point I can announce some happy news. Despite the fact that “Nemo” had been struggling, when Becs and I visited Nicky and the “spoon-babies” (as Nicky calls them) this evening, Nemo was doing really well – putting weight on the leg and walking much more normally so, fingers crossed, he/she is going to make it. You never know he may even be a she and turn into one of our best breeding birds in future.
    Best wishes to all our blog readers.

  3. Brendan Reply

    What has happened to the birds from last year’s project—are they still in captivity or were they released to the wild population?

    • Hi Brendan
      Thanks for your question. The birds hatched last year are in a specially constructed aviary at WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, being looked after by the conservation breeding team. They, along with the birds hatched this year, form the start of the conservation breeding programme. It would be future generations, returned as eggs that could be hatched and released into the wild in Russia.

      • Yang Reply

        Just curious whether those birds in captivity had been breeding this year?

        • Hi Yang. No, the birds in captivity have not been breeding this year. At one year old they are still too young. We expect to see their first attempts at pairing up when they are two i.e. next summer.

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