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.

The day the eggs arrived in the UK

This year I was gutted at not being part of the WWT team collecting the eggs as they had inconveniently arrived on a day I had “important meetings” so it was Rebecca Lee (Senior Species Conservation Officer), Sacha Dench (Head of Media) and Paul Marshall (our Web Manager) who got the privilege of chauffeuring the eggs back to Slimbridge. This was the culmination of almost two weeks of planning, uncertainty and stress.

I thought last year’s arrival was stressful, but it was nothing compared to yesterday!

Last year, our working day started at 06:05 – this year it started at 01:39 –with Nige’s text informing us that he’d cleared customs and security. Here is how the day developed:

Captain Jerry Woodham and Nigel Jarrett01:39, Wednesday 4 July @ Domodedovo Airport, Moscow
Text message from Nige
: I’m through! Just got to business lounge
[Becs’ reply: You are kidding me!!! You can give the Captain a ring now WOW CAN’T BELIEVE IT

01:46, Wednesday 4 July @ Domodedovo Airport, Moscow
Text message from Nige
: I can’t quite believe it either. Can’t wait to get them home now. Poor lil babes. Hope they are okay
[Becs reply: Feel like happiest person on planet. Better stop dancing round house and get in shower!]

02:37, Wednesday 4 July @ Domodedovo Airport, Moscow
Text message from Nige
: Thank the lord for Liz Schickle and BA people!

02:49, Wednesday 4 July @ Domodedovo Airport, Moscow
Text message from Nige
: I’ve been on the plane for 20 mins! Yowzer!
[Becs’ reply: So it’s actually happening!]

02:58, Wednesday 4 July @ Domodedovo Airport, Moscow
Text message from Nige
: Taking off!

06:01, Wednesday 4 July @ Heathrow Airport
Text message from Captain Jerry Woodham (BA pilot): Hi Rebecca. We are here!!! … I’m meeting you and Nigel in terminal with extra incubator … he ran out of hands!! .. Jerry

06:17, Wednesday 4 July @ Heathrow Airport
Text message from Nige
: Coming out now ……

07:49, Wednesday 4 July @ Heathrow Airport
Text message from Becs to WWT support team: We’re just leaving T5 in car. All perfect so far

08:50, Wednesday 4 July near Swindon
Text message from Becs to WWT support team
: We’re near Swindon.

09:41, Wednesday 4 July near WWT Slimbridge
Text message from Becs to WWT support team
: 10 mins away.

One happy man (back at Slimbridge)And so the 20 Spoon-billed Sandpiper eggs arrived at Slimbridge just before 10am after a monumental eight day journey from Meina – almost half way round the world!

The eggs will hatch over the coming week. It’s going to be a tense time for the team so updates may be few and far between.

I reckon we have had help from over 200 people this year and, at some point in the future, we will work this out and thank everyone. However, I would like to take the opportunity to thank a few key people without whom this egg import would have been impossible.

British Airways were truly fantastic.

The eggsNot only did they provide free flights for WWT personnel, the assistance we have received from BA staff has been over and above the call of duty. Captain Paul Smiles (Chief Pilot Shorthaul) was incredibly helpful. Working with colleagues including Tim Price, Ben Mason and Martin Jordan, Captain Smiles helped arrange CAA clearance for the power supply and incubator and dealt with the incredibly complicated logistics of getting them on board BA Flight BA0236 to and from Moscow. Captain Jeremy Woodham (Pilot of BA0236), and apparently an avid birder, and his cabin crew took care of Nige on the flight yesterday and helped him offload his precious cargo. Last and by no means least, Mary George (Community Investment Account Manager) and Mary Barry (Community Investment Manager) arranged, re-arranged, and re-arranged flight after flight after flight. Thank you BA!

Liz Schickle (Defra vet at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre), who was very kindly available on her mobile day and night, helped us enormously with all the necessary paperwork, met Nige off the plane, escorted the eggs through customs with him and ensured we could leave as quickly as possible. Finally, Tristan Bradfield (City of London Duty Manager at ARC) also helped us arrange the import.

My sincere apologies to anyone I might have inadvertently missed out.

  1. NigelH Reply

    Fantastic! Good to know the Rod Hall spirit lives on at BA. I hope having the eggs at Slimbridge will allow Nige to sleep at nights. How are you planning to start the chicks feeding without mosquitos? Is there a readily available livefood that they are likely to take?

  2. Ken Tucker (AKA Turnip) Reply

    Excellent. And well done BA, too. Really impressed. The excitement continues… best start breeding up those fruit flies and ordering in the chick crumb! They’re going to be hungry when they get out after a journey like that.

  3. Jochen Dierschke Reply

    Hi Nige!

    Congratulations – hope you find the time to sleep now!

    Cheers, Jochen

  4. Rebecca Lee Reply

    Thanks for the comments all!

    Regarding live food, unlike last year this time we’ve got lots of options and we’ll be using commercially available live food, such as water flies, that are sold for feeding amphibians, etc. So no mosquito grabbing required luckily! And we’ll get the chicks onto crushed pellet as soon as possible by floating it in water for them (so there’s some movement).

  5. Richard Edgell (ABI) Reply

    Well done to all involved. Another great success.

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