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.

Headstarting in Meinypil’gyno

While Nige and Nicky have been hard at work rearing the birds for the conservation breeding programme, on the opposite side of the world Roland Digby is going through the same stresses, trials and tribulations as he raises chicks for the headstarting programme.

Roland has six red-necked stints and nine spoon-billed sandpipers and is understandably run off his feet. Helping him, he has Jury Bragin, who is learning the ropes breeding waders so he can take the skills back to Moscow Zoo, and hopefully run the headstarting programme in the future. Also mucking in are Nikolay and Nastia from the Russian field team. But even with this help he has been working 20 hour days.

The eggs were hatched in one of the houses in the village and, when they were old enough and the weather was clear, Roland started moving them to an outdoor pen. He moved the first brood of spoonies and red-necked stints out to the pen on 12 July. The place is apparently heaving with mozzies, so the birds have been happily feeding themselves.

One of the major challenges for Roland has been that the outdoor pens are a mile and a half from the house where the chicks were. As the chicks were from different broods they needed to be moved at different times. There was a long period when Roland was desperately trying to be in two places at once. Jury was a hero and spent most of his time at the outdoor pen, with Roland checking how things were going every 3 hours or so. Nikolay and Nastia helped hugely by providing cover at the house, so the incubator and small chicks weren’t left unattended, while Roland was at the pen with the older birds. Nikolay also helped put the finishing touches to the outdoor pens for the chicks.

All in all, it has been a real international team effort.

  1. NigelH Reply

    This is a fantastic effort. Even a superhero like Roland can’t do it all on his own, and it’s great that there will now be the core of a Russian team that can keep the headstarting going. If it works, as I’m sure it will, it will need to become a long-term programme. Keep up the good work, udacha!

  2. Ken Tucker (AKA Turnip) Reply

    Great team effort and good to see Roland spreading WWT expertise far and wide (yet again). It’s been quite a year for Roland and the birds he has helped. Such an exciting aspect of the project. It will be interesting to observe the impact of headstarting over the coming months and years. Well done, yet again.

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