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.

Message from Roland in Anadyr

Roland Digby has headed to Meinoypil’gyno to headstart another generation of Spoon-billed Sandpipers this breeding season. Despite a weak internet connection, he has managed to report back on his first few days:


Arrived in Anadyr on 16 May; weather clear but very cold and, although not much snow, everything still frozen solid. Met Misha and collected equipment left with him.

17 May: woke up at silly o’clock because of jet lag and bright conditions. It’s already hardly getting dark at all this far north. Went for a walk. Big mistake, it was bloody freezing: -10 with a wind chill of -17. All I saw was a pair of white wagtails and a willow grouse tucked under a snow ridge to keep out of the wind. It was so windy I didn’t think the helicopter would fly. However, at 09:30hrs there was an announcement that the helicopter would be flying. We took off at 10:30. The flight over the frozen mountains was amazing, although very bumpy. The poor woman next to me spent the whole time throwing up into various bags. I on the other hand got lots of lovely photos, but unfortunately can’t email them yet because the internet connection is very weak.

Arrived in Meino at 12:00hrs. Pavel said this was the quickest anybody had ever made the trip and the earliest he’d ever arrived. More snow than last year but less than 2011. Most importantly though, the river mouth was still open, so no territories were flooded. We should be able to choose a really good site for the release pen. First job was the usual cleaning and unpacking, though I can’t get to everything because some containers are completely encrusted with ice.

18 May: in the morning Egor called me into the toilet because he had found something. I expected a tundra vole or even a lemming. Certainly, the last thing I expected was a red-eared terrapin! Later that morning some people came to collect it. At first, I had no idea what they wanted, until one of them made a mime and then I understood! Though if I’d not already seen the animal, I wouldn’t have had a clue what he was talking or miming about.

19 – 22 May: cleaning, unpacking, checking things work and a bit of birding. More and more snow and ice thaws every day. Spring is really in the air now, with new bird species arriving every day. The first waders are now being seen in small numbers: red and great knot, pacific golden plovers and turnstone. Not to mention lots of sea ducks, whales and lesser sandhill cranes (always makes me happy to hear cranes calling!). It will be a little while before the spoonies get here, but we’ll get on checking until they arrive.

  1. NigelH Reply

    Thanks Roland. Wishing you good weather, good birding and, most importantly, a good rearing season. Keep us posted on progress with the headstarting.

  2. Ken Turnip Reply

    Great to hear from you and really pleased you got from Anadyr to Meino so quickly. Gives you a bit more time to get set up and ready. Hope things warm up for you soon and Spoonies arrive in good numbers. They’re on their way towards you – I’ve seen reports of them moving up through China. Good luck, keep warm and avoid those turtles in the toilet!

  3. Helena Jefferson Reply

    Congratulations Roland on arriving safely and starting work in those tough conditions. I hope all goes well. I have managed to get a commision to do two more of my Spoonie talks next January so I will hopefully be able to raise more money for WWT in order to keep your amazing work going. I hope the weather warms up and I can’t wait to hear whne the Spoonies arrive etc.

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