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.

Spoon-billed sandpiper chicks are doing well

Roland, Nicky and the team have been without internet for the best part of a week, but last night Roland sent some notes on what’s been happening.

All the eggs hatched okay in the end. One chick was badly positioned in the egg and needed assistance once it became apparent that it was not going to be able to hatch on its own. However, it went on to hatch and began feeding and drinking without problem and is still doing well. Another chick hatched with bent toes but the toes straightened as it grew and now the foot looks completely normal and it has made a full recovery.

There have been no problems whatsoever with the chicks feeding and drinking. The period when we were rearing them indoors went like clockwork. The close hatching dates and having one more staff member than last year (Nicky) meant we were able to provide a supply of fresh live food every three hours around the clock, which helped the growth of the chicks and their development.

Putting travel towels down for them to walk on helped prevent foot conditions, and once the chicks were three days old, we wetted a strip of non-slip matting and placed this at the far end of the coops away from the heat source.

This year we decided to situate the outdoor aviary and release pen much further from the village. Because of the potential security issue of it being out of sight, our Russian colleagues suggested we didn’t actually construct it until three days before the birds were first due to move. I was a bit worried that we would not be able to get it built in time but, given that Russians have a way of always managing to get everything sorted on time, I went with their request. We did however, get as much of the pen put together at Roman and Sveta’s and likewise the foundations were dug beforehand.

When the day came, it was simply a case of transporting the pieces to the site on Roman’s flatbed truck and bolting them together. It was a real piece of team work and the whole structure was completed in one and a half days. Roman supplied some larger, stronger batteries for the electric fence and that is working better than ever. Of the potential ground predators, stoat numbers are very low, like last year, and red and arctic fox numbers have gone down since we first arrived. There is also a permanent human presence at the pen because of the round the clock feeding, so I am confident that ground predators will not be a problem this year.

We moved the chicks to the pen in four batches between 10 and 16 July. All the birds are doing extremely well because, with Nicky here as well, we are able to provide much greater quantities of natural live food, especially from the pools, which are full of all manner of invertebrate life. The birds are growing very quickly and we expect to start releasing next week.

Provided there is an internet connection I will update you once this has started.

  1. NigelH Reply

    Sounds brilliant, pleased to know everything’s going so well. Great job folks!

  2. Ken Tucker (AKA Turnip) Reply

    Well done, guys. Amazing how they have moved on so quickly with your massive efforts to keep them fed. Releasing soon? That’s incredible. Look forward to hearing about that. 😀

  3. Elaine Reply

    Thank you!!! For all of your hard work to save the spoon billed sandpiper!!!

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