Roland Digby has again joined the annual expedition to Chukotka to ‘headstart’ a new generation of spoon-billed sandpiper fledglings on the breeding grounds. He has sent his first report:
The large amount of winter snow and late spring meant the spoon-billed sandpipers arrived late this year. Last year the first sightings were on 30th May, but this year they were not seen until 2nd June.
So far, there are three single males singing in the moraine hills around the area known as the Corral. Two of the three birds that are here already are marked with green leg-flags showing that they’ve been caught and ringed here in previous years. The other is un-ringed.
A further pair was seen in the area yesterday but headed for further north. On the 3rd June, the “Monument” pair arrived. Named after the area in which they nest, this pair has been very productive in past years and are the biological parents of several birds that have either been ‘headstarted’ or are in the Slimbridge breeding flock. They are still a bit unsettled, which is normal for birds just after they return, but Nikolai and Nastia were able to get some photos of them yesterday.
As yet no birds have been seen to the east in Angavie, although this is expected as they normally arrive four days or so later than the other birds. Of the pairs that breed over there, two pairs have been caught and colour marked in past years, so in a couple of days we shall see if they’re back or not.
The conditions are similar to 2011. The river mouth is closed and the heavy snow is melting, so there is a lot of flooding which makes it pretty difficult to get around. It also means the low lying marshes, where birds have bred for the last two years, are either flooded or soon to be flooded. It will be interesting to see where the Angavie birds breed. The tracks along the shore of Pikulneiskoe are still blocked with snow, so Ivan and Roland are facing a 25km hike through the moraine hills to The Cross, to see if that pair have returned yet.