A quick update to let you know that the team in Russia now has 32 eggs, not all the collection trips have gone smoothly with the quad bike transporting the last clutch breaking down at the western oil drills, and another headstarted bird, White T8, has been spotted.
Roland has let us know that the team now has 32 eggs – eight complete clutches of four – safe in an incubator at base camp. Twenty of these are fertile and developing well. It’s too soon to tell if the other 12 are also viable but signs are good. The team hope to collect one more clutch giving them a total of 36. If Roland and the team can achieve the same high levels of hatching and rearing success they have in previous years and all 36 eggs are viable, it may be possible to release 29-30 fledgling Spoon-billed Sandpipers, a new record for the project.
The last collection trip didn’t go entirely to plan. Nikolai and Ivan went back to an area of the western oil drills to look for the nest of a pair that had not been found on the last survey. Having found the nest, Nikolai and Ivan decided to collect the eggs straight away to avoid any risk of predation (foxes and stoats seem to be in high numbers this year). Unfortunately, their quad bike broke down on the 25km return journey and by the time it was repaired, they didn’t get back to base camp until 2 am. Fortunately, the team always carry a back-up incubator battery (a car battery), so the eggs at least didn’t mind the long delay and when candled the embryos were large and well developed.
This is definitely a case of me counting our eggs before they’ve hatched which I really shouldn’t do but I’ve been thinking about the numbers a lot lately and this could be a special year. Over the last four years, 81 birds have been released so if 19 or more are released this year we’ll have reached the 100 mark. A milestone that felt very far away when the programme began back in 2012 with the pilot release of nine birds.
The latest global population estimate is around 200 pairs. For a population that size, 30 headstarted fledglings will be about 20% of all the fledglings produced by the entire global population. No pressure then Roland, Nikolai, Pavel, Egor and Ivan!
Another bit of good news is that White T8 has been spotted. White T8 was headstarted in 2014 so is the second of that cohort and the fifth headstarted bird to be spotted so far this year.
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