News from the Field: The first eggs of 2017

16 June 2017
Roland Digby, Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper

The team has collected the first eggs of the season, many more flagged birds have been seen and flooding continues to cause problems. Here’s the latest from Russia.

We collected the first clutch of eggs this week – four eggs were collected from the nest of Light green 10 and 05 and are now in an incubator. Hopefully this pair will relay and rear their own chicks in the wild this year as well.


First clutch of eggs collected, 12 June 2017.

To date, we have identified 11 spoonie pairs in the monitoring zone and a number of lone males and some other birds we think could be females but as yet have only been observed just after arrival feeding on the floods to the east in Angkavie and not encountered since. In addition, we suspect a secretive pair may be using an area at the foot of the morain hills, where the male has been observed but not the female. From his behaviour, he appears unpaired but given that last year the female was only observed once and he later appeared with chicks, there is a slight possibility she’s around but undetected.

As mentioned in the previous update, the flooding is something else this year. Lake Pekulneyskoe has flooded all of the surrounding low lying areas including the Monument marsh, where the current site for the release pen is under around 1.5m of water. Whilst on the other side of the monitoring zone, Lake Vaamychkyn has completely flooded all of the spits and marshes where spoonies breed around the area of the Western oil drills. Pavel and Nikolai have both said this is the most extensive flooding around the lakes since they have been coming out to the area. This has also made surveying rather difficult as we cannot yet access all areas – attempts are being made to open the river mouth now and once successful things should improve.


Monument marsh looking southeast towards the release site, 11 June 2017.

Likewise, Angkavie has now completely flooded, which has been somewhat of a double edged sword. The flooding has attracted large flocks of migrating waders, including plenty of spoonies. However, the extensive flooding has most likely destroyed at least one spoonie nest (Light green 07 and an unmarked female), along with the nests of other ground nesting birds in the area.


Extensive flooding on Angkavie marsh, 13 June 2017.

There are currently five pairs in the Angkavie area including the male Light green 21 and female Light green H3. Light green H3 is the 2015 offspring of an unmarked male and the 2013 headstarted female White LA and she is the first recorded instance of a wild-reared offspring of a headstarted bird returning to Meinypil’gyno.


Second generation headstarted female Light green H3 with stained flag, 5 June 2017.

In addition to the five pairs, five headstarted birds have also been observed in this area as well as a couple of unmarked birds.

In total, seven headstarted birds have been spotted so far: White T8 (headstarted in 2014); White U7, U6, P7 and A7 (all headstarted in 2015); and White 0C and 0T (headstarted last year).

Male White 0C and female White U6, despite his young age, have formed a pair and I last observed them, with U6 looking heavy with eggs, moving into the morain hills behind the flooded Monument on Sunday (11 June). If successful, these will be the first pair where both individuals are headstarted birds and as the offspring of AA, 0C is the grandson of the Monument Male (Light green 01) and it’s nice to see his line continuing.


Headstarted White 0C, 11 June 2017.


Headstarted White U6, 9 June 2017.

Due to the flooding and displaced pairs, it will be difficult for us to release the target of 30 headstarted birds this year, but time will tell as we’ve got a long way to go before we have a final tally.

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