TN18 BirdLife, Heritage, and Spoon-billed Sandpipers


One of the most challenging issues faced by conservationists working to save the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper from extinction has been establishing exactly where they breed in the vast coastal areas of the Russian Far East. This summer Heritage Expeditions, New Zealand’s award winning expedition travel company and a BirdLife International Species Champion for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, is running a trip to northern Russia with a specially-designed itinerary to find undiscovered breeding pairs of this most iconic of shorebirds: and on the ship – and in charge of the onshore visits – will be two of the world’s leading experts on the species, Dr Christoph Zockler and Dr Evgeny Syroechkovskiy.

The trip, ‘In the wake of Bering’, is a quite remarkable and probably unique melding of conservation, science, and eco-tourism, and in this podcast Charlie is talking with Jim Lawrence, Manager of Birdlife International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme, Chris Collins, a highly-experienced Leader with Heritage Expeditions, and Dr Zockler about the trip, what it could mean to the passengers on board, and what it may mean for Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation.



From the BirdLife Community website: “For the past two decades, local Russian and international scientists working with BirdLife have been monitoring diminishing populations at a handful of important breeding sites in Chukotka and Northern Kamchatka.

Knowledge gleaned from recent studies coupled with new mapping and modelling techniques have identified several other areas where Spoon-billed Sandpipers are highly likely to be nesting. However, getting to these places is by no means straightforward. The sheer scale of the areas to be surveyed, their remoteness and their inaccessibility has, to date, presented an insurmountable barrier to visiting potential new breeding sites.

Now, BirdLife Species Champion and award winning expedition travel company Heritage Expeditions is providing the necessary logistical and financial support that will enable surveys to be conducted in an area with particularly high potential by making an approach from the sea.

A new Heritage Expeditions voyage ‘In the Wake of Bering’ will take place in June/July this year which will incorporate a dedicated search for breeding Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the previously inaccessible Olyutorsky Bay area.

Those customers making this pioneering voyage will split in to small groups and participate in searches for the birds under the supervision and guidance of BirdLife scientists. As this area has never been surveyed before, all species encountered will be carefully recorded and detailed notes will be taken on the suitability of habitat encountered.

Small survey teams will explore inaccessible areas of Olyotorsky bay in Heritage’s Zodiacs

Rodney Russ, conservationist and owner and founder of Heritage Expeditions comments “Our remarkable ship – The Spirit of Enderby – unlocks the opportunity for this urgent piece of research to be undertaken. We are delighted to be able to offer our customers this extraordinary adventure and support the vital conservation action required for Spoon-billed Sandpiper in this way”.

Jim Lawrence, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme Manager comments “There is much hype in the tourism industry about unique travel opportunities but this expedition offers just that. Heritage’s customers will not only visit places tourists have never set foot before, they will also be directly contributing to conservation. We are very excited about the new opportunities this initiative represents.”

After searching for new breeding sites, the voyage will continue north to the main Spoon-billed Sandpiper study site at Meinypilgyno – an area where Birds Russia, in conjunction with BirdLife International, are monitoring breeding Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Whether the earlier searches are successful or not, here Heritage’s passengers should have another good chance of seeing nesting Spoon-billed Sandpipers under controlled conditions that minimise disturbance.

Over the coming months BirdLife Community will be carrying regular posts about Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation being undertaken throughout the species’ migratory flyway. So watch out for more news shortly, including blogs from this voyage carrying news, images and videos of the extraordinary scenery, fauna and conservation activity encountered.”


If you would like to support BirdLife International’s work on the Spoon-billed Sandpiper by becoming a BirdLife Species Champion please email, or you can make an online donation here. Please join the world’s leading conservationists in taking action now as time is running out for this most charismatic wader…


Show Notes


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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores


  1. Helena Jefferson says:

    What a brilliant programme. Thanks Christoph, Cris Collins, and Jim Lawrence. It was SO informative.

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