TN99 Christoph Zockler on the Rudong tidal flats


All our efforts to safeguard the breeding area in Russia and most important wintering sites in Myanmar and Bangladesh will be in vain if we are unable to protect the Rudong mudflats…

A conversation with the co-ordinator of the EAAFP Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force Dr Christoph Zockler. Christoph, an old friend and regular interviewee here on Talking Naturally, has just returned from Rudong in China, where he joined a Chinese team surveying the Rudong tidal flats and where – over a week – they recorded at least 106 Spoon-billed Sandpipers, perhaps more than a third of the remaining global population…


The following photographs taken at Rudong were supplied by Dr Christoph Zockler and show both the important tidal-flats and their flocks of shorebirds and the industrialisation and associated pollution impacting so much of the Yellow Sea’s remaining tidal areas. The finding of the poisoned birds is described in the podcast.

The good:

Waders at Rudong

Waders at Rudong

High tide roost at Rudong
Shorebirds at Rudong, and a high tide roost

Waders at Rudong
Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Rudong. Copyright Tong Menxiu


The not so good:

posoned shorebirds at Rudong
Christoph (centre) and other researchers looking at poisoned shorebirds found at a high-tide roost

posoned shorebirds at Rudong
Poisoned birds (mostly Kentish Plovers) found at a high-tide roost

Pollution at Rudong
Pollution along the edge of the tidal-flats

Industrial park at Rudong
Industrial park at Rudong

windpark at Rudong
Windpark along the edge of the tidal-flats at Rudong



A press-release from The Partnership for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway:


One quarter of the world population of the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers on Rudong mudflats, Jiangsu, China

  • A record total of 106 Spoon-billed Sandpiper was counted over a 120 km stretch of mudflats in the wider Rudong area, Jiangsu (near Shanghai) China, between 12-15 October. This number amounts to one quarter of the estimated world population of this critically endangered bird species and is the highest number observed since conservation activities started in 2000.

    Rudong has been known for some time to be a critically important staging area (where birds stay to rest and feed before continuing their journey) for the migration of this critically endangered species. An international team of experts conducted the survey to evaluate the importance of the site to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other species.


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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. Ian Smith says:

    Why is it, that where ever on earth nature has a resting place to feed and stop over, man decides to build a windfarm on it, pollute it and generally cause mayhem?

    Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Vietnam, China… and lets not start on the USA! Sad reading the plight of the Spoon billed Sandpiper, but lets hope the breeding programme is a success!

  2. Ken Tucker says:

    Another great podcast. Thanks Charlie and Cristoph. I wonder if Christoph has any thoughts on where the juvenile/first winter birds are. Do they not exist, or do they use a different route? Perhaps, not needing to moult their flight feathers, they leapfrog over the adults and stage further south. Alternatively, I did hear a suggestion that juveniles traditionally staged to the north in Korea and Japan where now there are few suitable staging sites and so they perish. It seems to me that nobody yet has a handle on where the immature birds go on their journey south. Any way, great to hear from Rudong where I saw them a few years ago. I’m glad Christoph has managed to get to see this important site. Thanks again. Ken

  3. Charlie Moores says:

    Hi Ian, we’re really not leaving very much space for the natural world to survive in. There really is just too many of us making demands on what is becoming an increasingly ‘small’ planet – but what the answer to stabilising or reversing our massive population is (or living in a way that allows wildlife to survive too) I genuinely have absolutely no idea. And I don’t think anyone else does either…

  4. Christoph says:

    Thanks Ken for the interesting question about the juveniles. We don’t really know but have some indications from Korea and Japan. Juveniles seem to scatter more widely along the flyway. We know this also from other species and they occur in odd places. Most rareties are juveniles. But in the case of Spoon-billed Sandpiper we do assume that Korea Japan and maybe even south Russia may have some juveniles. There were definately more juveniles this year than usually in Korea which confirms to a good breeding season, something we observed in Chukotka this summer. Still nobody found the young bird that we head started, but we will look out for them in the winter. Thanks Christoph

  5. Ken Tucker says:

    Hi Christoph. Thanks for the great response – I wasn’t really expecting an answer so really appreciate it. I’m glad it appears to have been a good breeding season and I’m so looking forward to hearing that someone has seen one of the head-started birds. Thanks for all your hard work.


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