Chukotka #3 – Spoon-billed sandpiper

SBS, characteristic shape of bill visible. So sad if the human-made World isn't large enough to accomodate such a special little thing.

SBS, characteristic shape of bill visible. So sad if the human-made World isn’t large enough to accomodate such a special little thing.

Truth be told I didn’t travel to the other side of Earth to see the SBS – rare bird or not. On the other hand we wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been for that charismatic little bird – the work we did put in was to a large degree related to it, and I suspect we wouldn’t even have gained permissions to visit Chukotka if it hadn’t been for the SBS.

All that said I was thrilled to have met the little fellow – they’re great birds with lots of attitude and a freakish-handsome look, and if they hadn’t been so rare and vulnerable I would have loved to have worked on more, better SBS images – but I felt bad about pushing things, because two (three?) breeding pairs aren’t a lot, and even walking on their turf made me super nervous that I could accidentally harm or damage something. As an example, one day we inflated our little raft and paddled across the river to look for SBS’s on the opposite bank. We found a pair pretty fast, and while the real scientists pushed on to try and find more, I stayed behind to try and get more images of the ones we had already located, both for my own pleasure and for trying to distinguish the ones we knew from each other. The rest of the team were gone for 3-4 hours, and in that time I didn’t move from my initial position on one knee, close to the river bank, for fear of damaging anything – that is a long time to spend on one knee…

As I have written elsewhere, the outlook for the SBS is not exactly promising, and that is really sad in many ways, not least because it is testimony to the fact that the habitats which it favours on its migration are being destroyed on a large scale. That is bad news for many other species, and true enough, most Arctic wader populations are in sharp decline. The others were just more numerous to start with, so aren’t all “critically endangered” just yet.

There is much more SBS knowledge on the official website: in the mean time here are some more SBS images from my camera. Remember to click on the first one to open up the gallery, and if you’re viewing on a PC you may want to hit f11 to get the full-screen experience. As usual I am happy when people take the time to post a comment or a question, so if there’s something you were wondering please shoot!

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