Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Be Inspired!

The Expedition Video

a Review by MG

JUST one hour long.  I was enthralled all the way through. No kidding.

This is one of the most inspiring, adventure- filled, bird related pieces of film I have seen in a long, long time. Here’s a preview:

It’s like some fantastic lads adventure (except there are lasses as well!).  At around £10 this is a no brainer.  Buy it, watch it, get someone a copy for Christmas and contribute to the cause.  The film charts the expedition to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, by travelling to the far reaches of NE Siberia to collect a few eggs and attempt to rear some young birds with a goal of supplementing the wild population in the future.


I first heard of the expedition from Jochen D. speak about it the evening lecture slot on Helgoland in October 2011.  Even though it was given in German of which I only know a handful of words, I was drawn-in!

The film begins with a BBC news feed and key input from spokespeople from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).  They helpfully set the scene on the need for this action and its justification.


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A wee slideshow of pics from the expedition

The expedition section soon begins on the film and lo- Jochen himself appears (regularly with big grin and thumbs up) as a volunteer ornithologist on the expedition.

Pause there –How the heck do you get to go on one of these things!!!

Nigel Jarrett and Martin McGill of the WWT are part of an international  team with volunteer ornithologists and especially a team of Russian fieldworkers.  After having arrived in Anadyr,  Chukotka they then have a protracted and unplanned wait of 12 days whilst the rest of their equipment arrives, before they can move on to Meinypil’gyno, where they set up their base camp.  The film is mostly shot by the field workers and not a professional camera crew.  This brings a real earthy dynamism to events.  They arrive in late May and begin to walk and walk and walk, drawing blanks day after day, until they finally see their first Spoon-billed Sandpipers.


A spectacular if remote and hostile land

One of the lowest points was finding a predated nest and dead adult bird. This was a turning point when key decisions needed to be made ‘on the hoof’.

Nigel Jarrett plays the role of ‘mother’ wonderfully and as the film rolls,  just like a human mother, looks  increasingly exhausted.

Tough ‘in the moment’ decisions needed to be made with uncertain outcomes.  Dodgy electricity in sub-standard accommodation was the only possible environment for incubating the precious eggs.  The guys sometimes look absolutely exhausted e.g. the last two eggs hatching at 3 and 3:30 am.

and they saw other good birds and wildlife too…



The film captures several hatching ‘Spoonies’. Again it wasn’t hard to feel the euphoria experienced by those on the expedition; these were remarkable moments never to be repeated. There is nothing romantic, easy or painless about this expedition, but the combination of working for a higher cause, in a stunningly remote and hostile environment, with one of the most remarkable looking bird species in the world, makes this a must-watch film.

 Really:  Get a copy, watch and don’t miss it.

Go Here for more info

Go Here to buy a copy.


  • The spoon-billed sandpiper conservation breeding programme is a collaboration between WWT, Birds Russia, Moscow Zoo and the RSPB working with colleagues from the BTO, BirdLife International, ArcCona and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force.
  • The project is supported by WWT, RSPB, the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative and SOS – Save our Species, with additional financial contributions and support from BirdLife International, the East-Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership, the Convention on Migratory Species, Heritage Expeditions, the Australasian Wader Study Group of Birds Australia, the BBC Wildlife Fund, Avios, the Olive Herbert Charitable Trust, the Oriental Bird Club, British Airways Communities & Conservation Scheme, Swarovski Optik, New Zealand Department of Conservation and many generous individuals.
  • WWT saves wetlands worldwide – a critical habitat which is disappearing at an alarming rate. We act to identify and save severely threatened wildlife, such as the Madagascar pochard, which has been given a more secure future thanks to our decades of experience in conservation breeding.
  • Our researchers have been monitoring wildlife in the UK for more than 60 years, observing changes and finding solutions.
  • We put people at the heart of all our work, because conservation needs support to succeed.
  • And we share what we learn with experts around the world and with our 200,000+ members, the 60,000 school children who come on an educational visit to our nine wetland visitor centres in the UK, and the million people who visit us each year to enjoy a wetland experience.
  • We manage over 2,600 hectares of wetlands across the UK which between them support over 200,000 waterbirds and other wildlife.
  • WWT members enjoy free access to all nine visitor centres and are kept up to date with developments through an award-winning quarterly magazine, Waterlife.

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