Worker in bid to aid Russian bird
A Twizel-based conservation worker has put her skills to good use to establish a captive breeding programme for a rare bird that breeds only in Russia.
Liz Brown is the aviculturist for the captive breeding programme of the black stilt-kaki for the Conservation Department in Twizel.
However, she has recently returned from a two-month project to find and collect eggs of the rare spoon-billed sandpiper in the sub-arctic tundra in the far east of Russia.
Miss Brown said the nature of the conditions made it very difficult compared with other projects she had worked on.
"The main risks we have with the black stilt-kaki are with predators, whereas for the spoon-billed sandpiper, it is their massive habitat loss in their wintering grounds of Southeast Asia," she said.
"The challenge wasn't only getting them all the way back to the UK, but also finding them."
The eggs were flown by helicopter and plane on a week-long journey via Anadyr, Moscow and Heathrow, before arriving at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) at Slimbridge in England, where they will become part of a captive breeding programme.
The project was a collaboration featuring conservation workers from countries such as Bangladesh, Britain, Germany, Russia and Myanmar.
"Unlike the black stilt, the spoon-billed sandpiper is a migratory bird, but there has been relatively little work done internationally on captive breeding of wading birds," Miss Brown said.
The breeding grounds are located in such remote areas that Miss Brown and the others could only reach them by helicopter.
"We had a 90-minute flight in an old military helicopter over the frozen wilderness - first the Anadyr plains, followed by an amazing mountain range before reaching the coastal village of Meinypil'gyno," she said.
"It was quite spectacular, we arrived to hundreds of grey whales right on the coast, but there were also some hair-raising moments.
"Crossing a river of sea ice that was beginning to melt, all of us were wary of falling through.”
Miss Brown said the experience was hugely rewarding, and a great success with 17 out of 20 of the fertile eggs hatching on arrival at the WWT base of Slimbridge.
"Just working with people from different countries, and hearing their own experiences, was enough in itself.
"I learnt a lot from my time over there."
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