Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Great bird news from Far East Russia - 30 spoon-billed sandpiper chicks hatch for release

Success at Russian breeding grounds lightens grief over chick deaths

First of the Class of 2016 to hatch

Thirty spoon-billed sandpiper chicks have been hatched by conservationists in Russia over the weekend, writes Mark Simpson of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust today.  The good news follows the tragic death last week of the world’s first captive-bred spoon-billed sandpipers.

Sadly, this chick hatched in Gloucestershire didn't make it (c) Ben Cherry

The Russian chicks have been hatched from eggs taken from the wild by experts from WWT and Birds Russia, as part of a strategy known as ‘headstarting’ which runs in parallel to the captive breeding programme at Slimbridge in the UK, and will be released into the wild in three weeks time.
With only around 200 pairs of this critically endangered species left in the wild, headstarting ensures at least some chicks avoid danger from predators and extreme weather during the perilous time before they can fly.

Chukotka incubator with spoonie booty

This is the fifth year of headstarting and so far 81 fully fledged spoon-billed sandpipers have been released into the wild, increasing the number of young leaving the birds’ breeding ground in Russia by 20%.

Further good news has come from New Zealand company Heritage Expeditions, which last week discovered spoon-billed sandpipers breeding at a spot in Kamchatka to south of Chukotka where they haven’t been seen for over 10 years.

WWT’s Head of Conservation Breeding Nigel Jarrett said: “It’s fantastic to hear good news after an emotional week last week. The captive breeding programme is just one part of the massive effort to save the spoon-billed sandpiper."

“The headstarting project is shaping up for another phenomenally successful year," said Jarrett. Overall this strategy has worked better than we dared imagine. Each year, birds that were headstarted as chicks are returning to breed, which is the best sign that they are as healthy and strong as their parent-reared counterparts.

Evgeny Syroechoviskiy, Birds Russia

Birds Russia’s Chief Executive Dr. Evgeny Syroechkovskiy said: “Heritage Expeditions have turned up trumps this year and it’s brilliant news. Each summer they survey some of the most remote and inaccessible places on earth, searching for breeding spoonies. Each discovery like this could provide a vital clue or a vital opportunity to help us in ensuring a future for the spoon-billed sandpiper.”

Spoonie in Kamchatka (c) Lisle Gwynn/Heritage Expeditions

Ian Fisher from the RSPB, a key partner in the work to save spoon-billed sandpipers, said:
"Head-starting is turning out to be a valuable quick-win in the conservation toolkit for spoonies, and the team in Russia should be congratulated on their incredible success."

Last week the first two spoon-billed sandpiper chicks ever bred in captivity hatched at WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, UK, but both died within days. Experts are waiting for post mortem results to determine the cause of death.

The text is copied from a press release issued by WWT on Tuesday 12th July 2016.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Guatemala: Magnificent Seven Volcanoes in Two Weeks

A few photos taken on a two week trekking holiday to the Western Highlands of Guatemala in the first half of December.  The trip was structured around treks up seven of Guatemala's volcanoes and run by Old Town Outfitters in Antigua in the southwest of the country.  Our three guides - Luis, Ricardo and Arnoldo - were outstanding.


A pizzeria in Antigua with Acatenango and erupting Fuego in background
Antigua was the capital city of Guatemala until the latter part of the Eighteenth Century.  In 1773 two earthquakes wrecked much of Antigua and so the Spanish colonists moved their centre of power to what's now much less lovely Guatemala City.  Even after dark, walking around the centre (in a group) felt safe.

Santa Catalina arch on 5 Ave Norte with Volcan Agua looming over the city

Volcan de Pacaya

Closer to Guatemala City than Antigua, this was the first volcano we visited although we didn't climb to its active summit.  Lava flows poured out of the crater most recently in 2013 and 2010.

Enough heat comes to the surface of old lava for toasting marshmallows

Acatenango and Volcan Fuego

Fuego, from campsite on Acatenango
The day before we started to climb Acatenango, lava was spluttering out of Fuego's crater and large avalanches of ash were cascading down its slopes.

A hefty ash explosion, seen from the camp near Acatenango's summit

Dead pines trees and cloud on the way up Acatenango

Campsite with a view, at 3,500 metres

Sunrise as seen from Acatenango's crater rim.

View westwards towards other volcanoes we will climb

Our group at official summit, 3976 metres above sea level

Porter's dog summits

Delicious feast for lunch before trek onto Fuego

Towards the end of the slog from Acatenango to the saddle of Fuego

Behind me is guide Arnoldo at our closest approach to Fuego's summit

The Temple of San Simon in San Andreas Itzapa

Volcan Zunil

View from Zunil's summit towards Volcan Santa Maria

Young hummingbird not long out of its nest

Travelling superstar Richard, an inspiration to us all at 77 years

Campsite on Zunil's ridge

A cold and windy night 

Sunrise at the summit, looking southeast to Lake Atitlan

I think this is called a fogbow

Volcan Santa Maria with view into Santiaguito

Tujamulco - The Highest Point in Central America

A few minutes before sunrise at 4,220 metres.

San Pedro and Lake Atitlan


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