Spoon-billed sandpiper – they’re back! The first spoonie seen at Sonadia Island

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Sayam Chowdhury and Md. Foysal searching for spoon-billed sandpiper on Sonadia Island ©BSCP

Earlier this year, Sonadia Island was declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) due to its importance for shorebirds, especially the Critically Endangered spoon-billed sandpiper (Sonadia Island is the most important site in Bangladesh for this highly threatened species). The Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project (BSCP, see their Facebook page) is supported by the RSPB through an SOS grant to WWT, and they are one of many partners trying to save this unique species from extinction (see the Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper web-site).

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An ex-hunter talking to school children as part of the awareness raising campaign on Sonadia Island ©BSCP

Sonadia Island is a special place – in the local language Bangla, it means Golden Island. Over the last 6 months, conservation work has been continued by Sayam U. Chowdhury and Md. Foysal. Activities have focused on awareness raising as well as surveys throughout the summer months to record the over-summering birds. No spoon-billed sandpipers have yet been recorded during the summer, and the whereabouts of over-summering first-year birds remains a mystery.

During the most recent surveys in the last few days, the team located a single adult spoon-billed sandpiper foraging on the mudflats as the tide fell. The bird was loosely associated with a small flock of about 30 red-necked and little stints, but was feeding just away from the main group. Many shorebirds were observed during the surveys with a total of more than 2500 individuals counted on the high tides. The variety of shorebird species is impressive, with 19 species recorded including other Globally Threatened Species such as great knot.

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Learning about spoonies ©BSCP

The Village Conservation Groups (VCG) continue to monitor the hunting situation, but no shorebird trapping has been recorded for more than 2 years – a glowing testament to the dedicated work of the BSCP. The provision of micro-grants to hunters to switch to alternative livelihoods has been crucial to this success, and the education work with schoolchildren should ensure a permanent cessation of such activities. The project team have recently been made a Species Guardian by BirdLife International.

Sonadia Island is clearly a special place for the spoon-billed sandpiper, and is part of a network of sites across the migratory flyway that is crucial for the continued survival of this special bird and many other threatened shorebirds.

Source: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)