Results of the 2020 #LegflagChallenge Photo Contest

A novel photographic competition to get citizen scientists to spot migratory waterbirds and help their conservation.

The results of the 2020 #LegflagChallenge Photo Contest is now out! Nearly 120 images of tagged waterbirds were submitted by birdwatchers and photographers from 11 countries across the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The “Best Photo of tagged Waterbirds” winner is Cheng Li from China capturing the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper with a Lime green legflag engraved “87”.

As part of the World Migratory Bird Day, the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) Secretariat, BirdLife International and the Oriental Bird Club jointly launched the #LegflagChallenge Photo Contest, which spanned 4 September to 15 November 2020. The aim of the contest and two-month campaign was to raise the profile of migratory waterbirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, whilst encouraging birdwatchers, photographers and citizen scientists to participate in the conservation of migratory waterbirds by reporting sightings of waterbirds that carry leg flags, tags and other types of attachments. These attachments contain valuable information on where a bird is first tracked and provide details of its migration needed by conservationists.

This year’s Photo Contest and Campaign is aligned with the 2020 theme of “Birds Connect Our World” for World Migratory Bird Day. By encouraging citizen scientists to look out for marked birds, the campaign provides a novel platform to connect local birdwatchers and photographers with professional researchers and conservationists, thereby allowing the public to learn about aspects of studying bird migration to the public. During the inception of the campaign, a webinar titled “How can legflags on birds guide conservation” was held on 10 October 2020, with guest speakers Dr. Nigel Clark, Ms. Katherine Leung and Dr. Chi-Yeung Choi, Jimmy, leading experts on migratory waterbirds in Asia (click [here] to view the webinar).

The Photo Contest was open to all participants regardless of age, gender, residence, and nationality, but required images submitted to be taken in the countries within the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, and adjacent regions. The contest contained three categories:

  1. Best Photo of tagged Waterbirds – with a special focus on the following species of conservation concern: Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Great Knot, Spotted Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Far Eastern Curlew, Black-faced Spoonbill, and Chinese Egret.
  2. The highest number of entries submitted – For the individual with the highest number of species submitted.
  3. Most votes and best caption – Included the most voted photos with the best narrative and caption.

In total, 56 entrants from 11 nationalities participated in the photo contest, with the highest number from Japan (25%), followed by China (14%), then Malaysia and Thailand (13%), and India (11%).

Nationalities of the Participants


Best Photo of Tagged Waterbird

Photographer: Cheng Li

Species: Spoon-Billed Sandpiper

Location: Leizhou, Guangdong, China

Date photo was taken: 9 November 2020

Tag Info: Lime Green “87”, banded in Meino, Russia on 2 July 2019.



“Lime Green 87 is an adult Spoon-billed Sandpiper banded by Russian researcher in July 2019. In 2019 there were sightings in Zhangjiang, the bird stayed till January 2020. This photo was taken on 9 November, 2020 in Zhangjiang, Leizhou. Fate links this little friend with Zhangjiang.”

The highest number of entries submitted

Photographer: Saiko Iizuka

Country: Japan

Number of Entries submitted: 11

Species: Common Greenshank, Little tern, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Lesser Sand Plover, Great Egret, Grey Plover, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Dunlin

Photographer: Saiko Iizuka

Species: Kentish Plover

Location: Funabashi Sanbanze, Chiba, Japan

Date photo was taken: 31 October 2020

Tag Info: Blue “H79”, banded on 16 September 2019 in Sanbanze, Japan.


“It’s really nice to see you back in the same place a year later as a young bird. I hope you take it easy until March like you did last year.

Best Caption Story

Photographer: Sharron Krause

Species: Bar-tailed Godwit

Location: Toorbul High Tide Roost in Queensland, Australia

Date photo was taken: 12 September 2020

Tag Info: “5RYBR” tagged in 2010 in New Zealand.


“This bird is known as 5RYBR and had been missing in action since 24 March 2020 when she was seen leaving New Zealand. She was first metal banded in 2010 and colour-banded in 2013. She has been noted leaving on migration each year since in New Zealand but hasn’t been recaught to allow the information to be downloaded from the Geotag. It was my great pleasure to photograph her amongst hundreds of other Bar-tailed Godwits this day and to let New Zealand know their bird was alive and well.”

Runners Up

Photographer: He Jutao

Species: Black-faced Spoonbill

Location: Zhuang He, Dalian, China

Date photo was taken: 4 July 2020

Tag Info: Leg band “T69” tagged in Tainan, Taiwan, China in 2015


“Black-faced Spoonbill T69 was taken in Zhanghe, Dalian on 4 July 2020. T69 was released after rescue in Tainan due to bateria infection, since than it travel between Zhunaghe and Tainan.”

Photographer: Chris Walker

Species: Bar-tailed Godwit

Location: Moreton Bay Ramsar site near Toondah Harbour, Australia

Date photo was taken: 23 October 2020

Tag Info: Green legflag engraved “BUJ” – banded at Geoff Skinner Wetlands, Wellington Point, Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia on 10 Jan 2016


“This part of Moreton Bay in Queensland is being considered as the site for a residential development project which would, if approved, result in 3,600 apartments being built on tidal flats which are currently used as feeding grounds by vulnerable Bar-tailed godwits and critically endangered Eastern curlews. Bar-tailed godwit BUJ was flagged by the Queensland Wader Study Group at nearby Manly Harbour in April 2018. Since then, BUJ has been regularly seen at the Oyster Point high tide roost located a few hundred metres south of Toondah Harbour. This was the bird’s first sighting in the proposed environmental destruction area.”

Photographer: Avinash Bhagat

Species: Great Knot

Location: Akshi Beach, Raigad District, Maharashtra, India

Date photo was taken: 8 November 2020

Tag Info: Green flag over orange flag. One of the 3 juvenile Great Knot banned on 26, Aug, 2020 in Yalujiang, Liaoning, China.


“The western coast of India being one of the wintering grounds always spring surprises. Akshi beach at Raigad is a favourite haunt for shore birds. So wasn’t surprised to see Great Knots an endangered specie late evening amongst the large flock of mixed small waders. What was unexpected was to see a green and orange leg-flagged bird for the first time, as I have been tracking them for the past few years. The bird was very comfortable, actively feeding within a flock of 13. Guess 13 is a lucky number for me as my birth date is also 13th.”

Photographer: Takashi Someya

Species: Sanderling

Location: Sanbanze mudflats, Chiba, Japan

Date photo was taken: 9 September 2020

Tag Info: Blue legflag “H76”, with white legflag below on left leg. Banded in Yatsuhigata, released in Sanbanze, Japan in September 2019.


“Finally! Japanese food after a whole year away! Yum!”

Photographer: Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn

Species: Lesser Sandplover

Location: Khok Kham, Mueang Samutsakorn, Thailand

Date photo was taken: 11 November 2020

Tag Info: Black and green legflags tagged on left leg in Inner Gulf of Thailand, Thailand.


“It may think that the legflags tagged on its leg is daunting without knowing how important it is.”

Special mention goes to the photo contest sponsors: Swarovski Optik, who provided the prize for the best photo; Tragopan, who provided the prize for the highest number of entries submitted; and the Oriental Bird Club, who offered bird field guide books and free OBC memberships for all the winners.

Best Photo: Swarovski Binoculars

Most Submissions: Tragopan Photography Gear

We were grateful to work with Dr. Ding Li Yong, Flyways Officer from BirdLife International Asia Division, Mr. Sayam U. Chowdhury, Assistant Coordinator of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force, Mr. Drew Lyness from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and Communications Officer of the Oriental Bird Club, and Mr. John Gregory, Chairman of the Oriental Bird Club. All supported the campaign as members of the organizing team. We are indebted to the panel of distinguished judges who took the time and effort to thoroughly go through the photo submissions; they selected the winning photos based on each image’s composition, creativity, originality, representativeness, and overall impression. The judges are:

  • Chien C. Lee – Wildlife Photographer
  • David Li – Monitoring Coordinator of EAAFP Shorebird Working Group.
  • Greg Baker – Chairman of Northwich Photographic Society
  • Doug Watkins – Chief Executive of EAAFP Secretariat

View the Winning Photos on Flickr

Continue reporting!

Lastly, we encourage and invite observers throughout the Flyway to continue to keep an eye on legflags, tags and bands on waterbirds in the Flyway. If you spot and photograph a migratory bird with a tag or flag, do pay special attention to details such as:

  • Date of observation
  • Description of location and GPS coordinates
  • Species (and subspecies if possible)
  • Information on legflags/tags (colour scheme, text on the flag)

Here are the channels to report sightings:

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