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In Search of Spoon-billed Sandpipers

AT A GLANCE

FOCUS

Bird & Wildlife Cruise
birds, whales & dolphins, mammals, scenery, historical sites & photography.

WHERE

The Russian Far East
Petropavlovsk – Zhupanovo River – Commander Islands – Meinypil’gyno – Chukotka – Cape Navarin – Anadyr.

CLIMATE

Temperate to summer Polar.

ACCOMODATION

54 passenger comfortable expedition ship. Cabins with, and without private facilities. 

SAMPLE WILDLIFE

Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other shorebirds, breeding alcids including Whiskered Auklet and Spectacled Guillemot plus many other seabirds, Red-legged Kittiwake, Steller’s Sea-Eagle, seaduck, pipits, warblers, thrushes, flycatchers and finches. Brown Bear, Arctic Fox, Pacific Sea Otter, Walrus, Steller’s Sea-lion, other seals, Orca, Beluga, Sperm, Gray and Northern Right Whales etc.

With its unique spatulate-shaped bill, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is surely one of the world’s most extraordinary shorebirds and whilst Wildwings have run a number of highly successful trips to see this species on its wintering grounds in Thailand, very few people have had the privilege of watching it on the breeding grounds in the far east of Siberia.  This, however, is precisely what this special trip is aiming to achieve.

 

With the world population seemingly in freefall and now thought to number less than 200 pairs, this voyage is a genuine collaboration between our good friend Rodney Russ and his team at Heritage Expeditions, Birdlife International and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Taskforce, aboard the expedition vessel ‘Akademik Sholkalskiy’ (54 passengers), a sister ship to theProf Khromov (Spirit of Enderby)

One of the key goals of the trip is to genuinely help in saving this critically endangered bird and as well as visiting Meinypil’gyno, the main monitored breeding site for the species, participants will also spend part of the expedition exploring the remote Chukotka coastline looking for unknown breeding sites.

Despite being one of the rarest birds in the world, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is very specific over the type of habitat it requires and working with three members of the Recovery Taskforce, the 2011 expedition made ornithological history by discovering an important new breeding area for this iconic species.  Wildwings leader, Chris Collins, and client Roger Stansfield were part of the ground party who found the birds and it is difficult to think of a bigger birding highlight one could have than this! No new nests were discovered in 2012 or 2013 sadly. Good views were enjoyed of this amazing little bird however, at Meinypil’gyno, with two nests visited during the 2013 voyage.

The 2015 trip will follow a similar itinerary, albeit checking other bays along the vast length of the Chukotka coastline, and there are genuine hopes that more discoveries will be made.

The scenery in this region is truly stunning with snow capped mountains, active volcanoes and alpine meadows, however, the potential species list is simply mouth-watering.  As well as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, we stand an excellent chance of seeing many other waders including Mongolian Plover, Grey-tailed Tattler, Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Red-necked and Long-toed Stints and Rock Sandpiper.  The area is also rich in alcids and other seabirds and the potential species list includes Spectacled, Brunnich’s and Pigeon Guillemots, Whiskered, Crested, Parakeet and Least Auklets, Tufted and Horned Puffins, Ancient and Kittlitz’s Murrelets, as well as Laysan and Short-tailed Albatrosses, Red-legged Kittiwake, Aleutian Tern, Pacific & White-billed Divers, Short-tailed Shearwater, Mottled Petrel, Fork-tailed Storm-petrel and both Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorants. Gulls could include Sabine’s, Kamchatka, , Vega, Slaty-backed and Glaucous-winged. 

The landings are also extremely productive with the star bird surely being one of the world’s ultimate raptors, the Steller’s Sea-eagle. With the supporting cast including Emperor Goose, Steller’s and King Eiders, Harlequin Duck, White-winged & Black Scotors, Sandhill Crane, Gyrfalcon, Pacific Swift, Buff-bellied, Olive-backed, Red-throated and Pechora Pipits, Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler, Lanceolated and Dusky Warblers, the recently split Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Red-throated Flycatcher, Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Rufous-tailed Robin, Pacific Wren, Little, Rustic, Yellow-breasted, Grey and Palla’s Reed Buntings, Dusky Thrush, ‘Black-backed’ Wagtail, Grey-crowned & Asian Rosy Finches, Arctic Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak, Siberian Accentor and Oriental Greenfinch, those on the trip can expect to see an excellent range of Eastern specialities.

The expedition also provides some fantastic opportunities to see some exciting mammals with recent sightings including Arctic Fox, Brown Bear (over 75 individuals on the 2013 expedition), Pacific Sea Otter, Walrus (3000+ in 2012), Steller’s Sea-lion, Northern Fur Seal, Largha, Ringed, Ribbon and Bearded Seals, Baird’s Beaked Whale, Orca, Dall’s Porpoise, Beluga, Sperm, Northern Minke, Gray and Humpback Whales, Arctic Ground-squirrel, Kamchatka Marmot and Mountain Hare.

There may be some optional birding opportunities around Petropavlosvk and Anadyr pre and post voyage.

Day 1:  Arrive Petropavlovsk and overnight group hotel.

Day 2:  Morning Optional birding excursion, transfer from hotel in Petropavlovsk to board the vessel and sail.

Day 3:  Zhupanovo River, Kamchatka Peninsula.  Zodiac cruise for nesting Steller’s Sea Eagles and then ashore searching for Long-toed Stint, Lanceolated Warbler and Yellow-breasted Bunting.

Days 4&5: Two days in the Commander Islands.  Visit the community of Nikolskoye where we will look for Rock Sandpiper, Mongolian Plover, Pechora Pipit and Glaucous-winged Gull.  Zodiac cruise for Parakeet Auklet and Brunnich’s Guillemot.  Explore further east for Horned Puffin, Red-faced Cormorant, Red-legged Kittiwake, Grey-crowned Rosy Finch, Pacific Sea Otter and Baird’s Beaked Whale.

Day 6: Karaginsky Island.  Morning at sea, we will look for Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, Crested Auklet and Tufted Puffin. An afternoon landing, with opportunities to see an excellent range of waterfowl, waders and passerines including Harlequin, Red-necked and Long-toed Stints, Dusky Warbler, Red-throated Pipit and Pallas’ Reed Bunting.

Day 7: Verkhoturova Island and Goven Peninsula.  A morning ashore on this spectacular island where we can expect to have some incredible views of the vast seabird colonies including close encounters with Tufted Puffins and Brunnich’s Guillemots.  Steller’s Eiders have also been seen here previously.  In the late afternoon, zodiac cruise the Goven Peninsula for Brown Bears and sea ducks such as King Eider, Black and Stejneger’s Scoters and Harlequin Duck.

Days 8-11: Koryak and Chukotka coastline.  Four days to explore isolated bays including looking for new breeding sites for Spoon-billed Sandpiper.  Other species we could encounter include Gyrfalcon, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Great Knot, Long-toed Stint, Siberian Accentor, Pechora Pipit and Asian Rosy Finch. Potential mammals include Brown Bear, Mountain Sheep and Kamchatka Marmot.

Days 12&13:  Meinypil’gyno.  The main monitored Spoon-billed Sandpiper breeding site.  We hope to be able to take all participants to at least one territory although viewing is likely to be at a minimum of 50 – 80 metres (i.e. scope views).  This area is rich in wildlife and we could also see Pacific and White-billed Divers, Sandhill Crane, Emperor Goose, Sabine’s Gull, Beluga and Grey Whales plus Largha Seals.

Day 14: Cape Navarin.  This coastline is rich in marine mammals and we will look for Walruses and Grey Whales.  Although the Walruses move between sites on previous visists we have seen over 3000 individuals here! Potential birds include King Eider, Whooper Swan and Aleutian Tern.

Day 15: Anadyr, around which we also expect Beluga Whales.  Disembark and transfer to hotel or airport.

Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant Russian authorities. 

Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.

Dates:                27th June – 10th July 2017 

Leader/s:           Chris Collins and the rest of the ship’s expedition team.

Cost:
£5515                 Sharing a triple basic (upper & lower berths) 

£6345                 Sharing a twin basic (lower berths)

£6759                 Sharing a twin with facilities (upper and lower berths)

£7239                 Sharing a superior twin with facilities (lower berths)

£7515                 Sharing a suite with facilities from (beds)

Single cabin supplement 1.8 twin share price.

Deposit:  25% 

These are ‘special’ Sterling prices. Payment may also be made in US Dollars, please ask for more details.

Price includes: Voyage with accommodation as booked, including all meals, tea/coffee, shore excursions, lectures and services of WildWings leader/s and the expedition team, day by day bird and mammal checklist. Group transfers hotel to ship, ship to airport.

Price excludes: Landing fees and port taxes (currently US$500, payable onboard the ship), return economy class flights from £799 upwards (London – Petropavlovsk, Anadyr – London), pre cruise hotel night including airport-hotel transfer £80pp b&b,travel insurance, onboard gratuities (suggest US$10 per day), Russian visa (c£98) and other drinks. Optional pre-voyage birding excursions around Petropavlovsk will be offered subject to demand (approx £80 including boxed lunch). 

Contact us for the ship’s colour brochure. The 2012 and 2013 voyage reports and species lists are on our website in the tour reports tab and the link at the top of the page. 

Our other Russian Far East voyages are Kamchatka – Ring of Fire 2017 and the Sea of Okhotsk 2017


    Photo

    Tour Leader

    Chris has birded in over 50 countries around the world and now spends quite a lot of his time at sea. Although professionally qualified as a Chartered Accountant, these days Chris concentrates on wildlife-related projects and was very instrumental in setting up the Western Pacific Odyssey and also guides our Russian Far East voyages.

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“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip”

In search of Spoon-billed Sandpipers - A.S July 2013

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Best moment? ‘Spoon-billed Sand on the nest’

In search of Spoon-billed Sandpipers - P.V. July 2013

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‘Chris Collins was very hard working, putting a lot of hours in to help us try and see as much of the wildlife a possible……10 out of 10’

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Cruise, Russia - M.H July 2013

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