This blog is for family and friends, to share my feelings and photos with and for myself, to support my fading memory and improve my Japanese. I intend to do some writing in kanji, but am not getting very far without a Japanese computer. So for the moment I say "konnichi wa". Aisatsu dake - just saying hello.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Once in a life time, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, ヘラシギ

It was the first time for me to see this bird.

This critically endangered bird is very small and looks like any other small wader from a distance. When it mingles with stints of the same size it's nearly impossible to detect. However, its spatula-shaped bill makes it very special and it appears on many birders' wishlist.
Somebody spotted it and sent the word out. The following day (a Saturday) many birders drove to the mudflats of the Ariake Sea.

The search started on the upcoming tide, which drove the birds close to shore. At the top of the tide, when all the mud was submerged thousands of waders took refuge on the rocks lining the flat. A Peregrine Falcon sent them all flying again few times and when the tide went out all birds returned to the extensive mud.

Between 2 Broad-billed Sandpipers

At the back behind the dunlins

To the right of the dunlin

I was lucky to see it on 3 occasions, thanks to the help of people with digital scopes. Taking photos was extremely hard, because the tiny bird kept on disappearing behind rocks and other bigger birds. It also moved very fast, sending waves of panic and frustration through the group of photographers.

Just about to vanish behind the rocks.

Out on the mudflat again (glad the falcon didn't get it). The bird in the back is a juvenile Grey Plover and about twice as big.

There are only a few hundred of these birds left in the world and I feel very lucky that I was able to see this little bugger. It might never happen again...


  1. You are very lucky indeed to see this iconic species.

  2. Congratulations! I hope I may have some of this good luck later on this month in Okinawa.

  3. Thank you guys and good luck to you. Happy birding!