I’ll be in Thailand for the next two weeks, hoping to fulfill a decades-long dream to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Like many birders, I have always been fascinated by shorebirds – their subtle and elegant shapes and colors, the identification challenges they present, and most of all by their powers of flight and their long migrations. Among this group the tiny Spoon-billed Sandpiper has to be one of the most unusual and charismatic.
The species has always been rare, with a limited range, and the total population of the species has declined steadily and alarmingly in the last 15 years. From an estimated 5000 individuals in 1997, down to as few as 2000 individuals (1000 breeding pairs) in 2000, then about 700 individuals (350 breeding pairs) in 2005. The summer of 2009 continued the trend – with numbers down at all nesting sites surveyed and it is assumed that the world’s population is now in the very low hundreds.