Meet the team

In summer 2011, the expedition to collect eggs from the Critically-Endangered spoon-billed sandpiper’s breeding grounds in Russia’s Far East involved a large team of field researchers, aviculturists and support staff, as well as the vision of some of the world’s leading conservation scientists.

But the work didn’t stop there. An equally dedicated team is now caring for the birds at WWT Slimbridge and work has begun to plan the next expedition.

Too many people have been involved to mention everyone, but here are some of the team members you will hear about most often in this blog

Nigel Jarrett

Nigel Jarrett

Nigel is WWT’s Head of Conservation Breeding. He devised and implemented the emergency plans to hatch and raise the ducklings of the critically endangered Madagascar pochard so that a conservation breeding programme could begin, and is central to the Great Crane Project, overseeing the team that raises common cranes for reintroduction to England. Over the last year he has been researching the techniques needed to establish captive populations of waders, similar to the spoon-billed sandpiper.

Rebecca Lee


Rebecca is a Senior Species Conservation Officer at WWT and a member of the Conservation Breeding team. She provided logistical support to the expedition in Russia, ensured all the correct licenses and permits were in place, and oversaw preparations at WWT Slimbridge for the birds’ arrival. The less glamorous aspects of the project!

She also provided cover for Nigel while he was in Russia by overseeing the 2011 rearing season of the Great Crane Project, a project that is re-introducing cranes to the Somerset Levels. Her background is in wildlife disease, aviculture and re-introduction policy and she’s got a thing for flamingos. Rebecca is the chair of the IUCN-SSC/Wetlands International Flamingo Specialist Group and works with zoo keepers to improve the care and breeding success of captive flamingos across Europe.

Nicola Hiscock

Nicola Hiscock, Conservation Breeding Assistant

Nicky is WWT’s Conservation Breeding Assistant and is responsible for the day-to-day care of the spoon-billed sandpipers at Slimbridge. Her first job in aviculture was a temporary one, helping Nigel’s team rear common cranes for release into the wild in Somerset. The team discovered she had feathery fingers (the avicultural equivalent of green fingers) and now she’s a permanent member of the team.

Roland Digby

Roland, an aviculturist and bird-rearing veteran travelled to join the expedition team in Anadyr – Chukotka, Russia – as they returned from the breeding grounds. He reared and nutured the young spoon-billed sandpipers to adulthood, and through their long quarantine in Moscow before they were released to travel to WWT Slimbridge. Roland has previously worked on projects such as the Great Crane Project where he acted as Crane Dad, and the cirl bunting reintroduction progamme.

Liz Brown

From the far away shores of New Zealand, Liz Brown, who has been working at the Department of Conservation since 2004, lent her expertise to raise the spoon-billed sandpipers with the emergency conservation project in Anadyr – Chukotka, Russia. No stranger to working with endangered birds, the aviculturist has ongoing commitments helping to save the rare kakī -black stilt, a wading bird regarded by Māori as a taonga species – a living treasure, at a captive breeding centre in Twizel, New Zealand, and for the past three years has been working with the Okarito Brown Kiwi. Although once a common sight in New Zealand, the kakī is now only found in the braided rivers and wetlands of the Mackenzie Basin, South Island.

Martin McGill

Martin McGill

Martin is usually found looking after the acclaimed wildfowl reserve at WWT Slimbridge but for the Chukotka expedition he dusted off his feathery fingers for a return to the world of aviculture, to deliver some hands-on bird care. One of Martin’s passions is wading birds and his skills as a birdwatcher were invaluable in searching out the handful of breeding pairs of spoon-billed sandpipers in the hundreds of miles of coastline along this stretch of the Russian Far East.

Simon Buckell

Simon has been interested in waders since the age of 14 and has wanted to see spoon-billed sandpiper on the breeding grounds just as long. Simon has been watching spoon-billed sandpipers on the wintering grounds for the past 8 winters and in spring  2011 was in Rudong, China counting them on their spring migration. Simon quit a 20 year career in order to volunteer on this project. He runs the site

Jochen Dierschke

Jochen Dierschke, 42, freelance biologist and volunteer in the project, mid May to mid July. Interested in bird ecology, rare birds, football and politics. Mainly birding on Helgoland and in the German Wadden Sea. He is on the editorial Board of the popular birdwathing magazing “Falke”. He always dreamt of going to the breeding grounds of arctic waders, especially Spoon-billed Sandpiper, having been in the Russian arctic on Kolguev (2007) and Kamchatka (2009).

Egor Loktionov

2011 was the eighth summer Egor Loktionov spent in the Arctic region participating in biodiversity conservation projects and breeding conditions surveys.

Liza Tambovtseva

Liza says her work at Birds Russia is the most interesting job in her life. She spent eight years teaching economics, which she loved because she could help others.  Now she is doing more to help nature and feel better within herself.

She organised all the logistics for the expedition, solving all the non-avian problems. She was the troubleshooter. Liza says it was a big honour to be part of the project and to work with all of the team. It was always her dream visit Chukotka and a first visit in 2010 cemented her passion for this area.

Pavel Tomkovich

Pavel is the Head of Ornithology Department of Zoological Museum, Moscow State University. He studies Ecology Systematics, Evolution of waders in the Arctic since 1973. In the 1980’s he spent three summers studying the ecology of the spoon-billed sandpiper in northern Chukotka, Siberia. Since 2000 he has participated in the surveys of spoon-billed sandpiper in various parts of Chukotka and population monitoring in the Meinypilgyno area since 2009. His role in the expedition in 2011 was to continue the monitoring and to help find nests of SBS for the captive breeding programme.

Nikolay Yakoshev

Nikolay works at Saratov University as a Zoology lecturer. He led the spoon-billed sandpiper nest searching team in 2011. He has been visiting and studying spoon-billed sandpipers at Meinipylgyno since 2003 and has found around seventy nests of the species thus making him one of the most experienced SBS field ornithologists in the world. He shares with Pavel the enviable ability to locate wader nests at will, essential to the success of the project.

Sveta Belogorodceva

Sveta supported the expedition team ‘engine rooms’ by cooking breakfast and evening meals in her and her husband Romans’ home and prepared snacks for their lunches. She provided a home from home, even washing their dusty clothes. The team’s quad bikes and fuel were stored in containers outside and Roman’s tracked ATV was used to move the larger equipment.

Sveta is a chairman of local “spoon-billed sandpiper’s friends club”. She implements community monitoring of spoon-billed sandpiper population and environment in Meinopilgyno. She has been in this role from the 2001, when the first ornithologist expedition arrived here. Without her support we could hardly have made this expedition possible. Sveta is really fond of this cute bird.

Gerritt Vyn

Gerrit Vyn accompanied the expedition to Chukotka. He is a natural history producer, cameraman and staff photographer for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. As a biologist and life-long naturalist with an understanding of the challenges facing our ecological communities, he aims to produce images and content that are based in science and emotionally compelling. He is deeply committed to conservation and producing media in support of it.

13 Responses to “Meet the team”
  1. Well done you guys of a GREAT job of hatching and growing the chicks. I was one of the lucky 6 who found nests. A magical experience to be able to give back to nature as a thank you for the joy she has given me over the years. Many thanks also to Heritage Expeditions, Bird Life International & the SBS task force for allowing unqalified passengers to help with their searching work.
    The photos are simply adorable and the blog is amazing. Welcome home Nigel and Martin. It was very nice to meet you guys. By the way I have put a bit of a donation onto the fundraising total. Sorry it can’t be more.
    Helena Jefferson

  2. Hello SBS Team,

    Nice work you are doing, congratulation.

    I hope you don´t find it rude, but I´m trying to reach Simon Buckell.

    If there is a chance, just email me to

    I will explain why:

    My name is Helena and I’m a researcher at Azores University.

    Azores University is supporting a study about bird watching in Praia da Vitória Bay. This task is part of a bigger project concerned with science and policy integration towards sustainability. All information about the project can be read in the following blog:

    Within the project I have developed a questionnaire directed at birdwatcher that visited Praia da Vitória Bay to see birds. At the moment I have 85 questionnaires, most of them in Terceira during the birding season. I´m continuing the work until I reach a nice amount of questionnaires
    (between 150-200).

    I´m trying to reach Simon Buckell and other birders that have visit Terceira.

    Thank you for the attention.

    All the best


  3. Hi SBS Team,
    Congrats for the fantastic project you are rolling on.
    I am working on mangroves and benthic fauna with interest in birds as well. I am not too much in interest with mangrove plantation/ restoration hipe booming in many countries. They take up much part of the mudflats overlapping the original ecosystem vital for many of the waders including Spoob billed sandpipers.
    I would like to hear your openion in this regard and look forward for conjoint actions if possible. You can catch me back on

    looking forward to hear from your team

    best wishes

  4. John Tomlin says:

    We were lucky enough to be in the audience on the 19th and to be amongst the priviliged few to see the birds in their special aviary. Many thanks to all involved who made this a very special day. Well done to the team who did all the hard work in Russia and best wishes to those who have the enviable task of keeping the project going over the years to come. Congratulations and thanks to all at WWT Slimbridge and to Kate Humble for her professional presentation. Best regards John Tomlin & Pete Soper.

  5. I was also one of the luck donators to have the opportunity to see these charismatic birds live on the CCTV feed after hearing the story of the WWT team getting the eggs from Meinapigona to Anadyr, to Moscow and finally Slimbridge. You guys are completely amazing to have managed to hatch 13 out of 20 eggs successfully; which I think is an even greater percentage than the parent birds manage in Far East Russia. Tthank you also to Kate Humbel and Martin McGill for being there and signing copies of their incredible Birdwatching book.
    By the way the limited edition t-shirts on sale to help the SBS fund are MEGA. Anyone who supports this incredible undertaking needs to get one.!!!!
    Helena Jefferson

  6. Hello
    Congratulation for your work !
    I would like to write a little text on you work and on the spoon-billed-sandpiper (I will translate it in French), with, as possible, a photograph of the bird.
    I will put your website adress on my blog
    Is it possible ?
    Jacques Schwers (Brussels)

    • Hello Jacques
      Thank you. We’d be delighted if you write about the spoon-billed sandpiper on your blog.
      You are welcome to use any of the photos from here (if you click on the image, you should get through to a higher resolution version).
      best wishes

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] HomeAbout the Spoon-billed sandpiperGalleryMeet the SBS team […]

  2. […] HomeAbout the Spoon-billed sandpiperGalleryMeet the SBS team […]

  3. […] listening to WWT Vce-President and broadcaster Kate Humble interviewing WWT’s heroic trio of Nigel Jarrett, Martin McGill and Roland Digby about their incredible work to bring back to the UK Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks hatched from eggs […]

  4. […] the inside story from three of the people most involved in doing that ‘simple’ task: Nigel Jarrett, Martin McGill and Roland Digby are the somewhat unlikely heroes of this […]

  5. […] listening to WWT Vice-President and broadcaster Kate Humble interviewing WWT’s heroic trio of Nigel Jarrett, Martin McGill and Roland Digby about their incredible work to bring back to the UK Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks hatched from eggs […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: