Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation tour




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The critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper is on the brink of extinction. Hunting   of   wading   birds   on   their wintering grounds has been identified as the primary cause of their decline. Without help, Birdlife International predicts that they could go extinct within 10 years! You can help save this wonderful bird by visiting its main wintering grounds in Myanmar. The coast of Arakhan in the west of the country hosts a good number. We will visit by boat and can expect to see several Spoon-billed Sandpipers. We are not just here to enjoy this charismatic wader; we are also helping to counting them. Working with the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Team, we will support the local people by giving a small entrance fee when entering the island, demonstrating the sustaining value of a living Spoon-billed Sandpiper compared to that of a trapped and killed bird. We will meet the wonderfully friendly local people and encounter many more birds, among them, the rare Indian Skimmers and towering Sarus Cranes. There are plenty of Irrawaddy Dolphins too. This tour includes a visit to the ancient site of Mrauk Oo, north of Sittwe and the famous Bagan on the Ayeyarwaddy River, where plenty of Myanmar’s rural birds include some Burmese endemics. 






On arrival in Yangon, the capital of the Union of Myanmar, we will meet our local partner who will take us to the Inyar Lake Hotel for a rest. The eager ones among us can start birdwatching in the hotel grounds and at the lake. We will encounter bulbuls, jacanas, treepies and Brown Shrikes here. In the evening we will go to the Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most prestigious cultural sites in Yangon. The Pagoda also holds one of the most extraordinary wildlife spectacles, which we will encounter at dusk….



From Yangon we will drive to the ancient temple town of Bagan and spend two nights at the Thande Hotel, by the Ayeyarwaddy River. We will start birding on the shores of this majestic river. Here we will focus on Burmese endemics such as Burmese Bushlark, Hooded Treepie, White-throated Babbler and many others. With a little bit of luck we can get a glimpse of the shy Laggar Falcon. A leisurely boat trip along the Ayeyarwaddy River will focus on River Lapwing and Small Pratincoles. The wonderful Pied Harrier and the pretty White-tailed Stonechat are highlights among the grassland specialities here. We also hope to see Rain Quail, Burmese Shrike, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater and Spotted Owlet. Our birdwatching is enjoyed among the magical setting of 2000 pagodas and temples and many ancient buildings. The charm of rural Myanmar is the lack of motorcars, the roads still teaming with ox-carts and horses.



An early morning flight from Yangon will take us to Sittwe, the regional capital of Arakhan (Rakhine) in the west of the country. The Shwethazin Hotel is near a huge colony of Flying Foxes, which allow close views and photographs from the rooftop garden. In the afternoon we will explore the long white beaches near the town and visit the dunes where we can scan through the many waders. Long-toed Stint and Pintail Snipe can be found, with another chance to encounter a Pied Harrier. Citrine Wagtail and Bengal Bushlark are also present. Bicycle rickshaws replace cars in Sittwe, allowing us to further explore this special town on the leisurely way to our restaurant.


On two mornings we leave Sittwe to head by boat for the island of Nan Thar. A few local people pursue subsistence fishing here and by visiting the island we demonstrate our interest in the island’s wildlife. This is the place to begin our search for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. We can inspect the local people’s harvest of marine life. The different fish and crabs are amazing. Depending on the tide we can walk around the island to encounter our first Spoon-billed Sandpiper among the thousands of waders. Among the packed shorebirds we may record up to 35 different species! These include Broad-billed Sandpiper, Great Knot and, with some luck, also the sought-after Nordmann’s Greenshank. Evenings and mornings are spectacular as we see hundreds of Bar-headed Geese come to roost on the island.


Our boat tour also takes us further inland along the mangroves of the Kaladan River delta in pursuit of the rare Indian Skimmer and the more numerous Irrawaddy Dolphin. On reaching the ancient temple town of Mrauk Oo, we stay for one night. We pass through agricultural areas that hold healthy populations of rural birds.



A day's excursion into the forest park north of Yangon offers a great opportunity to encounter forest birds such as Rosy Minivet, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Black-naped Monarch, Green-billed Malkoha and Pale-capped Pigeon.


Later we will travel to the Moeyungyi Bird Sanctuary, a huge lake with plenty of freshwater vegetation surrounded by agricultural land. We obtain further insights into life in rural Myanmar, where ox and water buffalo are used to plough the fields. At dusk we get our first impression of the wetland whilst observing thousands of egrets and herons flying to roost in nearby trees. We stay overnight in comfortable chalets and enjoy the dark starry nights, free of light pollution.


An early morning excursion by boat takes us around the lake with Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Spot-billed Pelican, Woolly-necked Stork, Lesser Whistling Duck, Purple Swamphen and numerous Purple Herons. We will search for Painted Snipe among numerous Common Snipe and Wood Sandpiper. Asian Openbill Storks start soaring in late morning. With luck we will find some Painted Storks among them and several birds of prey joining in. Striated Grassbirds, Bluethroats and Thick-billed, Black-browed and Oriental Reed Warblers are common in lakeside vegetation. After lunch and some birdwatching from the shelter of the restaurant we leave to travel back to Yangon. We will have one last night back in Yangon before our return flight home.



On most days breakfast will be at 7am, giving us plenty of time in the productive morning period. It may be earlier at Sittwe when we visit Spoon-billed Sandpipers as we are governed by tide times. The climate is mostly hot in the day and cool at night. It is the dry season, so there is only a small chance of rain, making the birding a pleasure. Most of our wetland birding will be done from the luxury of a boat. On Nan Thar Island in our search for Spoon-billed Sandpiper we will walk on the mudflats. In parts the mud is ankle deep and you may prefer to paddle bare foot. During the rest of the trip, a little walking is involved at a sensible pace. Many birds will be close to the boat or near the road.



Full board accommodation is provided, with one night at the Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon, two nights at the Bagan Thande Hotel, three nights at the Shwe Thazin Hotel, Sittwe, two nights at the Nawaratt Hotel, Mrauk Oo, one night back at the Shwe Thazin Hotel, Sittwe, one night at the Moeyungyi Resort and one night back at the Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon. All are of a high standard, with en suite bathrooms. Meals are served on board the boat or in restaurants.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 18th, ending with breakfast on 29th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by coach, boat trips, reserve entrance fees, international flights and airport taxes and a US$50 fee towards a local community trust fund that protects the Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the area.



Travel insurance. Personal items, tips, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flights from London Heathrow (via Singapore) to Yangon using the scheduled services of Singapore Airlines. Outbound flight departs late morning, arriving back in the UK early morning. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are available on this tour. See booking form for details.




13 nights including

two overnight flights:


Principal leader:


SBS Recovery Group Representative:


Local guide:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

4th October 2011):


Full Cost:


Single supplement:






17th to 30th January 2012


Phil Palmer



Dr Christoph Zöckler


Thiri Htin Hla


12 clients with one leader

and a local guide



£3290 per person sharing


£3440 per person sharing








There is an option to extend the 2012 Myanmar tour, with a visit to Mount Victoria with Phil & Christoph.

This will be dependent on client numbers




By joining this tour you are contributing to the livelihoods of the local people and

also supporting the crucial conservation work of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Team.

For more info see


 Spoon-billed Sandpiper news & photo page CLICK HERE 



the birders sunshade constructed by locals as an area from which to view the bay

local people erected a sign to say that the area is protected with the hunting of birds & turtles banned.


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Christoph Zockler head of the Spoon-billed Recovery Team

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