Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Our Bangladesh trip from planning to reality

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Our trip to Bangladesh has been planned for a long time.

Originally, the idea was that Mum would use her knowledge of the people and place to organise Bangladesh's first bird tour, which Dad would lead.  Not for profit but to try and bring bird tourism to Bangladesh.

We couldn't organise anything for February 2014 because of political unrest for 6 months before. By the summer, things were looking more settled and so the trip organisation went ahead.

The plan was two full days in Cox's Bazar, to go to Sonadia Island for Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann's Greenshank and a day of forest birding, then back to Dhaka for an over night stay before flying to Jessore and 3 days cruising the Sundarbans for Masked Finfoot and other great birds.

The idea is, from what we have seen around the world, that Eco tourism brings money to local birds and people who live near them, making their future more secure.

Mum was worried about the birds and whether they were pinned down enough in terms of getting over for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper due to tide times and finding the so in the end decided to cancel the tour.

It was lucky that she had cancelled as within 2 weeks, the oil spill happened in the Sundarbans and we would have had to have cancelled anyway.
Then about 6 civil unrest broke out on the anniversary of the last elections. Things have been dire with week long "hortals" which are strikes and blockades with buses and cars being firebombed especially out side of Dhaka.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

The last month we've been talking to lots of people about whether it was safe enough come. In the end, we decided to come to Bangladesh but only to stay in Gulshan, an upmarket area where it's relatively safe. It is also where I am doing my Birdgirl "Born to Bird" at Long Beach Suites Hotel, Gulshan 2 at 4 pm on Friday 20th February 2015. Hopefully, as it's the weekend it will be safe for people to travel to get there.

We are flying to Cox's Bazar, where the town itself seems ok. It's too dangerous to go by road anywhere, so we have abandoned birding anywhere else, like the forest in Teknaf. Last week a family returning from a holiday in Cox's Bazar died when their car was firebombed on the main highway, so we have to be really safe.

It was a shame we didn't have Dad to keep us safe, but he had already done a Spoon-billed Sandpiper survey and see 24 birds in one day, 10% of the global population.

I'm not sure if we would have been more or less safe with Dad. We were taking lots of "kurtas" and "kamiz" Asian tops with us to try and blend in. Mum's parents were from Bangladesh but she was born in Britain and so sticks out as a foreigner. I'm dual heritage and my Dad is English and part Scottish hence the Craig.

Either they would have seen Dad and thought killing a foreigner would cause them bad publicity or they might have targeted him as thinking any publicity abroad was good publicity....

Spoon-billed Sandpiper on Sonadia Island, Bangladesh
Taken by and copyright Baz Scampion

I'm hoping that we see out two target birds and a few other things as well. Seeing Spoon-billed Sandpiper is very exciting.

I am also really looking forward to my talk, which I promise will be funny and entertaining whether you are a birder or not. 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

About the writer

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

Mya-Rose Craig is a 12 year old young birder, conservationist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter


  1. Wherever you are STAY SAFE! all the best to the best Birdgirl in the world.(and Mum and Dad)

    1. Hi Gary, thanks for that. All was fine, didn't see anything ourselves and so we were lucky. Home all safe now.

  2. Request timely removal of the rings and let them enjoy the feeling of natural flying without additional apparatus like ring or laboratory produced detectors.

    1. Dear Iqbal Bhai, the point you are making is a very important one to answer and shows that you have the well-being of the bird at heart.

      During our trip to Bangladesh, when I talk about surveying Spoon-billed Sandpiper, I was talking about counting them in a given area, not ringing them.

      However, I do have a trainee ringer's licence and ring birds in the UK at the weekend and there are some birds now being ringed in Bangladesh mainly through the Bangladesh Bird Club. Dealing with your concern, when birds are ringed, a small lightweight metal ring is put around the bird's leg. It is loose and lightweight, so that it does not harm the bird. It would be like us wearing a lightweight and loose bracelet. I use fixed-sized pliers to put the ring on their leg, which is difficult to remove. The ring is designed to remain on the bird it's entire life. There has been much research into the effect of rings and the evidence is that this does not have an impact on birds. The research obtained from ringing is very important, particularly in Bangladesh where the amount of research so far has been limited. The most important caveat for any ringer is 'the welfare of the bird always comes first'. If you want to know more, the BTO website is really useful http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/ringing/ringing-scheme


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