Tuesday, 8 October 2013

October 2013 Wash trip

Hmm, neglecting my blog readership in favour of my Facebook friends has found these pages embarrassingly out of date. Please keep coming back to check for catch ups including an account of my first trip helping out with the Delaware Shorebird Project as well as the trials and tribulations of endeavouring to hold down a full time job while ringing with three CES's this summer - yes, it can be done!

It had been a balmy October evening when three cannon nets were set on Snettisham beach and after arriving under the cover of darkness on a cooler Saturday morning the assembled team waited patiently albeit with eager anticipation for the waders to arrive. Crackling radio commentary between base camp laying in the marram grass and the hide team viewing the catching area from the sea wall giving the only clue to progress. In, out, twinkle please, switch in net two, hearts beat faster and bang! Feet were instantly carrying us down to where the edge of net and water met and after guiding the birds safely above the rising tide the rest of our morning began.

Keeping cages on the right allow birds time to settle down after the catch


     Juvenile Knot                                            Colour ringed Knot

Over 500 birds were caught of four species. The larger part of the catch was Knot and Sanderling with two Grey Plovers and eight Dunlin also processed – rings fitted to new birds, ring numbers recorded for those that had already been ringed and a sample were measured and weighed to give an indication of their health. Quite a few of the birds were actively moulting suggesting that they are likely to use the Wash over the winter. It was nice to see a number of new team members gaining their first close up encounters with some wader species.

        Juv. Sanderling                       Assessing moult                  Colour ringed Sanderling

Unbelievably the October weather was warm enough to work on the beach in shorts barefoot, talk about an Indian summer! Incredulously other folk were trussed up in coats and hats - bizarre.

Beautiful sunset over the Wash.

On Sunday morning the team split up with smaller groups visiting a number of sites to look for birds that have been colour ringed. Noting down the combinations of the different colours or reading the codes on small plastic leg flags means that data about movements of individuals can be recorded without the need to re-capture the bird. It was a glorious autumnal morning and over the weekend ninety colour ring combinations had been noted and flags read.

 Little Stint - 2 were seen amongst the thousands of other waders
 roosting in Snettisham Pits.

The black smudge to the left is 15,000 Oystercatchers!

One Sanderling was ringed in Iceland in 2011 and has spent the last two winters in Spain, 3 Knot were seen that had been ringed in Norway with another from Iceland but the real highlight was a total of 48 Curlew which is more than the group would usually expect to re-trap in an entire year. This really demonstrates the enormous value of colour ringing as a valuable tool that can be employed to increase the amount of really useful encounter data that can be acquired just using a pair of binoculars or a telescope, helping us to increase our understanding of wader ecology and how these fascinating and beautiful birds use the Wash; an understanding that will ultimately assist with the conservation of the birds and their habitat.

I'm off to Canada at the end of the week so
 this maybe my last Comma for the year.

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