Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Ringing at the Wash

This weekend I went to Norfolk to ring with the Wash Wader Ringing Group for the second time. My first visit in August was amazing. I was there for a long weekend and experienced cannon-netting on Heacham and Snettisham beaches and mist-netting in the dark on Terrington Marsh. We ended up with 800 birds that weekend and I personally had the opportunity to ring 11 new species: Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank, Knot, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel and Curlew Sandpiper. Additional species ringed by others were Greenshank, Grey Plover, Spotted Redshank and Oystercatcher.

This weekend we set the cannon nets on Snettisham Beach on Friday night for a Saturday morning catch. The weather on Saturday morning was appalling and unfortunately the tide didn’t come as high up the beach as we expected. The birds were there in front of the nets but just too far away to make a catch…attempt one aborted!

We then went back later that day and re-set the nets right at the bottom of the beach for the afternoon high tide. Nets set, we hid at base camp for the tide to be right. The tide came in and so did the birds…right on top of the nets! I guess we camouflaged them too well! The wind was so strong that even shaking the jigglers with force did nothing to move them out of the safety zone…attempt two aborted! So, after a supper of soup and bread on the beach, we re-set the nets for our third and final attempt on Sunday. Two sets of two nets, two four yards higher up the beach than the other two in case the tides misbehaved again.

Sunday morning and we are huddled at base camp watching the beautiful sunrise and I am keeping my fingers crossed for a birthday catch. 2000 oystercatchers had been and gone at 5.30am but apparently there were a few other waders out there in the gloom. But…the tide was higher than expected, the wind was causing problems with the waves on the beach and one set of nets was about to be drowned. Not looking good for attempt three. The decision was taken to wait for the retreating tide, as the waves coming up the beach with the high tide could endanger birds in the net if we’d risked a catch, so we all settled back down in the cold but glorious morning light to wait.

As the tide turned it still wasn’t looking good and then, just as we were accepting the fact that we were going to have a bird free weekend, the words “arm the box” came over the radio. Cautious excitement began to creep in; everyone came alive and tensed their cold muscles ready to run. “Three, two, one, fire”…BANG and run…and what a catch! 198 birds in total including 3 bar-tailed godwits, about a dozen turnstone, loads of dunlin, sanderling and knot and….39 grey plover!!! The largest winter grey plover catch for at least 10 years. Each plover and barwit was colour ringed and flagged for studies that the group is doing.

It turned out to be a fantastic final day with a Grey Plover as a birthday present, a flock of Twite on the beach, a small flock of Waxwings overhead along with hundreds and hundreds of thrushes moving through and Pink-footed Geese flying over.

The Wash Wader Ringing Group is full of wonderful people who are only too willing to share their knowledge and expertise to help ringers of all levels to have a brilliant ringing experience. I highly recommend it!

The team ringing Barwits
 A ringed and flagged Grey Plover
 The Grey Plover's diagnostic black axillaries.
 Keeping cages.
 My first Grey Plover

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