By enabling birds to be identified as individuals, ringing provides a way to follow birds, especially migratory species, throughout their life. This is the only way in which we can get information on survival and longevity of birds. Understanding how survival varies in different species and in response to environmental changes is crucial in designing effective conservation policies. Ringing birds with metal rings is a great way of marking birds; metal rings will last out the lifetime of most birds (though some Oystercatchers caught on the Wash are on their third ring!), but generally requires the bird to be re-caught. Marking birds with coloured rings or flags provides a good way of increasing the chances that a bird will be re-encountered since it can be read in the field (especially with a good telescope!). Colour-marks work best on large birds which spend time in areas where people are likely to see them, such as some of the beaches on the Wash coast. WWRG participates in a number of marking projects where these help achieve its scientific goals of monitoring the birds that use the Wash. If you see a colour-marked bird from one of these projects, please report it using the Report a colour marked bird form.
Bar Tailed Godwit
The group marks Bar-tailed Godwit with white flags bearing two alphanumeric characters on the left tibia (=upper leg) and a plain scheme marker on the right tibia. Birds caught prior to 2016 have a white scheme marker, birds marked from 2016 onwards have an orange scheme marker. This project started in 2010 and the group has recorded over 500 sightings allowing precise survival estimates to be made, and it is the only project in the UK to provide such information. The project also provides information regarding the migratory patterns of Bar-tailed Godwit with regular sightings from the Netherlands and the Baltic countries on the migration routes which help confirm previous metal ring recovery data. Many Bar-tailed Godwits pass through the Wash as they migrate between summer breeding and wintering areas. Observations of WWRG colour-flagged Godwits in northern Norway and the Canary Islands highlight the wide range of locations occupied by ‘our’ birds at different times of year.
The group marks Eurasian Curlew with white flags bearing two alphanumeric characters on the left tibia and a plain scheme marker on the right tibia. Birds caught prior to 2016 have a white scheme marker, birds marked 2016 and onwards have an orange scheme marker. This project started in 2012 and the group has recorded over 600 sightings providing information on survival rates, which is a key data resource for ongoing work by the RSPB and BTO in diagnosing the reasons for population declines in Curlew. The project also provides information regarding the migratory patterns of Curlew with regular sightings from the breeding grounds in Finland and Scandinavia. Curlew also are known to roost in fields, sometimes several miles inland, and the group is especially keen to record sightings of wintering Curlew in fields to gain more information on the conservation requirements of these birds.
The group marks Grey Plover with white flags bearing two alphanumeric characters on the left tibia and a plain scheme marker on the right tibia. Birds caught prior to 2016 have a white scheme marker, birds marked 2016 and onwards have an orange scheme marker. This project started in 2010 and the group has recorded over 50 sightings, increasing the number of annual re-encounters of this under-studied plover. The information from birds already marked will provide greater understanding of the average lifespan of Grey Plover and further recruitment into this project will provide sufficient numbers of sightings to provide survival estimates.
The group marks Greenshank with two colour rings on each tibia in collaboration with wader researchers elsewhere in the UK (particularly in the Solent estuary) to expand our knowledge regarding the distribution of Greenshank; the migratory patterns of these elegant birds are still poorly understood. This project has already provided interesting data: a bird marked by the group in August 2015 has been subsequently encountered in 2016 and 2017 on its breeding grounds at Tromsø in Norway, the most northerly encounter of British-ringed Greenshank to date.
The group marks Turnstone with a black scheme marker ring on the left tibia and two colour rings on the left tarsus (= lower leg) and two colour rings on the right tarsus. The confiding nature of Turnstone mean that these birds can be encountered with binoculars or even the naked eye on sea fronts all around the Norfolk coast (including Hunstanton promenade and Cromer pier). This project has been running for over ten years and continues to provide data enhancing our understanding of the average lifespan of Turnstone and further recruitment into this project will provide sufficient numbers of sightings to provide survival estimates.
The group participates in the project that studies the Black-tailed Godwits breeding in Iceland. This project involves researchers from Iceland, Ireland, Britain, France and Portugal and has greatly improved our understanding of how birds migrate (did you know: paired birds winter in different countries), how birds use farmland habitat in the Icelandic breeding grounds and estuaries in winter, and how bird populations respond to environmental change. The project uses up to four colour rings of a range of colours to identify individuals.