WWRG is changing its name!

WWRG had been operating as a Ringing Group since its inception. In consultation with its members, it was decided that becoming a charity would secure the Group’s longer-term future and allow it to take advantage of new opportunities to support our work. Alongside this we are changing our name to Wash Wader Research Group to better reflect the range of activities we do.

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It was good to be back…

Our third week started with the next aerial count; this one was setting out from Cape May at 08:00 hrs. We were all on site on time and got some counts done before the plane came over at the expected time. Strangely, the plane didn’t do the second pass over Mispillion, which is the usual protocol. There were good numbers of Knot on Back Beach, so the Mispillion count team stayed out to resight there, as did the Brock team, while Cathy and Lys went out to trap the PIPLs at Fowler’s. With relatively good resighting in Mispillion through the day there were three boat trips, with the last crew leaving when it started to get dark – the rest of us ate our frittata before they got back!

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The Norwegian Connection: a tale of two journeys

One of the most visible birds on The Wash beaches must be the Oystercatcher. With its distinctive black and white plumage, orange bill and strident ‘kleep’ call, it’s certainly hard to miss! But where do ‘our’ Oystercatchers go when they leave The Wash? The map summarises the international movements of ‘our’ Oystercatchers – the red triangles are birds ringed abroad and found on The Wash, the blue dots are birds we ringed that were found abroad. It is clear that there is a really strong connection between The Wash and Norway – which is where most of the Oystercatchers wintering on The Wash go to breed. Most of these reports are of metal-ringed birds but, in recent years, we and other groups have used colour marks and tags to track movements in greater detail, and these sometimes produce very rapid feedback.

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Oystercatchers and shellfish

Back in the winter of 1992/93 Wash Group members noticed far more Oystercatchers than usual were feeding inland – on grass verges, in the middle of roundabouts and on the lawn at Sandringham. The Oystercatchers we caught had stopped moulting part way through, presumably to preserve energy and we found many hundreds of corpses on the shore. This led to an investigation of what had happened and, of course, the answer was complicated – but WWRG data helped to unravel the mystery. The Oystercatchers had encountered a ‘perfect storm’ of unusually cold weather combined with low stocks of both Mussels and Cockles – the preferred food of many of them – and a popular human food as well. Work with BTO, Eastern Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (EIFCA, then the Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and Richard Stillman at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), showed the importance of balancing numbers of shellfish taken by the fishermen and the birds to ensure that there were sufficient for both as well as maintaining a breeding stock of shellfish, so that the supply continues. Understanding these balances, what might change them and how to react to changes (Adaptive Harvest Management) is a vital part of managing fisheries.

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