Mark Smart

We are devastated by the sudden and untimely loss of one of our long-standing members, Mark Smart, who died in his sleep on Saturday 3 February. Mark had been coming to The Wash for many years, held a cannon-netting endorsement, was our Membership Secretary and Vice-Chair of our Trustees. He was also an ardent practical conservationist who did so much to improve conditions for breeding waders. He received a Marsh Award for Wetland Conservation in 2018 and has continued to expand and develop his work since then, traveling all over the country to provide his expertise and practical skills to create and improve wetlands. Most importantly, Mark was our friend; he is irreplaceable and we will miss him terribly. Our thoughts are with those closest to him.

Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit feeding locations on The Wash: do you like your worms with or without salt?

If you have taken part in WWRG winter fieldwork over the past twelve years, you know that one tide of each fieldwork weekend is dedicated to resighting colour-marked birds. We have been applying leg flags to Bar-tailed Godwit since 2010, and Curlew since 2012, with over 200 people reporting one or more flag sightings. We use individual leg flags to both add to the survival data generated from metal rings (see Cook et al. 2021) and to look at how individual birds use the Wash and the surrounding area. Our first paper analysing how birds move around within the Wash has just been published in the journal Wader Study (Pell et al. 2023).

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Fieldwork November 2023

Friday 10 November

Report on recce at Heacham Dam by Hilary & Cathy

We arrived at Heacham Dam at 13:10, when it was sunny with a rather gusty stiff breeze. A pre-roost flock of 350 Oystercatcher had formed just south of Heacham Dam. They were on mud close to the tideline and mixed with <10 each of Curlew, Knot, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling and Turnstone.

Small flocks of Oystercatcher flew in from the north, but larger flocks flew off to the south as the tide approached. At 13:50 the tide reached the edge of the sand/shingle but by then all the birds had flown south, despite there being no disturbance by humans or dogs. At 14:10 we noticed a flock of 25 Oystercatcher on the sand/shingle c. 100 m north of Heacham Dam. These were quickly disturbed by dog walkers and flew off south. It was concluded that there was no realistic catching opportunity.

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Fieldwork October 2023

Friday 13 / Saturday 14 October

A small team gathered on Friday evening. As there was no setting, we enjoyed a social, relaxed evening after Cathy’s delicious and sizable baked potatoes and fruit salad. Saturday morning were recces and resighting across all east shore beaches (Snettisham, both Heachams, and Hunstanton), but no fields. There was a strong onshore wind, but clear conditions, and we found out afterwards the tide made by 0.5 m. For all resighters, the strong wind hampered steady resighting. Various parties left to look at all of the beaches, arriving between 06:30 and 07:00 depending on the beach.

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Fieldwork August-September 2023

Wednesday 30 August


Ryan arrived at the Horseshoe Lagoon at 05:30 with high tide at 06:26 and immediately recorded seven Oystercatchers, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, five Dunlin, two Grey Plover and 150 mixed gulls. At 05:48, the Barwits, Dunlin and Grey Plover left heading north and at 06:07, 70 more gulls joined the roost. Elsewhere on the pool there were 30 Redshank, two Grey Plover, 11 Little Egret and six Greenshank. It was clear that the pool needed more water as Black-headed Gulls could stand almost all the way across from normal catch site to the island.

Richard observed a small number of plovers at the Gedney pool when they arrived. It filled about 25 minutes before tide.

At Heacham North North, Cathy recorded 10 Turnstone and 10 Sanderling at high tide.

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