Wash wader research on Autumnwatch

Normally when people hear what time we get up to set and man our nets they look rather bemused and think of their warm beds. So it was great to welcome a crew from Autumnwatch, who joined us in during our October 2021 fieldwork to find out about our research on waders using The Wash. The crew came out with us early on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning when our target was Sanderling, one of our 11 study species, which we were able to catch.

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Using data to make a difference

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.
I’ve been born, and once is enough.

Although not involved in bird study, these lines from T. S. Eliot encapsulate our current studies of wader populations on The Wash. Bird populations are sustained by recruitment of fledged young into the adult population at an equal rate to the death of individual adults. More recruitment than deaths equals more birds. Unfortunately, the opposite is currently occurring in Eurasian Curlew, which is experiencing population decline. This could be due to not enough chicks being raised to adulthood from each nesting attempt, or alternatively, it could be due to increased death of adult birds. Knowing which factor is more important allows conservation efforts to be prioritised: do we need to protect Curlew nests to improve chick survival or do we need to enhance protection of wintering Curlew to improve adult survival? A recently published paper has explored one part of the equation – survival in Curlew – using data from The Wash, as well as other wader ringers around Britain and Ireland.

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Where in the mud?

The Wash is a special place. Fed by four rivers (the Great Ouse, Nene, Welland and Witham), it is one of Britain’s largest estuarine systems and home to a rich range of wildlife. In excess of half a million birds visit each year, either passing through on migration or spending the winter feeding on its extensive mudflats. It also supports a wide variety of human activities, from tourism to fisheries. Understanding where and how the birds use this vast larder is critical to designing effective ways of managing the estuary and its resources sustainably.

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The occurrence of Knot Calidris canutus canutus on the Wash

The Wash Wader Ringing Group recently received a recovery report from the BTO of a WWRG-ringed Knot caught in Guinea-Bissau: the first recovery of one of our Knot in that country. This fascinating recovery prompted a more-detailed look both at the circumstances of this bird’s capture and the historical records of Wash recoveries from western and southern Africa.

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Fieldwork October 2020

This was the third fieldwork trip for WWRG in autumn 2020 under the current Covid-19 rules which restricts numbers in the catching team to six people. Covid-19 secure practices had been worked out for the August trip (see August trip report) which has enabled a limited amount of WWRG fieldwork to continue during these difficult and restricted times. These protocols were adhered to for this trip.

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