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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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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Re-sighting during the Covid-19 pandemic

The lockdown imposed by the government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic lasted seven weeks during which fieldwork, including ringing and re-sighting, across the UK came to a standstill. WWRG had just completed their winter field work with the final catching weekend of the season having taken place in mid-March. Trips for several members of WWRG to Delaware and to Iceland were cancelled and opportunities for re-sighting on the Wash were all curtailed during the final weeks of spring 2020 as we were all told to stay at home. Garden ringing and local walks (hopefully entered into Birdtrack) became the norm.

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Fieldwork February 2020

Weather forecast:

Storm Dennis!
Saturday – strong winds with showers
Sunday – strong winds with rain

Recce and plan for the weekend

The plan for the weekend was for a cannon-net catch on either Saturday or Sunday morning depending on the findings of the recce team on Friday morning. One of the aims for the weekend was a trial for catching waders on a non-spring tide – the tide heights were considerably lower than those for a normal catching weekend. Mist netting was not an option for the weekend due to the tide heights.

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