Migration on the other side of the world

Wash Wader Ringing Group members have got involved in assisting with other ringing projects, both in the UK and further afield, since our early days. A paper just out online early in the Journal Wader Study describes the results of some work WWRG members have been involved in as part of a large, multi-national team working on the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper across its range. These extremely cute, endangered waders breed in the far east of Russia, then migrate along the East-Asian-Australasian flyway where they also stop to moult, carrying on to the wintering grounds in southern China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand – a distance of up to 8,000 km from the breeding grounds. The international team is trying to understand why Spoon-billed Sandpipers are declining and to try to halt that decline – and WWRG members are privileged to have been part of that effort.

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How did WWRG influence breeding wader recovery in the Avon Valley, Hampshire?

At the Wash Wader Ringing Group, we are a varied and inclusive bunch with members from all walks of life. Indeed, it is the varied background, opinions and skills which this provides that makes the Group work so well. Though, all WWRG members have two things in common, everyone is a volunteer, and everyone shares a dedication to studying and conserving wading birds that use The Wash.

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60 years young

Members of the Cambridge Bird Club first started taking interest in the waders using The Wash in the early 1950s. Initially, this interest focused around monitoring and counting the wader populations in winter, but soon included catching attempts using mist nets and clap nets. The Wash Wader Ringing Group was formed during the summer of 1959 when a team, including Clive Minton, persuaded Peter Scott of the Wildfowl Trust to lend them their rocket nets to try catching large groups of waders on ploughed fields; the Group took their first rocket net catch, at Terrington in Norfolk, on 18 August 1959, exactly 60 years ago today. 

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Grey Plover migration

The symbol of the Wash Wader Ringing Group is the Grey Plover – fittingly as we have ringed nearly 60% of the Grey Plover ringed in Britain & Ireland to date. However, we have recorded fewer than 50 international exchanges, so our knowledge of where they go is limited – as it is in the rest of NW Europe. 

To address this knowledge gap, researchers on the Waddensea have satellite tagged and followed 11 Grey Plover caught there and have gathered much more detailed information. The satellite tracks show individuals going up to Yamal and Taimyr (Russia) to breed, with wintering locations including the Waddensea, Ireland, France, Portugal and Guinea Bissau. This fascinating paper is free to view on the journal website.