Fieldwork Christmas 2018

The trip didn’t start well with the first possible catch called off before we even got to the Wash. Nigel had a bad back and wasn’t even sure that he would be able to make it to the Wash at all, but definitely couldn’t go cannon netting on the Saturday, so the Friday recce was called off.

Saturday 22 December

The team started to assemble on Saturday, with Rob and Michelle and Carole and Bernard heading up early to resight in both the morning and the afternoon. Kirsty dropped off Tim to join them in the afternoon and took all the shopping (done the night before) to the base house. The rest recced all along Snettisham and Heacham.

Heacham NN had 250 Oystercatchers which were scattered by a dog walker, but 60−80 came back as the tide came up. Nothing else came to the beach once the mud had covered. On Heacham South beach Carole and Bernard had 4−500 Oystercatchers strung out along the tide edge midway between the dam and Heacham car park at 14:00 but they were disturbed by a walker and flew south. They then saw 100 Oystercatchers at around 15:45 north of the original flock, again rather strung out along the beach. Rob and Michelle had a total of around 1,200 Oystercatchers and a similar number of grey waders on the mud at Snettisham that moved down to the pits as the tide came in (not particularly disturbed) with around 60 Oystercatchers remaining in front of the dam in a non-catchable position.

More team members arrived in the afternoon and enjoyed Kirsty’s meatballs and spaghetti dinner. Rob wrote up the timings for Sunday morning on the board, then looked at the weather forecast and rubbed them all out again – it was going to be a day for data, equipment and house maintenance.

Totals resighted:

  Resightings Individuals
Curlew 28 26
Bar-tailed Godwit 34 31
Knot 1 1
Total 63 58

1 control Bar-tailed Godwit previously ringed on passage in Norway and seen by WWRG last winter

Sunday 23 December

Late up (and it was raining and it continued all day), so much data sorting and cross-checking got underway and Tim prepared and started to paint the downstairs shower room in the main house. Unfortunately, Tim got trapped with the ladder in the tight gap between the shower and the wall, so added to the bad backs in the team.

As the rain continued, we all headed off to Welney in the afternoon where we had some great birdwatching (in a heated hide) both before and during the 15:30 feed and compulsively read all the colour rings on the swans. The kids loved putting them into the electronic system available and getting out their ringing details. Back to the house for Kirsty’s fajitas, where Cathy and Lys (after a very slow journey for Lys) joined us.

It was an evening for confusion – trying to check they had each other’s phone numbers so they could coordinate on the beach on the next day, Carole texted Lys – there was an immediate reply, but Lys was in the house and her phone was in the annex…. Next text from Carole asked who she was texting and it turned out to be a different Liz, but at least it was a ringer. Meantime, David wanted to get in touch with his trainee and got contact details from Jacquie (David’s normal phone is unwell and involved a trip to Peterborough to get it to the phone hospital) and also got the wrong person (of the same name).

Monday Christmas Eve 24 December

Was a better day with good weather and teams got out to both resight and recce. The resighting was good, but the recce was disappointing with the best option being 75 Curlew and 3 Oystercatcher halfway between the dam and Heacham south at 07:45. Curlew all lifted and flew inland at 08:15. So we reluctantly called off any catching. More data checking happened, the first coat of paint on the shower room was completed and plan X was devised for the tops for the new keeping boxes. Dinner was fish pie.

Totals resighted

  Resightings Individuals
Bar-tailed Godwit 17 17
Curlew 33 30
Turnstone 2 2
Total 52 49

Tuesday Christmas Day 25 December

Out fairly bright and early to resight again, with Nigel, Jacquie and Cathy getting the turkey in the oven before heading out. A bitterly cold day in the wind and not as successful for resighting, but data were collected before heading back for a traditional Turkey dinner and untuneful playing of the whistles we had in the crackers.

Turkey dinner, by Jacquie Clark
The team enjoying a Turkey dinner, by Jacquie Clark

Totals resighted

  Resightings Individuals
Bar-tailed Godwit 20 20
Curlew 41 36
Turnstone 3 3
Total 64 59

1 control Bar-tailed Godwit previously ringed on passage in Norway and seen by WWRG last winter

Wednesday Boxing Day 26 December

A final morning of resighting before all heading home to prepare for New Year proved to be a dead loss as the fog rolled in on us. Nigel, Jacquie and David went to check out Hunstanton to see if we might be able to catch some Turnstone there and found some good sites for small catches – we now need to check if we have/can get permission.

Totals for the trip

  Resightings Individuals
Bar-tailed Godwit 71 57
Curlew 102 75
Turnstone 5 4
Knot 1 1
Control Bar-tailed Godwit 2 1
Total 181 133