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.

Having looked at the tides, it became clear that the Covid rules weren’t the only factors to limit catching opportunities for the weekend. Whilst experienced teams of six had made several successful cannon net catches during the August and September fieldwork periods, the morning tides on Saturday and Sunday for this weekend were considered to be too high to attempt a safe cannon-net catch on the beach with just six people. The high tide on Saturday evening was considered to be too close to sunset for a successful catch so was also not a viable option for the weekend. The later tide on Sunday evening gave a window of two and a half hours between sunset and high tide. The decision was therefore made to aim for a mist net catch at Terrington on Sunday evening. The tide height was at the upper end of safety for mist netting and Nigel kept a close eye on the Cromer tide gauges over the weekend to ensure that this would be a safe option. Fortunately, for once, we had the weather gods on our side and were therefore hopeful that the tide would not make significantly and cover the marsh. The team remained alert to any cancellation possibilities over the weekend. Thigh waders were considered essential footwear – fortunately Chantal’s new waders arrived through the post just in time!

In addition to the mist netting session, several people decided to use the high tides over the weekend for resighting opportunities as a way of maximising the data collection, arriving at various times over the weekend for this.


The six people on the catching team met at the base house at 14:30 on Sunday afternoon to discuss the plan and to pack the trailer. Five of us left the base at 16:00 to set seven nets on the White Barn pools leaving Cathy cooking and Bernard (not part of the six) back out resighting. The plan was to stay out at Terrington between setting and catching, with Cathy bringing food.

The seven nets were set efficiently with a group of five on one pool and a separate pair across a second pool. The team returned to the White Barn to set up the socially distanced ringing and processing stations. Cathy magically appeared with two wonderful curries (one vegetable and one chicken) complete with rice and poppadoms and the group sat in a socially distanced circle enjoying the food and the experience of being together in the fading light. Soon it was time to head out to the nets and to put the tape lures on. There was a slow start to the catching initially with Nigel visibly disappointed with the prospect of a smaller catch than anticipated. However, the net round just before high tide produced many more birds and the team was kept busy with constant extractions, eventually exceeding Nigel’s expectations. Guy and Carole then returned to the White Barn with the birds whilst the rest of the team remained on the marsh to take the nets down and extract the last birds.

Ringing Totals

Bar-tailed Godwit10001010
Grey Plover10101
Black-tailed Godwit10101

All the Knot and the single Grey Plover were colour-marked adding to the totals of colour-marked species on the Wash for both species.

There was only one retrap from the catch, a Dunlin which had been ringed as a juvenile on 18 October 2008, 12 years ago to the day. As Guy commented ‘creatures of habit .  .  .’

The birds were all safely released and the team back at the base house by 00:30 after an enjoyable and productive evening. Most people left for home shortly after this time. Unfortunately, Chantal had acquired a puncture during the evening and realised that she wasn’t going to get home on the tyre. Guy demonstrated his skills in wheel changing and soon had Chantal back on the road, having had a lesson in how to change a wheel! A third ‘new boot’ for Chantal for the weekend!


Bernard, Carole, Cathy and Guy all carried out re-sighting activities on various tides over the weekend. Guy also recceed the fields on the Crown Estate for Curlew on Sunday morning but none were found. The high tides produced an amazing wader spectacle at RSPB Snettisham on Sunday morning with a record 140,000 Knot counted for the reserve during the Webs count, a spectacle enjoyed by many people. Lucy had brought her family to witness the spectacle (following an equally spectacular 4 am start from her home that morning!). Lucy didn’t miss the opportunity to re-sight two Knot from the new RSPB ‘Knots’ Landing’ hide to add to the totals for the weekend. Lucy and James also made it onto BBC Autumnwatch.

Re-sighting totals

Bar-tailed Godwit2013130
Grey Plover6330

Interesting sightings


Of the 21 Knot resighted, eight were ringed in The Netherlands (NIOZ), two in NW England, two in Norway and nine in Iceland. A group of Knot in The Netherlands had been fitted with trackers to monitor their movements in the Waddensea. Y6YGYG, ringed on 20 September 2020, was seen from its tracker to leave Griend on 13 October, heading west. The resighting team saw this bird on Snettisham pits on 18 October.

KTU, sighted on 18 October 2020 was seen on the Stour estuary on 23 October. This bird, ringed in Norway in 2008, was previously sighted on the Wash by Richard on 27October 2018 and then resighted on the Stour three days later. This is an interesting example of the usefulness of colour-marking birds – KTU has been known to winter on the Stour since 2014, presumably using the Wash as a short stop on the way.

Grey Plover

Three colour-marked Grey Plover was a significant achievement for the weekend. All these birds were caught in a single WWRG catch in November 2018.


GW(T887) presumed to be a Norwegian-ringed bird was actually ringed by WWRG (FH30706) at Heacham on 27 April 2013 with colour marks added in Norway on 9 June 2020. This shows that ‘foreign-scheme’ birds are sometimes actually ‘our’ birds. 

Thanks to Nigel and Guy for organising the trip under the now familiar Covid rules and to Cathy for cooking such a splendid meal and bringing it out to the marsh.