October 2018 resighting trip

Friday 12th October

The team met at the base house on Friday evening for a meal and to discuss plans for the weekend. Cathy had been at the base since Tuesday and had undertaken several trips to the coast to determine available opportunities for re-sighting and had already obtained some resightings. Cathy had recced the favourite fields around Heacham but had not found any Curlew, possibly as it is too early in the winter for the Curlew to use the fields as yet.

It was recognised that the weather would be against us with a high southerly wind forecast for Saturday and heavy rain for Sunday which could limit opportunities both for resighting and mist netting. Despite Guy’s attempts to check every available weather app in search of a favourable forecast, none could be found! Not to be deterred (this is the WWRG after all!) we made plans for Saturday morning to cover the usual places for observing colour rings at high tide. With high tide at 09:40, it was decided to arrive on the beaches at around 07:30 with the aim of sighting birds on the incoming tide to be followed by observations at the high tide roosts.

Saturday 13th October

The team was up at 06:30 and on the road by 07:00. Rob, Michelle, Alex and Josie headed for Snettisham pits, Carole and Bernard to Heacham North North and Cathy and Guy to Holme-next-the Sea. Although the original plan was to return to base around 13:00 to allow time for breakfast before setting the nets for mist meeting, the plans changed as the morning progressed as it became increasingly unlikely that the wind would reduce sufficiently to enable a safe catch. The teams therefore remained out on the beaches for some time after high tide to look for flags on the outgoing tide. With over a hundred sightings between us, the team returned to base for a late breakfast at 15:00 pleased with the morning’s work.

A series of jobs dominated the remainder of the afternoon with some people tidying away equipment from the previous field trip whilst Guy introduced newbies Josie and Alex to the equipment and methods of cannon netting used on the Wash. With just enough light left, Carole, Bernard, Alex and Josie headed back up the coast to Hunstanton in an attempt to find some colour-marked Bar-tailed Godwit on the beach. Unfortunately, the light failed before the tide had risen sufficiently to bring any waders close enough for resighting but a lovely hour was spent watching birds moving along the coast and settling on a distant sand bar in the evening light.

Sunset at Snettisham, by Cathy Ryden
Sunset at Snettisham, by Cathy Ryden

Cathy and Guy had cooked a meal and decisions were made for the following morning based on the weather forecast of steady and persistent rain. Half of the team decided to brave the weather and to make an early start on the incoming tide as this gave the best chance for the weather, while the other half of the team made the decision to return home.

Sunday 14th October  

The four stalwarts arrived on Snettisham beach at 07:00, three hours before high tide. There was a small window of opportunity to read some flags on both Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit before the birds lifted off the beach on the incoming tide.

The group then relocated to the RSPB reserve area where there was still some exposed mud. The weather gods were on our side and, other than one short shower, we remained dry until high tide at 10:00 when a decision was made that we had noted all the possible colour rings within reach. There is always the frustration of the birds that are just out of reach for reading the two-digit codes, exacerbated this morning by poor light and visibility.

The rain descended in earnest just after reaching the car and the team returned to base for a welcome breakfast after which the data for the weekend was entered on the spreadsheet and the house cleaned and tidied before leaving.

Re-sighting totals for the trip:

Species Sightings Individuals
Bar-tailed Godwit 44 35
Curlew 86 53
Turnstone 6 4
Knot 1 1
Oystercatcher 4 3
Total 141 96

The Knot was a bird ringed in the Netherlands.

Details of two of the foreign-ringed Oystercatchers have already been obtained. One, ringed in Norway as a pullus in July 2014 has been sighted by the group on two previous occasions on Snettisham beach (in March 2015 and September 2017), so clearly a favourite haunt for this bird. The second bird was ringed in The Netherlands in May this year.

Re-sighting totals since July 2018

Species Sightings Individuals
Bar-tailed Godwit 333 159
Curlew 245 114
Turnstone 12 6
Total 590 279