Wash wader research on Autumnwatch

Normally when people hear what time we get up to set and man our nets they look rather bemused and think of their warm beds. So it was great to welcome a crew from Autumnwatch, who joined us in during our October 2021 fieldwork to find out about our research on waders using The Wash. The crew came out with us early on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning when our target was Sanderling, one of our 11 study species, which we were able to catch.

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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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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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Fieldwork September 2020 – Norfolk

Friday 18 September

Lizzie and Ryan arrived on Thursday evening and were kindly let into the house by Cathy, who joined them for dinner and a catch-up. Richard arrived shortly afterwards, and a plan was made for recces the next morning.

On Friday morning, Guy joined the team and recced the Royal Estate, Richard went over to Holbeach, Ryan recced Ken Hill and Lizzie covered Snettisham and Heacham beaches. The morning was crisp and clear with a light onshore breeze. At Holbeach, 19 Greenshank were on the usual pool, 13 Ringed Plover were found on a field at Gedney and 20 Curlew also on a field at Gedney, with more wanting to join, but they were pushed off by dog walkers. A few Curlew were also present on one of the military targets with a large number of gulls.

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Fieldwork August 2020

Background

The Covid-19 pandemic has had and continues to have a significant impact on all our lives. It has affected our health and limited our ability to see friends and family, travel and conduct work as normal. We hope that all WWRG members have remained well over the last six months and stay healthy.

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