Fieldwork August 2023

Decoy making weekend 29–30 July

Before The Wash week began, a dedicated team got together at Nigel and Jacquie’s house to make up a batch of decoy birds to aid us with future catches. The end product is a life-like model which we can place in the catching area, during cannon-netting, to attract birds. Nigel was an excellent teacher and we all learnt so much, not only about how to make a decoy, but about the fascinating anatomy of the birds. Those on the weekend were Ryan, Molly, Kirsty, Nigel, Jacquie, Katharine, Flo, Lucy, James, David, Sam and Skye.

We also had good fun helping Jacquie and Nigel with their CES at Hinderclay Fen and caught the first Sedge Warbler and Kingfisher for the year!

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Fieldwork March 2023 (part 2)

Friday 24 March

Noble pioneers, Guy, Kirsty and Ryan joined the sunrise to recce a number of sites ahead of the main party. Ryan’s recce yielded more ducks and geese than waders at Gedney and Kirsty’s exploration of the beach at Snettisham was even more disappointing, with a dearth of birds. Thankfully, Guy, found flock of 230 Oystercatchers at Heacham South, 150 m south of the tump and another flock of 60 further south. However, Heacham South was busy with walkers and dogs and the Oystercatchers were very mobile as a result. The same could not be said of a flock of 500 Sanderling and 30 Turnstone at Heacham North North which demonstrated remarkable tolerance of disturbance and settled on a ridge on the beach for at least 40 minutes from 08:00 hrs, unwittingly identifying themselves as the best possible target for the following morning.

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Why The Wash is so important for Curlew: selected stories from over 60 years of Wader Study

Curlew are declining so alarmingly that they are now ‘Red-Listed’ as birds of conservation concern. The Wash is one of the two main UK sites for both passage and wintering Eurasian Curlew (the other being Morecambe Bay – WeBS data). Autumn passage birds use the intertidal mudflats to feed on polychaete worms, shellfish and Green Crabs. Some birds will move on to smaller sites around the Norfolk coast, the southwest of England, and northwest France. Here they will spend the winter before returning to their breeding grounds. The majority of Curlew using the Wash breed in Finland and Sweden, a migratory journey of over 1,000 miles. There is more background information on our Curlew page.

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Fieldwork March 2023 (part 1)

Friday 10 March

Lizzie and Guy braved the freezing winds to recce at first light. Guy walked south from Heacham to view Heacham South beach from one viewpoint, whilst Lizzie walked north from Snettisham car park to check Snettisham and gain a different view of Heacham South. Despite normally being a prime spot for Oystercatchers, only 10 were present close to the usual catching area just south of the tump. Clearly sheltering from the inclement conditions, they were hunkered down amongst the tidewrack at the top of the beach. Guy visited Heacham North, to find another 60 behaving much the same – just 100 m north of the South beach access point. It was noted this was unusual behaviour for the roosting birds, as this area is often very busy with visitors. Guy then went on to Heacham North North beach and found 90 Oystercatchers split into three groups – 60, 20 and 10. Additionally, there were ca. 100 Turnstone, Sanderling and Ringed Plover scattered across the beach. Almost no beach was visible at this point, because of the unusually strong wave action and tide height. Again, the birds were right on the upper edge of the beach along the tidewrack – their behaviour clearly being affected by the strong winds.

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Fieldwork February 2023

Friday 24 February


Cathy recced on Friday morning. Snettisham and Heacham beaches were being ‘recharged’ (moving sand onto the beach, before the start of the tourist season) and there were also reports of Peregrine and Gyr Falcon at Snettisham Pits. These events may have affected birds’ movements, but Oystercatchers were seen on all the beaches recced, with the birds on Heacham North North being the most reliable. A few Turnstone were also seen, the majority at Heacham South beach, where a flock of ca. 200 Bar-tailed Godwits were also observed.

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