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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The occurrence of Knot Calidris canutus canutus on the Wash

The Wash Wader Ringing Group recently received a recovery report from the BTO of a WWRG-ringed Knot caught in Guinea-Bissau: the first recovery of one of our Knot in that country. This fascinating recovery prompted a more-detailed look both at the circumstances of this bird’s capture and the historical records of Wash recoveries from western and southern Africa.

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Re-sighting during the Covid-19 pandemic

The lockdown imposed by the government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic lasted seven weeks during which fieldwork, including ringing and re-sighting, across the UK came to a standstill. WWRG had just completed their winter field work with the final catching weekend of the season having taken place in mid-March. Trips for several members of WWRG to Delaware and to Iceland were cancelled and opportunities for re-sighting on the Wash were all curtailed during the final weeks of spring 2020 as we were all told to stay at home. Garden ringing and local walks (hopefully entered into Birdtrack) became the norm.

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Curlew and winter weather

If there is one preoccupation that unites the British above all others, it is discussion of the weather. The variable dominance of arctic maritime, polar maritime, polar continental, tropical maritime and tropical continental air masses cause rapid and variable changes in weather (and much conversation). Wind and rain can severely curtail fieldwork undertaken by the group; consequently following online weather predictions is fast becoming a collective obsession. The cold, snowy spell last year (22 February – 5 March) was so unusual that the press dubbed it ‘The Beast from the East’. This cold wave was officially named ‘Anticyclone Hartmut’, and brought widespread, unusually low temperatures and heavy snowfall to large areas. It combined with Storm Emma, which made landfall in southwest England and southern Ireland on 2 March. A milder repeat episode dubbed the ‘Mini-Beast from the East’ occurred on the weekend of 17 March 2018.

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Oystercatcher Recoveries in 2018

Oystercatcher is the species for which the Wash Wader Ringing Group receives the most recoveries (birds seen or recaught away from the original place of ringing) each year. Of the 45 reports received from the BTO in 2018, 22 were of birds reported in the Britain & Ireland with the other 23 being reported broad. The majority of these were of birds ringed by WWRG and recovered elsewhere but eight were birds that were ringed elsewhere and recaught (or resighted) by WWRG; three of the eight had been ringed in Britain & Ireland whilst the other five were ringed abroad.

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