Fieldwork February 2024

Friday 9 February

Cathy braved some pretty awful weather to recce on Friday morning. There was a nice flock of around 400 Oystercatcher roosting on the dam itself, whilst Heacham South was unusually quiet for people, dogs and birds. There were small numbers of birds at Heacham North, with around 50 Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Knot, all well distributed along the beach and not suitable for catching unfortunately.

Tim arrived to help with the afternoon recce, and along with his arrival came some nicer weather. Both Cathy and Tim were on site well before tide, finding the beach at Snettisham virtually empty; most Bar-tailed Godwit were still offshore and headed straight to the pits as the tide came in, with Oystercatcher doing a similar thing. At the dam, there were around 300 Oystercatcher loafing on the Mussel scar just offshore. As the tide came in, there were well over 1,000 Oystercatcher gathered on the mud around the dam and further north at Heacham, most of which eventually gathered on the Mussel scar. Eventually, around 200 birds came ashore south of the Tump, whilst the rest of the birds gathered on the scar were scared off by dogs and headed south to Snettisham.

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Fieldwork January 2024

Friday 12 January

Mark was on hand to kick the weekend off as he headed to Heacham and Snettisham to recce for possible cannon-net catches for the Saturday morning. The Tump was quiet with no Oystercatcher present, and further along towards Heacham there were Sanderling, Turnstone and a few Oystercatcher scattered along the beaches, but nothing providing a suitable catching option. Thus, it was decided that Saturday morning would be a resighting morning.

Later that evening, 13 team members gathered at base house and enjoyed Cathy’s now famous baked potatoes, Eton mess and good company.

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Fieldwork December 2023

Friday 15 December

Cathy did the recce on Friday morning, arriving at the dam by 07:50 and found no birds on Snettisham beach. There were three flocks of Oystercatchers on Heacham Beach with 21 Curlew at the northern end of the flocks. The Curlew were flushed by the first dog walker and flew inland. As each Oystercatcher flock was approached, the birds flew south, joining the southernmost flock. In total there were about 110 Oystercatchers on the tide line.

Toby visited Heacham North at 10:08 as the tide uncovered the mussel scar and watched a mixed flock of 40 waders, the majority being Oystercatchers with only one or two Knot. One of our Oystercatchers A3K and a couple of our Turnstones were resighted during the morning.

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Mark Smart

We are devastated by the sudden and untimely loss of one of our long-standing members, Mark Smart, who died in his sleep on Saturday 3 February. Mark had been coming to The Wash for many years, held a cannon-netting endorsement, was our Membership Secretary and Vice-Chair of our Trustees. He was also an ardent practical conservationist who did so much to improve conditions for breeding waders. He received a Marsh Award for Wetland Conservation in 2018 and has continued to expand and develop his work since then, traveling all over the country to provide his expertise and practical skills to create and improve wetlands. Most importantly, Mark was our friend; he is irreplaceable and we will miss him terribly. Our thoughts are with those closest to him.

Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit feeding locations on The Wash: do you like your worms with or without salt?

If you have taken part in WWRG winter fieldwork over the past twelve years, you know that one tide of each fieldwork weekend is dedicated to resighting colour-marked birds. We have been applying leg flags to Bar-tailed Godwit since 2010, and Curlew since 2012, with over 200 people reporting one or more flag sightings. We use individual leg flags to both add to the survival data generated from metal rings (see Cook et al. 2021) and to look at how individual birds use the Wash and the surrounding area. Our first paper analysing how birds move around within the Wash has just been published in the journal Wader Study (Pell et al. 2023).

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