Friday, 5 August 2011

Mini Wash Week 2011

Last week myself and  fellow bird ringer Cedwyn Davies travelled to Linconshire for the annual Mini Wash Week. Every year ringers travel to The Wash for the annual Mini Wash Week. There are always two teams at the Wash: the Norfolk team and the Lincs team. The Lincs team's base for the week was Friskney village hall in Friskney on the North side of The Wash. Friskney was a great base for the week apart from the fact that there were no showers and so we all had to go 5 days without! The 5 days are a bit of the blur and seem to have moulded into one day in my brain so I will write about the highlights rather than day-to-day. Throughout the 5 days we attempted to make catches 7 times and were successful 4 times.

The first bit of 'wildlife' I observed on The Wash!

This was my first time visiting The Wash, it is somewhere I have always wanted to go as I had heard so much about it. It was a lovely place and it was great to spend a week exploring the Linconshire side. The flora out on the salt marshes were particularly interesting, not so great is that the flora on the marsh is very low and so being in the company of 20 other people on a flat salt marsh with minimal vegetation for many long hours can have it's issues - I think you understand!

At one point we had to wait until the tide went out to get off a shingle island.

Trekking across the marsh
On Sunday morning we caught 1 Curlew which was a new ringing experience for fellow trainee Ian Blackmore who hadn't ringed any waders before was the lucky person to ring it.

Curlew. Photo: Ian Blackmore

On the Sunday evening we travelled out to the Wainsfleet Islands which involved trekking across 1 mile of boggy, uneven salt marsh carrying nets, cannons, keeping cages etc - a very good workout! After setting the nets we hid under large tarpaulin sheets for just over 3 hours before we heard the BOOM! We caught approximately 125 Knot and 50 Dunlin. I hadn't handled either of these species before and until I held them in my hands I didn't realise how bright and colourful they were. I am used to viewing these waders as browny grey blobs in the distance through a telescope or binoculars so it was a real pleasure to see them up close and to be able to examine their plumage.

Looking at a Knot's plumage

Two of the birds caught were controls: a Knot from the Highlands and a Dunlin from France!


Shinzii Dunlin. Photo: Libby Welbourn

The third bird I ringed on Sunday was a very special bird to me as not only was it my 1,000th bird but at the same time my 60th species. The bird in question was a beautiful Knot, age 6, ring number SV59060 - live long and prosper little fella!

My 1,000th bird/60th species. Please excuse the scruffy person holding the bird, they had just spent the last 3 hours hiding under a sheet of tarp on a shingle island!

On Wednesday we set cannon nets in two different locations aiming for Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew and Dunlin. I was on the Dunlin team and we managed to catch 10 Dunlin, 9 new and 1 recap. The other team had a nice catch of Bar-tails and Curlew, not sure on numbers but they did have 1 Swedish Curlew control. As our team had only a small catch of Dunlin we had more time to appreciate them and practice biometrics. Dunlin are stunning little birds. The Dunlin caught during the week were all of the Shinzii race.

The Dunlin team

Libby ringing a Dunlin

Measuring a Dunlin

Check out the plumage on this beauty!

Bar-tailed Godwit. Photo: Ian Blackmore

After the catches were processed the two teams met up again, had a much deserved lunch and said their goodbyes before heading off home. It took Cedwyn and I just over 9 hours to get back as we had to travel via The BTO head office in Thetford to pick up some bamboo poles for the WWT CES. It was really nice to see the headquarters and Thetford is a lovely place. On the drive back we travelled through many parts of England that I have never seen before such as Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire - stunning countryside. After arriving home around half 10 I had my long overdue shower and headed straight to bed. It sure was nice to be back home......and clean!

I learned a lot during this trip about cannon netting and had the new experience of setting on fields which is so completely different to setting on the beach, which is what I have done before. On a field there is so much more to consider when setting and everything has to be set carefully to ensure that the birds don't see the cannons or become wary of the nets.

When setting in fields cannons need to be buried into the ground to hide them from the birds.

Setting up in one of the fields

 The week was a very interesting learning experience for me and it was great to met so many new people such as fellow trainees Ian Blackmore and Libby Welbourn from The South Notts Ringing Group.

Libby and her Knot

Ian and his Knot

I saw some fantastic wildlife whilst in Lincs such as Artic Skua, Quail, Sandwich Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Curlew, Sanderling,  Marsh Harrier, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Merlin and Kestrel. I was also lucky enough to be able view 3 of the catching attempts from the bird hides and it was spectacular to watch the birds up close and at some points seeing them being chased by a Merlin.

Me and a Shinzii Dunlin
 I thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Wash and will definitely be going back next year and am currently considering attending The Main Wash Week later this month. I would like to say thank you to The Wash Wader Ringing Group, to Richard De Feu and Steve Dodd for being very encouraging and teaching me more about cannon netting and waders and to all of the other ringers who took part. I also want to say a big thank you to my good friend Cedwyn Davies for driving me to The Wash and back.

We saw plenty of these - Cabbages!

Back to work now and today is my last day working at WWT Llanelli : ( I spent yesterday morning ringing some Swallow pulli down in the yard with Tony Jenkins and this morning doing my last CES session (following in a future blog post). I want to thank you to Tony for letting me help him with his nest records this year and for letting me ring all of the Swallow pulli.

Ringed Swallow pulli

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