Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A Weekend on the Wash

I'm willing to bet that there weren't many other people that spent their Easter weekend thigh deep in freezing cold water catching waders... If there were, I think we would get on very well! As the group convened on Friday evening to plan the weekend ahead, despite the cold there was a sense of optimism as c3000 Knot had been seen on Snettisham beach that morning around the area we would be catching in! They were also there at 4.30am the next morning as we gathered in the dark on the beach to wait for the tide to bring the birds in. As the sun rose, the snow began to fall and a Barn Owl appeared and hunted within 100m of me for around 20 minutes, one of those "moments." Alas, the Knot weren't so obliging  and just as the tide was about to put them into the catching zone, they suddenly took flight and headed to Snettisham Pitts. However, left behind were 60 Oystercatchers, some Common Gull and a Few Bar-tailed Godwits, all of which were caught successfully. This first photo is of me and my first Oystercatcher in the hand, what a lovely pair!!?


After catching up on some much needed sleep, we spent the following two nights mist netting at two different salt marshes around the southern area of the Wash. This time the catch included Dunlin, Knot, this lovely Summer Plumage Redshank and some more Bar-tailed Godwits.

Common Redshank, Tringa totanus

The Bar-tailed Godwit can present a bit of challenge when being separated from the similar Black-tailed Godwit, especially in winter. The following photo show off a reliable technique in separating the two species; bill shape. The Barwit has an ever-so-slightly upturned beak, whereas the Blackwit shows a very straight bill. When on the deck, Barwits also look dumpier and a lot less graceful when moving around as the "knee" joint is much higher up the leg. If close views are not possible, the Barwit shows pale fringes and dark centers to the feathers on the upperparts, whereas the Blackwit has a more uniformly greyish appearance to its upperparts . Another useful identification point (the clincher if you will) is the absence of the obvious white wing bar that Blackwits show in flight. In summer, the Barwits orange breeding plumage extends almost over the entire belly, whereas the Blackwits is restricted to its chest, making ID pretty simple. The second photo below also shows the big difference in size between male and female Barwits, the smaller male being in the foreground.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica

Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica

Sunday morning was glorious and we spent some time doing colour resightings on Holme beach, where we found a mere three colour ringed Sanderling. These sort of sighting are vital for the research that the Wash Wader Ringing Group and many others carry out, so reports of any birds, dead or alive are always encouraged. 

I returned home about 1am on Monday morning, and awoke (mid-afternoon) to find this Whooper Swan in the field opposite my house. The bird has apparently been around all weekend, and we will be keeping a close eye on it over the next few days.

Whooper Swan, Cygnus cygnus

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