A record of my adventures of birds and bird ringing

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Wash Weeks (cannon netting on the Wash)

One of the highlights of my summer last year were the two 'wash weeks', two weeks cannon netting with WWRG on (funnily enough) the Wash. So the obvious decision for me when organising this summers ringing was going again.

The first week, mini week, we started with a small catch on Snettisham (an RSPB nature reserve) to get everyone into the mood. This was swiftly followed by a decision to go and set on Wainfleet island. There are several Wainfleet islands, divided roughly into North and South, and all of them require a hefty walk over saltmarsh, carrying heavy cannon netting equipment whilst trying to avoid falling into the numerous creeks. One way is invariably in the dark, which adds a new dimension of fun, feeling the way with your feet whilst watching the person in front of you in the line to see where they do/dont fall in. There are some amazing phosphorescent creatures (plankton? Insects? I dont know) that sparkle as you walk through them at night, which is something really special to see.

Anyway, we set on the large north island for an evening catch, and I was asked to act as a potential twinkler on the other island (a twinkler is someone who tries to move the birds into the catching area by walking/crawling/making themselves shown to the birds so that they walk, or fly). Which was great – I enjoyed my time lying under a sand-coloured blanket on the other island, listening to the Sandwich Terns fly overhead and watching the other waders out to sea.. As we got closer to the catch I did a bit of twinkling as askedduskythorn, crawling around the island, until I heard a 'bang' noise (meaning that a net had been fired). I got up and ran back towards the other island but was quite quickly stopped in my tracks. The volume of water that was running through the (once crossable) creek was large, and crossing it suddenly seemed more interesting than it had a few hours ago! The first fork of the creek proved deeper than I expected, up to my waist, and I quickly stripped off some of the dry clothes I had remaining and threw them onto the other side, before wading (swimming) through the second creek! This amused the other ringers somewhat.

Mini week had 2 very good catches – one (on a cabbage field) of 951 Dunlin and one of over 300 Barwit. It was very nice to see some waders in the hand again, I think I might be becoming addicted to them! Seabirds just have something about them, some amazing quality that I love.

Main week, on the other hand, was something of a flop. On the first tide, we fired 3 nets, each at a different time (which only happens very rarely). Each took a catch of around 20, but the second net unfortunately didnt go out properly, with one of the cannons not firing. We then spent several tides with no catches, either through the birds not landing in the right places, or because we had net problems (wind blowing it up etc.). In particular, there was one catch on the Horseshoe (a patch of saltmarsh) which went a bit haywire. The net was set well, and we were all in place in time before the birds started to come off the mud flats to begin roosting. A cow then got its back legs tangled in the cables, which meant that Steve had to get out of the hide to disentangle it, and then reconnect and recheck the net to see if it was safe and able to fire. At this point (unsurprisingly) we lost all the birds on the pool, which is never a good thing, as birds act as attractants to other birds and an existing nucleus will draw in other individuals. We then gained a small number of birds, and Steve decided to fire on them as the tide was about to become too high to stay on the marsh. We all ran out upon hearing the bang, and got to the nets quickly only to discover that there were no birds.. not only that but the net hadnt even covered the decoys (which were well within the catching area. The water had weighed the net down so much that the projectiles couldnt drag it out!

After that, we didnt have any successful cannon net catches on the Lincolnshire side, although 2 moderate mist netting sessions (more night saltmarshing!), and the other team took a very nice catch of mixed waders on a pool at Terrington.