Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group


On 17th December 2019 a team of 7 – Ryan Burrell, Chris Dee, Tamsin Quinn, Thomas Weston, Alys Perry, Robbie Phillips and Tim Frayling met at Dawlish in the afternoon to set three sets of mist nets near the island, the re-charge area and Finger Point. Once we had set the nets, half the team went to collect the chip order. During this time, the thermal scope came in handy identifying a bird in the net early – a Dunlin, which was colour ringed (with the code ‘AJ’ - see re-sighting history here). Although we were initially hopeful of catching many more, a fog descended which seemed to result in the birds being less willing to move around. We ended the evening with 6 new birds – 1 Dunlin, 3 Redshank and 2 Oystercatcher. Unfortunately, although Ryan was ready to deploy GPS tags if they were juveniles, typically both Oystercatchers were adults.

Tracking2018Thanks to the excellent analysis by Joanne Morten, a PhD student at the University of Exeter, we can share the 2018/19 winter results from the ten trackers fitted to adult Oystercatchers at Dawlish Warren on 12 November 2018. In the video, each coloured track represents the history of one Oystercatcher. You can clearly see how the birds use the wider Exe Estuary and usually return to the Dawlish Warren roost on the high tides.

Dunlin 20191116 Dawlish Warren DCWRGDunlin colour-ringed on 16 Nov 2019 © A J BellamyThe 16th November brought another nocturnal suitable height spring tide (3.6m at 20:53) and with it our next mist-netting session. Conditions looked favourable with light cloud and no wind, so the team were hopeful for a useful catch despite the bright moon. The target for the mist-netting sessions of juvenile Oystercatchers remained, with 8 GPS-UHF tags still to deploy for winter 2019/20.

The team assembled at 1600, met by session leader Nik Ward who was suffering with the most non-existent streaming cold imaginable (get well soon Nik). Well 1600ish…all except Ryan Burrell and Thomas Weston who were 30 minutes late, though they were let them off as they had driven straight to Dawlish from the Solent via the DCWRG kit store, as they had been cannon-netting at dawn for a tracking study with Farlington Ringing Group and GWCT.


The aims of the Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group are to study the wading birds that live in, or pass through, Devon and Cornwall.

We hope to undertake fieldwork approximately once a month, mainly at weekends, involving either mist-netting or the use of a cannon net. Members of the group live across Britain, although many are based in Devon. A key site for fieldwork is the Exe Estuary and in particular Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve, where we have a project on colour ringed Oystercatcher.

Birds are marked with individually numbered metal leg rings and, to aid relocation without the need to recapture them, with colour rings. Under special license we are also fitting GPS tags to a small number of birds to help understand the way they use the habitats around the estuary through the winter and at different states of the tide.

The group welcomes volunteer ringers from anywhere who are interested in taking part in the fieldwork.


The Dawlish Warren Recording Group publish regular updates on the birds seen at Dawlish Warren.

The county bird clubs are Devon Birds and the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society.

Bird ringing in Britain is licensed and coordinated by The British Trust for Ornithology. More information on why we ring birds and why we use colour marks on our study species can be found here. Bird ringing in Europe is coordinated by EURING.

The definitive database of all colour-marking schemes for waders in Europe and the East Atlantic flyway is available on the International Wader Study Group website.

For species other than waders the European colour-ring Birding website, voluntarily maintained by Dirk Raes, should be useful.


The group operates with the excellent support of Teignbridge District Council and Devon Wildlife Trust as landowners of Dawlish Warren. Warren Golf Club kindly allow access across their land.

The value of the projects would not be fully realised without the excellent re-sighting work undertaken and publicised by the Dawlish Warren Recording Group.

We are grateful to Natural England for funding the rings and GPS tags, and for providing staff time for ongoing management of the projects. We are also grateful to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) for staff time for fitting the GPS tags, organising the project and dealing with data. Devon Birds have generously provided some funding for colour rings.

Header images on this website are licensed under the Creative Commons license by the photographers.

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