Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group


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.

After the first two mist-netting sessions of the 2019/20 winter season were cancelled either due to weather or team availability, the group were keen to get out for the next session on the 4th October. Our successful Oystercatcher cannon-net catch on the 28th September had got the ball rolling on deploying the 2019 batch of Oystercatcher GPS-UHF tags, but as we did not catch a single juvenile bird of the 10 desired, this became our target for the evenings mist-netting.

The team of seven assembled before dark to set our nets around the island Oystercatcher roost at Dawlish Warren. The team included several regular attendees alongside new member Thomas Weston and one of our key colour-ring readers, Lee Collins. Once the nets were set, we waited for the tide to rise and bring to birds to roost.

Unfortunately, in terms of numbers the session was almost a blank, most likely due to the high level of ambient artificial light in the estuary that evening and moderate wind making the mist-nets more visible than desired. Fortunately, two positive events occurred, the first is that some of the team members managed to sneak off and bring back fish and chips, the second and far more important, is that the one bird caught was a juvenile Oystercatcher. Ryan Burrell, DCWRG Projects Officer, fitted this bird with a GPS-UHF tag, taking our 2019 sample to 11 (10 adults/sub-adults and 1 juvenile) allowing us to follow its progress, movements and site use over the next few years.

Thanks as always go to all those involved from DCWRG and Teignbridge Council and Warren Golf Club for their on-going support of DCWRG projects.

We got a third successful cannon net catch under our belts at the weekend, we caught 50 Oystercatchers and a Bar-tailed Godwit. Three of the Oystercatchers were already colour-ringed, and we colour ringed the remaining 47.

oystercatcher AC 28 09 2019Colour-ringed Oystercatcher 'AC'A further 10 adult Oystercatchers were fitted with GPS tags, which is fantastic and will hopefully generate a lot of useful data over the coming winters. We had hoped for a catch of around 200 birds, which would have given us a good chance of catching enough juveniles to be able to GPS tag a sample of this years birds. However, the tide did not reach its expected height which gave the birds other roost options away from the selected catch area, so we did well to take any catch in the circumstances. As we didn’t catch any juveniles, we held back 10 tags to deploy when hopefully we catch some during mist netting sessions.


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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