High Tide 3.82m @ 20:19, Sunset 16:09, Rendezvous 15:30
A mixed experience team of 10 assembled at 15:30pm at RSPB Exminster Marshes to set nets around the RSPB lagoon field, on the highest tide of the new moon sequence. It took a while to assemble the team with congestion in the canalside car park, and some team members having advised of late arrivals due to other commitments.
There was a bit more of a northerly breeze than forecast, but it was overcast and the wind was forecast to drop. Based on previous successes this winter, a line of 3 large mesh nets were set on each bund and a line of five 3-panel wader nets were set across the central pool in the same location as in November and December. Water levels were high, and some ares of the main pool were only just navigable in wellies. All nets were set by 16:45 and the team retreated to set up the ringing base and wait for darkness.
By 17:30 when the tape lures were deployed the wind had eased, slackening the tension on the windward guys of the main run of nets requiring additional stakes and guys.
The wind had dropped completely by the first net round at 18:00 and with a heavy overcast sky there was optimism of a good catch when birds would be pushed off the estuary by the spring tide. That net round produced a single Snipe from the bund nets.
The following round was blank and at 19:00 the over-water nets produced a Redshank, but there was very little sign or sound of waders moving onto the pools. More blank net rounds followed and apart from a near miss with a small flock of Canada Geese nothing further was caught.
Once the peak of the tide had passed and it was clear that there was no further movement of waders into the area, the decision was taken to pack up and the team was off site by 21:20.
The conclusion was that the cold conditions earlier in the week, when some of the pools had frozen over, had caused the birds to change their behaviour, possibly even leaving the area.
Thanks are due to RSPB for granting access to their sites for this work and for their assistance and support. There is clearly more to learn about how the birds are using the site in different weather conditions..