High Tide 3.69m @ 20:22, Sunset 16:09, Rendezvous 14:30
A small team of 9 assembled at 14:30pm at RSPB Exminster Marshes to set around the RSPB lagoon field pools and in King’s Field for a target of Curlew to which to fit satellite tags.
Weather conditions were ideal, 6 degrees with no wind at all 0-5mph, no moon and limited to partial cloud by the end of the session. Continuing wet weather meant pools in RSPB fields were higher than in November and there were several larger pools all wellie height within King’s Field next door.
With a slightly larger and more experienced team nets were set in two locations. A line of 3 large mesh nets were set on each bund in the RSPB fields plus a line of 5 x 3 panel wader nets across the central pool in the same location as November, with these being set by the majority of the team lead by Chris.
In King's Field Ryan and Robbie set two lots of nets, both over water, one longer dogleg of 3 x 18m 2 panel wader nets over the main pool and a single 18m net over a smaller pool nearer the field entrance. Ellie on arrival placed out a selection of Curlew decoys around both net sets in King’s field.
A total net set of 15 nets; 4 in King's field was all set by 16:05pm and 11 in RSPB fields by 16:50pm just as the light started to fade.
On the first net round after dusk two birds were caught in King’s field a re-trap Grey Plover, one of three originally caught at a cannon net catch at Dawlish Warren in 2022 and a new Snipe. Tapes were then placed out at 18:10 with three in RSPB field one on each net group, and one tape in King’s field on the dogleg net set.
The first net round at 18:40 after tapes had been placed produced a single Curlew from King’s field, with high tide still almost 2 hours away. By the second at 19:30 there was a larger catch of 8 Curlew, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 5 Dunlin all from King’s field, with 2 Curlew from the single net and the rest from the dogleg. The same net round in RSPB fields produced singles of Snipe, Redshank and Dunlin.
Robbie Phillips and Ellie Ness lead the extraction with Chris Dee running the ringing team and Ryan Burrell focusing on deployment of 5 satellite tags on a selection of Curlew. With Curlew tagging taking place, an additional helper was required for much of the evening to support this, holding birds for Ryan.
The third round produced just a single Snipe from RSPB and a single Mallard from King’s field.
With tagging and colour ringing of Curlew still taking place we continued with net rounds regularly with the 4th producing a single Water Rail in RSPB and the 5th at 22:00 a Curlew from King’s field and a Snipe from RSPB. Nets in King's field were then taken down and those in RSPB were taken down at 23:00 when a final 2 Snipe were caught. It was noted that large number of Snipe were using the marsh with 6 by far the highest number encountered in a single session.
With a larger catch of Curlew and the requirement to colour ring these birds and successfully deploy 5 tags it was a busy evening despite a smaller catch compared to November. Nets set in two fields also kept the team active throughout the evening. The team was completely packed up and off site by midnight.
Catch totals comprised 30 new birds and 1 retrap: 10 Curlew, 6 Snipe, 6 Dunlin, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Grey Plover (retrap), 1 Redshank, 1 Water Rail and 1 Mallard.
Thanks are due to RSPB and David King for granting access to their sites for this work and for their assistance and support. It is great to see catching increasing year on year with similar effort as the pools mature.