Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group

setting mist nets - Tim Frayling.jpg
High Tide 3.40m @ 22:19, Sunset 16:09

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.

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed GPS tagged
Oystercatcher 2 0 0 2 0
Dunlin 1 0 0 1 0
Redshank 3 0 0 0 0

Dunlin 20191116 Dawlish Warren DCWRGDunlin colour-ringed on 16 Nov 2019 © A J Bellamy

High Tide 3.60m @ 20:53, Sunset 16:10, Rendezvous 16:00

The 16th November brought another nocturnal suitable height spring tide 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.

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed GPS tagged
Dunlin 4 0 0 4 0
Knot 1 0 0 0 0
Greenshank 1 0 0 0 0
High Tide 3.40m @ 22:10, Sunset 18:46

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.

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed GPS tagged
Oystercatcher 1 0 0 1 0

Leucistic OystercatcherLeucistic Oystercatcher ringed on 29 Oct 2018We had the second mist netting session at Dawlish Warren on 29 October 2018, with a team of 11. We had hoped we would catch more than the 8 Oystercatchers and 3 Dunlin that we managed, as we set 10 nets on three sides of the island roost. A ship in the estuary with bright lights made the nets visible which may have been a factor. Nevertheless, it was worthwhile as Andrew Hoodless was able to check measurements for the harness for the GPS tags we plan to fit to Oystercatchers in the future to study their day-to-day movements.

One of the oystercatchers was very interesting, and one a few of us have seen around the Exe in the last couple of years – a leucistic bird with almost a completely white head. Thanks to all that helped – especially as some had a long journey home afterwards.

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed GPS tagged
Oystercatcher 8 0 0 8 0
Dunlin 3 0 0 0 0

Mist-netting Background

The use of mist-nets on high tides during the hours of darkness is less selective in which species are caught, but this technique provides us with  additional opportunities to catch and ring waders in the region. A mist-net catch can usually be managed with a smaller team and without the need for a specialist cannon net license holder or the preparatory work needed to reconnaisace precise roost sites and set cannon nets in advance of the planned catch tide.

Our focus on the Exe estuary is the wintering Oystercatcher population and this species is our primary target for mist-netting as we aim to catch birds flying into the high-tide roosts.

Oystercatchers are faithful to wintering sites so the birds you have seen here years ago may be the same ones now. The oldest Dawlish Warren Oystercatcher on record is at least 36 years old, last seen in Jan 2018.

If you see a bird with one of our colour rings, please use the form on this website to send us the details (ring-code, date, location, species) or you can send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Mist-netting totals

2018-2019 winter totals

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Oystercatcher 21 0 0 20
Dunlin 4 0 0 0

2019-2020 winter totals

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Oystercatcher 3 0 0 3
Dunlin 5 0 0 5
Redshank 3 0 0 0
Knot 1 0 0 0
Greenshank 1 0 0 0

Grand totals

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Oystercatcher 24 0 0 23
Dunlin 9 0 0 5
Redshank 3 0 0 0
Knot 1 0 0 0
Greenshank 1 0 0 0

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