11 May 2015

Exemplary patch working

Local birder Lee Collins writes:

Dawlish Warren is a 1½ mile long sand spit at the mouth of the River Exe in south Devon and is an important roost site for thousands of wintering and passage waterbirds of the Exe Estuary SPA. It has an impressive list of rare vagrants that include- Long-billed Murrelet, Elegant Tern, Short-toed Eagle and Semi-palmated Plover.

However, the patch-workers on site aren't confined to purely finding rare birds; with the benefit of a well positioned hide a dedicated band of regular recorders at Dawlish Warren submit to the BTO and county recorders in excess of 7,000 counts per annum and have developed a growing interest in finding and recording ringed birds in the field. 

With no current ringing on site, all recoveries from recent years have been achieved only by using our optics and a keen eye. In 2014 alone the recording group amassed an incredible 398 reads of 192 individuals, something few sites in the whole of the UK can match.

Recent observations have yielded some important and interesting recoveries with birds ringed from 24 different countries, including Ghana, Mauritania, Greenland, Iceland and Russia, whilst others have had a well-travelled history taking in Namibia and South Africa. 

Common Tern, Dawlish Warren, 29th Aug 2014, darvic ringed at Saltholme, Lee Collins

Notable finds include the first Devon recovery of Little Tern (from Dublin) and the first live Roseate Tern (from Coquet Island, off Northumberland). Common Tern (Saltholme in Teeside & Dublin) and Grey Plover (from Spain & Norway), although common species, hadn't had a Devon recovery in 25 and 50 years respectively. Both the Grey Plovers are notable as being the first Spanish & Norwegian controls of this species in Britain or Ireland, a feat the Recording Group also achieved for a Spanish Spoonbill.

Colour-ringed ‘Sanderblings’ as they've now become known are also a definite highlight and we've recorded 18 in just a few short years. Most have been from ringing schemes from their breeding grounds in Greenland and wintering grounds in West Africa (Ghana & Mauritania), with one of our recoveries also observed in Namibia. This species certainly has a breath-taking migratory pattern.

Sanderling, Dawlish Warren, 20th Jul 2009, Ghanian ringed, Lee Collins

The results of reading rings in the field has also established useful site fidelity and longevity data, in wintering species such as Brent Geese, Shelduck and more specifically Oystercatchers, with five of our Oystercatcher reads being individuals 24 years old or older. One faithful Great Black-backed Gull, from south Cornwall, has to date been read 49 times over a 31 month period on site and another Great Black-backed Gull was seven months from beating the oldest one on record (our Great Black-backed Gull was ringed on the Channel Islands in 1990. Another great gull sighting was the first Lituanian ringed Herring Gull in the UK as well (below).

Herring Gull (Argentatus), Dawlish Warren, 31st Dec 2014, Lithuanian ringed, Lee Collins

Since May 2004, the Dawlish Warren website has been updated daily with latest bird and wildlife news and regularly carries news on the latest recoveries. Annual reports (2013 & 2014) on Warren ring recoveries are available for 2013 and 2014 in pdf format.

Ringed Plover, Dawlish Warren, 4th Oct 2014, Norwegian ringed, Lee Collins

It’s very much hoped that our hard work and dedication in finding and documenting such records can rub off on others, as such endeavours serve a useful cause and can be extremely rewarding.

We’d also like to thank the BTO and various ringers for their invaluable help over the last few years.

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