- Feel free to ask – This is the single most important thing to remember. Experienced team members are always willing to explain anything – you just need to ask.
- Let us know what you want to do – We want you to get as much out of this trip as possible so it is important that we know what you want. Let the team leader know if there is anything specific you want to do and they will do their best to accommodate you.
- If something interests you feel free to volunteer – As far as possible we ask for volunteers for the various jobs that need doing. If you are interested in anything specific please volunteer. Whenever possible we will give you appropriate training and/or team you up with a more experienced team member so you can learn how to do something. If, as sometimes happens, time constraints mean this isn't possible we'll still try to give you as much information/experience as possible.
Domestics Food & Drink
Two meals a day are organised for everyone (a vegetarian option is always offered). A cooked breakfast is produced after the morning catching attempt and an evening meal sometime from late afternoon (when depends on evening plans). In addition biscuits and drink is taken out for catches and net setting. Please let the cooks know if you have any dietary issues e.g. nut allergy If you want more than this you are welcome to help yourself to bread, cheese, jam, cereal etc. that is not obviously part of one of the set meals. Most people eat something before leaving in the morning and some make sandwiches to take out in the field or eat between meals.
Sleep can be in short supply as there tend to be early starts and late finishes. During the day, providing there is nothing needing doing, feel free to take naps. However, if you choose to do it away from the main base e.g. in your car, make sure someone knows where you are so you can be woken up for meals, departures etc. If you come in late, for whatever reason, and other team members are already asleep please be quiet. The last person to bed is responsible for turning the lights off.
Briefings and Timings
After each catching attempt a briefing is held to ensure everybody knows what has happened and what is going to happen. At this briefing recces, timings, team splits, car sharing and responsibilities for the next catch or two will be sorted out by the team leader. Make sure you let the team leader know if you have any preferences. Also make sure you are clear on the arrangements as they affect you. Leaving time means vehicles driving away and is normally stuck to. This means you need to have personal gear organised in vehicles ahead of time. A five minute warning of departure will normally be given. Half an hour is allowed from waking time to leaving – this is not long if you intend to eat anything! The evening meal will be served on time. If you leave base and won't be back in time make sure someone knows so that some can be saved for you.
Travel and Sites
As far as is practical we aim to minimise the number of vehicles going to sites. If your vehicle is not specifically needed please try to get a lift in a vehicle that is. If you are driving it is your responsibility to know where you are going and how to get there. Maps are available or make arrangements to follow someone.
Make sure you have appropriate clothing out in the field and remember that you will be outside for many hours and the weather might change. Particularly remember sun hat and sunscreen in the summer, warm clothes for evening catches and a change of clothes for beach catching. Ask what footwear is most appropriate. Different types of site will require different footwear. In certain circumstances a torch will also be useful.
Handling Equipment and Setting Nets
First, and most important, cannon-netting equipment is safe if handled correctly but does include potentially dangerous electrical and explosive components. Always handle equipment with care, and do not handle equipment unless you know what you are doing – if in doubt ask!
- Equipment to be particularly aware of: Cannons, cartridges, black powder and fuses – this is the explosive element. Make sure you never handle black powder around a flame (e.g. a cigarette), keep fuses away from batteries and other electrical sources and don't bang things around.
- Firing Box – this can potentially give a massive electrical shock. Don't mess with them.
- Nets, cannons and projectiles – these are heavy so be careful how you lift them, particularly ask for help to get them on your shoulder.
The first job in net setting is working out where to set. If you are interested in knowing how this is done make this clear and join the licence holder out on the field or beach and ask them to explain what they are doing. Net setting is basically quite simple but there are many jobs that each need doing in turn. As a new person you are most likely to be asked to help a more experienced person do a specific job. However, do feel free to ask to have the whole task explained to you, providing time allows someone will explain what everyone is doing. If you are interested in learning the different jobs make this clear and you will be given different jobs and appropriate training each time nets are set.
We check that all the cannons are working once the net is set. There is a small risk that this check will accidentally fire the net. Therefore everyone must be behind the net and away from the cannons when this happens. The person doing the testing is responsible for ensuring this is the case and will shout 'TESTING' to warn others. If you hear this make sure you are behind the net. Testing will not occur until you are. After setting it is important that nothing is moved. If you do this, even accidentally, make sure you tell someone. Particular things to look out for are treading on a cannon (and possibly changing its angle), tripping over anything (and potentially dislodging something), changing the location of cables (these are laid in a particular order so we know which fires which net) or pulling a jiggler (and removing slack).
You are unlikely to have much to do during the actual catching process – just enjoy the bird spectacle. During the wait you will be briefed on what to do when the catch is made. Listen carefully as different circumstances will require different responses. Sometimes circumstances change during the catching attempt. Make sure you are in a position to know about these changes. You particularly need to know what to do when you get to the net and what you need to take to the net. If the catch is to be wet listen carefully to the lifting instructions – this needs to be well co-ordinated and done quickly.
The catch is covered with lightweight covering material before any birds are extracted from the net. This is done to quieten the birds and prevent them from struggling. This is best done in a co-ordinated manner so not to leave any gaps. To do this some people may have to tread on the net, if you are asked to do this tread very carefully and do not tread on any covering material already on the net.
Initially the most experienced people will extract birds from the net with other people acting as 'runners', taking bird from the people who are extracting and placing them in keeping cages. If you are not used to handling birds, ask someone to show you the best way and do not attempt to carry more than one bird at a time. Whenever possible – on small catches or towards the end of extraction on medium size catches – less experienced people will be given the opportunity to extract. Extracting waders from a cannon-net is different from extracting passerines from a mist-net so an experienced extractor will be asked to train/supervise you. The main differences are: do not hold waders by the legs (they have relatively weak legs), multi-layered and multi-bird extraction (due to lifted nets) and pulling wings through. Once the catch is extracted the birds are ringed and processed. There are a lot of different jobs and volunteers are always asked for – as far as possible you'll get a chance to do everything you want to. Some jobs are reserved for more experienced team members but towards the end of dealing with the catch you will be given the opportunity to try them out, possibly by shadowing an experienced person. We aim to release all birds within 4 hours of making the catch! So you will be busy during a catch.
To receive reports on WWRG fieldwork and to get updates on the fieldwork programme (e.g. the dates marked as 'possible' and when alternative dates appear on the fieldwork list), or for other information about field trips, please email firstname.lastname@example.org