Friday 20th December
With the morning high tide well in darkness no recce was done but there was a visit to Snettisham and Heacham to see if the beach profile and access had changed since our last outing early in the year. Rather unexpectedly on Snettisham North considerable evidence of Oystercatchers roosting was found, in the form of droppings and footprints extending over a considerable distance. Also unexpected was the change at the 'feeding site' between Snettisham and Heacham where the groynes had completely disappeared and concrete sea defences near the hide had been put in place. Weather predictions in the week leading up to the visit had indicated the brief settled period would break and Saturday could be wet. However, this change slowed down so at least Saturday morning would be dry. This was somewhat of a relief as it allowed an option of catching Turnstone at Port Sutton Bridge to be taken up. The sandbags were consequently picked up from the Wolferton store ready for setting on the concrete dock surface in the morning. The five members of the team arriving Friday evening duly met up at Base (or in the pub) and got a relatively early night ready for an early start the next day.
Saturday 21st December
Up 04:30. Arrived at Port Sutton Bridge to find some of the people coming from further a field already present. The situation at the port quickly assessed with dock 1 being available for our use. Unfortunately the 'large quantities' of grain believed to be present as bait for the Turnstone had been swept up so more had to be acquired from the port's store. A narrow width full net was efficiently set with the jump ropes and cannons weighted down with sandbags. The team was in position in cars close to the net well before necessary! Although the theory was that the birds came in at first light, just one bird paid a brief visit to the dockside at this time. As light became better it became apparent that some birds were going on to the quay elsewhere despite the apparent lack of food. Twinklers sent to deal with these, initially just a single person, but eventually four of the female members of the team had been despatched to do the job. This did succeed in making the Turnstone think of feeding elsewhere and a flock of about 50 landed on the edge of the dock we were set on. Very quickly they spotted the bait and ran on to it. As soon as all birds had reached the bait the net was fired catching virtually very bird present. Extracted and then cleared the site, taking the birds to entrance to the site to process them. This was enlivened by activity at the port as a huge abnormal load slowly made its way out of the port and parked alongside where we were working. The crew of this load, having noted our all female twinkling activities were genuinely interested in our activities as we were in theirs. The load was on its way to a Spalding power station at a maximum speed of 12 mph, on the biggest set up of its kind, worth £25m, and puts less pressure on the road than a single decker bus! As well as the normal rings, the Turnstone were colour ringed.
|Species||New||Control / Retrap||Totals|
With the weather remaining dry, contrary to forecasts, which had suggested rain from late morning, further forecasts were obtained which confirmed things had slowed down and it should be dry for the evening tide but that rain was still expected overnight. Consequently decisions were made that we should mist net on the evening tide and go for the Oystercatchers on Snettisham in the morning, as a reccy on the morning tide had found 200 Oystercatchers in the same area as previously. Equipment sorted and the whole team to Snettisham to set four nets. This was enlivened by huge skeins of Pink-footed geese flying overhead going out to sea at dusk. A mist net setting team left at 16:00 leaving the rest to finish cannon net setting and, amongst other things, buy fish and chips for tea. At Terrington, six nets set at the saltmarsh edge and a further one set over a pool. Tape lures were positioned by both sets of nets but the one by the single nets did not work satisfactorily and was removed. After the fish and chips had been consumed an extraction team did a net round and returned with just 5 birds. A further round after high tide confirmed the tide had just gone under the net lines but only a single further bird had been caught. It appeared the main wader flock was to the east of where the nets were set. Nets taken down, allowing an early return to base.
|Species||New||Control / Retrap||Totals|
|Bar - Tailed Godwit||1||0||1|
Some time spent relaxing before bed by which time it was raining quite hard.
Sunday 22nd December
Up 05:30. Raining hard. Team assembled at Snettisham before dawn but in view of weather stayed in cars rather than walking to where base camp was to be. Somewhat unexpectedly, before first light the first dog walker appeared from the Heacham direction. As soon as some light available NAC had a look along the beach and thought no birds were present. After a further period of sheltering PLI walked out on to the beach to get a better look and found there was a flock present but well beyond the nets. With the tide receding, and judged to be already below the point at which birds in front of the nets would be caught, thoughts turned to picking up the nets and breakfast. Planned to wait for a while for the birds to move naturally but it was not long before the dog walker returning disturbed them and they (approx. 250) left for Snettisham. Picked up nets, noting that there was evidence that at some stage, presumably under cover of darkness and possibly disturbed by the early dog walker, the flock had been in front of the nets. Returned to base. Breakfast and then departure by early afternoon.