Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group


Things didn’t exactly go to plan for the planned cannon net catch on the weekend of 10-11 November. After delaying from the Saturday due to severe weather and a failed fire on Sunday, we reset and assembled a slightly smaller team to try again on Monday.

Oystercatcher with GPS tagOystercatcher with GPS tagWe did catch 53 Oystercatchers - a reasonable sample of birds - considering there were still problems with the firing system or fuses. All, including an old 'wasp' ringed retrap, were metal ringed and colour-ringed. Most importantly, 10 GPS tags were deployed and birds will be out there now collecting data. A fix on their exact position will be recorded and stored on the tag until it comes into contact with the base station, when it will download all the stored data.

With renewed interest over the plight of wading birds on the Exe Estaury and more widely in the South-west, the Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group was relaunched with an inaugural AGM on 9 November 2018.


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.


The aims of the Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group are to study the wading birds that live in, or pass through, Devon and Cornwall.

We hope to undertake fieldwork approximately once a month, mainly at weekends, involving either mist-netting or the use of a cannon net. Members of the group live across Britain, although many are based in Devon. A key site for fieldwork is the Exe Estuary and in particular Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve, where we have a project on colour ringed Oystercatcher.

Birds are marked with individually numbered metal leg rings and, to aid relocation without the need to recapture them, with colour rings. Under special license we are also fitting GPS tags to a small number of birds to help understand the way they use the habitats around the estuary through the winter and at different states of the tide.

The group welcomes volunteer ringers from anywhere who are interested in taking part in the fieldwork.


The Dawlish Warren Recording Group publish regular updates on the birds seen at Dawlish Warren.

The county bird clubs are Devon Birds and the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society.

Bird ringing in Britain is licensed and coordinated by The British Trust for Ornithology. More information on why we ring birds and why we use colour marks on our study species can be found here. Bird ringing in Europe is coordinated by EURING.

The definitive database of all colour-marking schemes for waders in Europe and the East Atlantic flyway is available on the International Wader Study Group website.

For species other than waders the European colour-ring Birding website, voluntarily maintained by Dirk Raes, should be useful.


The group operates with the excellent support of Teignbridge District Council and Devon Wildlife Trust as landowners of Dawlish Warren. Warren Golf Club kindly allow access across their land.

The value of the projects would not be fully realised without the excellent re-sighting work undertaken and publicised by the Dawlish Warren Recording Group.

We are grateful to Natural England for funding the rings and GPS tags, and for providing staff time for ongoing management of the projects. We are also grateful to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) for staff time for fitting the GPS tags, organising the project and dealing with data. Devon Birds have generously provided some funding for colour rings.

Header images on this website are licensed under the Creative Commons license by the photographers.

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