Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group

High Tide 3.76m @ 19:51, Sunset 16:28, Rendezvous 15:00

A small team of 6 assembled at 3pm at RSPB Exminster Marshes to set around the RSPB lagoon field pools. Weather conditions were ideal, with no wind at all 0-2mph, no moon and part to full cloud. Pools were high following a prolonged wet and stormy period but set locations could still be fully accessed with wellies only, just! On arrival a while was spent helping the RSPB wardens move cows out of the field. The 15 cows we has been informed were on site, turned out to be 30 and despite some effort any attempt to move them to a different field failed. Based on this the decision was made to just set one line of 5 full-height 3 panel wader nets across the main pool in a single line running perpendicular to the train line. This was a third of the usual number due to the smaller team size and reluctance to set on either bund due to the cattle. With these all over water, it was hoped the cows would not venture near. All nets were set by 16:30 and the field vacated. 

Set mist-nets at  Exminster Marshes as the sun sets © R PhillipsSet mist-nets at Exminster Marshes as the sun sets © R Phillips

High Tide 3.51m @ 22:13, Sunset 17:47, Rendezvous 16:15

We assembled a team with a range of experience at RSPB Exminster Marshes, in slightly breezy, but overcast conditions for an evening wader mist net catch. Following a dry February, the pools were not as full as previously, there was plenty of shallow water to attract birds pushed off the estuary by the rising tide. We set 9 full-height wader nets across the main pool and 6 large mesh three-panel nets along the bunds, retiring to the ringing base as the sun set.

Setting mist-nets at Exminster Marshes as the sun sets © R PhillipsSetting mist-nets at Exminster Marshes as the sun sets © R Phillips

As to be expected at this time of year, Oystercatchers are starting to leave the Exe Estuary and return to their breeding sites. One of the advantages of having a colour-marked population is that we can track the timing of this migration. In the past week five different birds have been reported from the north of England.

On 16 February, M7 and WASP thin-thick-thick were back at Carsington Water in Derbyshire, where we believe they are paired and breed. On the following day A0 was seen at Dunsop Bridge in Lancashire. On 19 February, 2H was in the Lower Derwent Valley in North Yorkshire and two days later V5 was on another nature reserve, Nosterfield LNR, near Ripon also in North Yorkshire.


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 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. All editions of their publications (Wader Study, Wader Study Group Bulletin and International Wader Studies) are available online

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

Join us

The group welcomes volunteer ringers from anywhere who are interested in taking part in the fieldwork, although membership of the group is open to all, whether or not you hold a bird-ringing license. Please bear in mind that we need to have a good balance of experience across the team for each session, but we do our best to accommodate and train the less experienced.

The current membership fee is £5 per year, running from November to October. You can register and join here.


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.

We are also grateful to he RSPB and David King for allowing us to operate on their land at Exminster Marshes and to Torridge District Council for co-ordinating permissions at Northam Burrows.

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.

© 2018-2023 Devon and Cornwall Wader Ringing Group

Website design and build by Garganey Consulting