Equinoctial tides – excellent opportunity for reading colour-rings

There are some monster tides coming up in the next few days, from about 17 to 22 September. These tides will, it is hoped, give opportunities to catch up with reading of colour-rings on Curlews, which have lapsed during the past Covid summer.

On coasts and estuaries in autumn and winter, Curlews feed on the shoreline and mudflats at low tide, but when the tide rises, they gather at safe (but often inaccessible) high-tide roosts. The very high tides of the coming weekend may force them to move to places where observers can see them at closer range, so it is hoped that birds with colour-rings can be observed from a short distance and the sequence of rings on their legs read.  We particularly hope that some of the 50 birds raised from eggs in aviaries at Slimbridge in summer 2019 may be resighted (see attached poster explaining the background). Some of these birds are still in the Slimbridge area, others have recently been seen further down the Severn estuary, towards Bristol, and one has been seen at the Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve on the Usk estuary in south Wales.

Staff and visitors to Slimbridge and Newport will be looking out for these birds (and any other colour-ringed Curlews) over the coming high tide session, and trying hard to read the small white numbers on the white rings so that individuals can be identified.

One Curlew carrying rings of this pattern was sighted on the Exe estuary in Devon back in February, but not seen well enough for the individual to be identified (see picture). So contacts have been established with keen Curlew watchers on the Exe estuary, and indeed at other sites in Cornwall and Devon (Taw, Torridge and Fal), not to mention other sectors of the south Coast like the Solent or other areas in south Wales like the Burry Inlet.

Curlew at Exminster Marshes, 10 Feb 2020. Photo courtesy of James Diamond

So, eyes skinned over the coming weekend! Any reports of ringed Curlews grateful received! Watch this space for further feedback.

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