Seaton cannon netting bags record number of shovelers

Cautious marshland visitor forgot to duck

A WARY bird – seldom trapped for tagging by conservationists – has been captured in record numbers on the Axe estuary.

A cannon netting session by licensed ringers at Seaton Marshes Local Nature Reserve bagged eight shoveler duck - a record for the site and the equivalent of 66 per cent of the entire catch for 2009.

In its most recent records, the British Trust for Ornithology gives a figure of 12 adult and juvenile shoveler duck caught in the entire UK for 2009, and none for Devon in that year at all

Countryside Service Nature Reserves Manager Fraser Rush said: “Shoveler are a very attractive little duck. The drakes have a bottle green head and bright yellow eye, and both male and females have an elaborately enlarged bill, adapted for feeding.

“They spend their time sifting small food items from the water using their huge bill, a bit like flamingo. But they are not often caught in netting sessions, because they aren’t attracted to bait in the same way as other waterfowl.

“Although it might sound alarming, cannon netting is a technique for catching lots of water birds safely and with minimal distress to the bird, so that identifiable rings can be placed on the bird’s legs. These rings provide essential information on the individual bird, such as lifespan and geographical movements as well as providing biometric data on the individual at the time of capture.

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“The birds are released soon after capture, none the worse from their ordeal other than a small ring on the leg. The District Council is working with the Axe Estuary Ringing Group to help develop the scientific understanding of wetland birds, to help in their future conservation. The more we understand about a species, the better position we are in to look after its future needs.”

To find out more about participating in a public ringing display, or for further information about Countryside Service events, contact Diane Berry on 01395 517557, or email