The research carried out in Saeftinghe is highly intensive work: the managing organisation is unable to do it on their own, which is why a large pool of volunteers assists with all kinds of research and projects. The local bird group ‘De Steltkluut’ (a nature association) plays a vital role in this, by conducting an annual bird census from 1988 onwards. In addition to birds, the vegetation, fish and mammals are being monitored.

Research is also being undertaken regarding how the different processes create and breakdown the salt marsh.

Bird Census

This research and monitoring work specifically targets breeding, migrating and wintering birds.

  • In permanent plots, all breeding birds are monitored annually.
  • Once every six years, the whole area is monitored for breeding birds, the latest being in 2018.
  • Every year, from July to March, there are monthly low tide counts.
  • All year round, high tide counts occur monthly.
  • In winter, harrier roosts are surveyed .

Ringing Station

Bird ringing is provides considerable insight into the migration of birds, their breeding sites, and survival and reproduction rates. The ringing in Saefinghe is part of a national research program. Since October 1995 bird ringing has taken place in Saeftinghe and, since 2010, there is a fully equipped ringing station on the Gasplateau.

Common Kingfisher, caught by a certified volunteer at the Saeftinghe ringing station.

How does it work?

Certified volunteers catch the birds, predominantly in late summer, using “mist” nets and sometimes trap cages. Each bird is measured and weighed, and gets a uniquely numbered metal ring on their leg. After this the birds are immediately released. The process does not cause the birds any pain and they are not negatively impacted in the long term either.

Some birds that are caught have already been ringed elsewhere. All the data recorded from both new and recaptured birds is entered into a special program. The catches can be viewed online by everyone. This research done in Saeftinghe is part of the bird observatory 'Vogeltrekstation' vof the Dutch Intitute for Ecology (NIOO/KNAW) - centre for bird migration and demography, based in Wageningen.


A very brief summary: the most commonly captured species in Saeftinghe include bearded reedling, blue throat, reed warbler, reed bunting and sedge warbler. In the trap cages, spotted crake and water rail are most commonly captured. During the autumn migration, large numbers of swallows and martins are caught in the reed beds at dusk, as they come in to roost in the reed beds. The breeding success of swallows and martins is approximated by comparing the proportion of adult to “first year” birds from those caught. Research results are published regularly.