Monday, 6 February 2012

An Unexpected Pleasure

With the plethora of birds in our back garden right now (eg 12 blackbirds this morning and a fieldfare yesterday) I decided to take a walk around Fowlmere nature reserve this afternoon to see what I could see.  I texted Doug, as I usually do, in case he wanted to come along and scout out future volunteering projects, but hadn't heard anything by the time I set out.

Walking around the reserve, not 20 minutes after I'd arrived, his message arrived: "Am ringing at the office.  Do come over."  After momentary confusion, I realised this meant he was ringing birds, so I shot straight off to join him.  I've not been involved in ringing before, so this was a first and I was keen to see how it's done.

I've known for years that ringing involves crimping a light aluminium ring around the bird's lower leg, such that it can't come off, but is still loose enough not to cause the bird any discomfort.  The rings are pre-stamped with identification numbers, so if a ringed bird is found later, it's easy to find out where it was ringed.  Since we currently have large numbers of continental birds here, driven over by the extreme weather (-32°C in Ukraine) we hoped to catch birds previously ringed somewhere far away, but it was not to be.

He had a couple of mist nets up, and as I arrived, we walked towards the larger one, which already had six birds caught.  Each was carefully disentangled from the net before being placed in a soft fabric bag to be taken back to the office for measuring and ringing.  Sadly, of the six, one managed to break free by itself, and another made its break for freedom just as Doug was changing his grip on it, and he lost it.

However, we had two fieldfares and a blackbird.  The fourth bird was a blue tit which Doug had ringed only this morning, so he let that go immediately.

Back in the office, each bird was sexed and its age estimated, then wing length measured and it was weighed.  Doug also estimated its muscle and fat ratios, and all this, along with the processing time, was recorded in his ringing book, before the bird was released.  Oh, and I took a few photographs, like the one above.  Just in case you're not familiar with them, it's a fieldfare.

As soon as we'd released the last bird, we went straight back to the net, where we found  two blackbirds and a blue tit.  The same blue tit.  Obviously a slow learner!

With those ones processed, back we went, and this time found a field fare, a blackbird and yes, the same blue tit.  At this point Doug started wondering about taking that net down, as it's not fair to keep catching the same bird, even it it is chronically stupid!  Fortunately, we didn't catch it again.  In fact, the birds seem to have cottoned on that there was a hazard there, as we only caught one more fieldfare in the rest of the afternoon.

If it's not too windy tomorrow, we'll be back there for more of the same, but the forecast is not too promising. Fingers crossed!

No comments: