Monday, 28 April 2014

Introduction to bird ringing course

Yesterday I attended a one-day BTO course held (very conveniently for me!) at RSPB Sandwell Valley, 'Introduction to bird ringing'. The course did what it said on the tin - it was a great introduction to bird ringing - what, why, how, when and who! There were just 6 of us so we had plenty of opportunity to all have a go at handling the birds, putting rings on them and recording the data. Here are some photos from the day!

Holding a Song Thrush in ringer's grip - the easiest and most comfortable hold for both the bird and the person. I got to hold a Song Thrush and also to put a ring on its leg (while someone else held it!) :o)
Ageing a male Bullfinch by looking at the moult limit on the coverts, this seemed to be easier for some species than others! The paler coloured feathers to the left are juvenile feathers which have partially been replaced by adult feathers (darker coloured to the right) so we can tell this Bullfinch hatched last year.

A nice male Great Tit!
A lovely Wren! Birds can also be held by their thighs.
Hehe this is a great photo of a male Blackcap which I got to hold and release, I think the Blackcaps were my favourite.
The nets which we checked every 10-15 minutes for birds. Extracting birds from the nets is the hardest part and as such was only done by the experienced ringers present!
We caught so many Bullfinches! Sandwell Valley is a great spot for them. They are amongst the most flighty and easily stressed birds of all so they have to be ringed and released as quickly as possible to minimise stress.
The data sheet upon which information about the birds caught is recorded. There are codes for some categories e.g. species, age, body fat, muscle. Weight and wing length are also measured.
Rings are colour-coded by size. Depending on the species (and sometimes the sex within species if there is marked sexual dimorphism) different ring sizes are used.
Putting a ring on a male Chaffinch's leg. Maybe some of the skills learnt on my first degree (Jewellery & Silversmithing) will come in handy....
Measuring the male Chaffinch's wing.

Another way to hold some larger birds, the bunch of flowers grip - around the feet and over the tail and wings.
A Chiffchaff's wing showing how you can conclusively tell it apart from a Willow Warbler (I'm a little hazy on the actual details though!)
 I also had time to spot a couple more new plants to try and identify!

No flowers yet on this one so I will probably have to go back and double check when it is in flower. But for now I think it may be Smooth Tare (Vicia tetrasperma). Maybe it could be Slender Tare (Vicia parviflora) but it seems that that is much less widespread so less likely.
Actually I spotted this on Friday morning when we did the breeding bird survey, but didn't get a chance to photograph it. I think it is Shining Cranesbill (Geranium lucidum).
At the end of the day we spotted these two watching us from the horses' paddock by the railway bridge. What a great end to a super day :o)


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