Friday, 29 July 2011

Ringing in The City - 28th July 2011

On Thursday I was kindly invited by Rich Facey to join The Cardiff Ringers in Cardiff for a spot of early morning ringing before work. I hadn't driven into Cardiff before and was quite surprised how easy it was and that I didn't get lost, not like driving in Glasgow!

I arrived at the site in Cardiff Bay at 5.30am and met up with the rest of the ringers. They have a lovely site with reedbeds, ponds and scrub. It doesn't feel like you are in the middle of a city when your at the site.

Cardiff Bay

I ringed until 8am when I had to leave to go into work - covered in mud of course! I processed 16 birds, the site get's good numbers of retraps. Species for the day included Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler and Willow Warbler.

Sedge Warbler. I adore the plumage on these guys.

Willow Warbler - "You looking at me?"

I also got a very nice little surprise; as I was on a net round extracting mainly Reed Warblers I came across an unfamiliar bird. I stood there with the bird in my hand staring at with a confused expression on my face thinking to myself "well it's not a Reed Warbler!". Then it dawned on me; could it be a Garden Warbler? It was a Garden Warbler - my first! What a pretty little bird and one that I hadn't seen before. I ended up ringing 2 new Garden Warblers by the end of the morning - what a delight! I certainly wasn't expecting a new species that morning.

My first Garden Warbler

What a beaut!

Juvenile Garden Warbler

As if ringing a Garden Warbler wasn't a treat enough I then got my breakfast cooked for me again! I think these Cardiff Ringers are onto something with this cooked breakfast thing - I've brought along bananas and short bread to ringing sessions before but I must say it was very nice to have a hot breakfast. Big thanks to Chef Rich!

The Chef

A strange experience for the morning was checking Reed Warbler's bums for poo! Yes poo, one of the Cardiff Ringers is a PhD student and is collecting Reed Warbler poo for their project. Every time some poo is found it gets placed into a little pot with the owner of the poo's ring number written on it. Another new experience for me then!

How to correctly label poo!

Poo in a pot!

It was great to be out ringing before work and a very successful, enjoyable morning was had. After I dragged myself covered in mud into work I went and checked on the Swallow nests with Tony Jenkins. 2 of the nests will be ready for ringing next week - which will probably be my last ringing experience at WWT Llanelli...sniff,sniff! Big thanks goes to the Cardiff Ringers (some of whom later turned up at my work, stalkers!) and I hope to see you again in the future, happy ringing!

Swallow chick
Now I'm off to The Mini Wash Week and hopefully there will be a very special blog post when I get back!

My Penultimate CES at WWT Llanelli - 26th July 2011

My time in South Wales is almost up and with it will come my last Welsh ringing session (for at least a while!). On Tuesday I went to my penultimate CES at WWT Llanelli with Heather Coats and Ian Hainsworth. It was a very quiet morning with few birds but an enjoyable one none the less. I ringed 13 new birds including Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Robin and Wren.

The birds awaiting processing. Each hook number represents which net the birds came from - this information is recorded during the CES and sent to the BTO.

A stunning Dunnock. This species is often overlooked but I think they are gorgeous little birds.

For me CESs are very important not only for the information they collect about migration, survival rates and breeding success but also because they allow me the opportunity to learn about moult in migrants. I also get the chance to get to grips with ageing and sexing which is important for when I come to apply for my C permit.

Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Wren

Chiffchaff - this identity of this species is confirmed by looking at the emarginations on the wing. If the 6th primary is emarginated then it is a Chiffchaff, if the emargination only reaches the 5th primary then it is a Willow Warbler. The bird's plumage can also help identify it but the emargination is confirmation.

I also ringed a juvenile Bullfinch. I had never seen a juvenile Bullfinch before and it was great to compare it with an adult female that I also processed. Whenever I see a Bullfinch I still think of them as tiny little dinosaurs with their chunky beaks.

Juvenile Bullfinch

The Dino Beak!

Juvenile compared to adult female.

A nice little CES session was had and I also managed to see 7 slow worms (I'm a huge snake fan!). Thanks goes to Heather and Ian and I look forward to my last CES next week.

P.S I couldn't resist mentioning that WWT Llanelli have just hatched the UK's second ever Lesser Flamingo which is brilliant news for both the trust and the species. The chick has received a lot of attention from visitors and the media and has become a bit of a celeb! At the time of writing this the chick is doing well and growing fast.

The famous new arrival at WWT Llanelli

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Trip To Chew

Early on Sunday morning after getting a couple of hours sleep at a friends house I quietly packed my bag (at 4.30am) and snuck out of their house - why? To take a trip to Chew Valley to help out on their CES. I have always wanted to go to Chew Valley and have heard many stories about it  and as I was in the general area anyway I thought I would take a wee trip. I was very excited to go.  I was especially hoping to ring my dream bird - A Kingfisher, but did I get it?

I arrived at 5.50am and met up with the other ringers. There were 11 nets set with a further 2 being erected later in the morning. There were a lot of birds during the 6 hours of CES including: Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Song Thrush, Long-Tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Wren , Robin, Blue Tit and Blackcap. There was also a stunning Grasshopper Warbler caught - the first I have ever seen but another lucky ringer got that one.

Sedge Warbler
Whilst at Chew I was taught how to do fat and pectoral scores which was great to learn and very interesting.


Reed Warbler
There was also an odd looking juvenile Dunnock caught which has us boggled for a while as to its identity.

The mystery Dunnock

During the last hour of the CES I got a real treat, no not a Kingfisher but a recap Treecreeper. I love Treecreepers and processing it was amazing. They are so small and delicate and make the cutest wee chirp sounds. It was great to see one up close and to be able to marvel at it's hooked beak and specialised claws.

A very cute juvenile Treecreeper

My first Treecreeper

Soon the morning came to a close and it was time to take down the nets and head over to the fancy ringing hut for a chat and some much needed caffeine for some. Chew Valley has a great set up, operating two CESs (one on either side of the lake) and having a central ringing station. After arriving at the ringing station and meeting up with the other ringers from the other CES I started to get ready to head off back to Wales but just then my new favourite person (Alan Ashman) came into the hut holding a beautiful and unringed Kingfisher! After a bit of teasing I was handed the bird and given the absolute honour of ringing and processing it. After ringing it and receiving some daggers from the Kingfisher virgins I took the little stunner outside for it's very own photo shoot.

Say cheese!

The Kingfisher was absolutely stunning, the blue is so vivid and their feet so odd! A special overlap (SO) ring is used on Kingfishers which is applied by hand and is a delicate process. I am so thrilled to have ringed such an impressive bird and will never forget it, thank you Chew!

What a stunner, a beautiful juvenile Kingfisher

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Chew and especially Alan, Mike, Robin and Ian. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning and would recommend a trip to Chew to absolutely anyone and everyone!

My first Kingfisher!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

8 Tonnes of Mute Swans and A Bad Back AKA Abbotsbury 2011 Mute Swan Round-up

On Friday I set off from work bound for Dorset, after a very long delayed journey I arrived at Abbotsbury Swannery just over 4 hours later! It was time to make me debut as a swan ringer. I was camping with the troops from WWT Slimbridge, it did take me a while to find them though as now body knew what each other looked like which made it interesting to find each other in the masses to say the least.

A ringer's camp!

 After wrestling with my tent we headed off to the pub for some much needed grub. After only getting a few hours sleep we awoke at 5am to the sound of Chris Perrins on the loudspeaker! As we stumbled out of our tents into the light we were greeted by a TV crew filming for BBC One's The One Show. So after doing a bit of advertising for WWT we headed off to join up with everyone else for the briefing. Then it was time for the main event.

Readying the troops

With around 90 canoeists out in the water the rest of us waded out into the murky water to join up with them and herd the swans into the pen. There was a lot of pressure not to fall in as the entire time the TV crew were pointing a camera in our faces. Luckily no one fell in and the 771 swans were safely rounded up and secured in their pen. It was quite freaky as we waded close to the banks as we had been accidentally corralling the lake's population of fish at the same time as the swans so as we got closer to the banks the fish would jump out of the water and into us or slam into our feet under the water which sure does make you jump!

Filming for The One Show

The brilliant canoeists

Corralling the swans

After dragging our sorry selves out of the water, a quick change and a nice hot dog for breakfast the processing could begin. WWT had it's own ringing station and processed nearly 200 swans throughout the day.

The WWT Ringing Station

I was lucky enough to have been able to ring and Darvic most of the swans. It was my first time ringing swans but I soon picked it up.

Ringing my first swan

Darvicing the swans was really interesting and I now own my very first Darvic ring which I removed from an adult Mute swan and replaced with a bright. new, shiny, yellow one reading TVT - so keep an eye out for it!

My first Darviced swan

An expertly fitted Darvic if I do say so myself!

It was a long and tiring day but completely worth it and so were the muddy clothes, bruises, scratches and achy muscles. The swans are incredibly heavy and lifting them up and down all day sure does take it toll, I have been hobbling round work all day! The Swannery reckon that we carried and weighed 8 tonnes of swans on Saturday, hence the reason I am now sporting a bad back!

Weighing a swan

During the day I was taught how to sex swans, which is not for the faint hearted I can tell you. It's actually quite a skill to sex a swan and is quite hard to master.

A male swan's bits!

After 5 hours of intense processing I was on my last swan which I decided to release back into the water myself. Of course after staying relatively unharmed the whole day the last swan saw fit to give my arm a good shredding and almost make me fall into the water in front of a large crowd of ringers!

The last swan, before it ripped into my arm

The last release

After having survived the ordeal of releasing the last swan we celebrated with some rhubarb pie and clotted cream!

Our hard earned reward

There was a great atmosphere to the day and I had great fun. It was nice to see a lot of familiar faces there like Terry Coombs and the Cardiff Ringers. I enjoyed visiting Dorset for the first time and found it a stunningly beautiful place especially the quaint little villages and seemingly everlasting sunshine.

Laura and her swan

 An amzing day was had and I can't wait to go back for the 2013 event. I want to say a special thank you to the Abbotsbury Swannery, Terry Coombs, the gang from WWT Slimbridge, my kind boss Nigel Williams at WWT Llanelli for letting me attend the ringing on behalf of WWT and to all of the other ringers, canoiests, first aiders etc that made the day a brillant one.

Me and my Mute friend

The Abbotsbury round-up will be shown on The One Show in the near future - I will update this post when the exact date/time is known. After Abbotsbury typical me decided to go on a random adventure but more about that in the next blog post which is not to be missed! Bye for now.

Showing off my handy work!


Abbotsbury will be shown on The One Show on Monday 14th November at 7pm on BBC1

Friday, 22 July 2011

Kenfig CES - 21st July 2011

Yesterday I joined the Gower Bird Ringing Group at Kenfig NNR for one of their CES sessions. I have only been to Kenfig to ring a couple of times before and so it was nice to be back again. Kenfig is a lovely place, full of beautiful flora and fauna.

Pyrausta purpuralis

The nets were all set up by 6.10am in the reedbeds. As we retreated back to the ringing station we observed a Kestrel hunting overhead. The CES ran from 6.10am until 12.30pm. I personally ringed a total of 13 new birds and processed 1 retrap. Species for the day included Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Cett's Warbler, Long-Tailed Tit, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Robin, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Great Tit.

Willow Warbler

Personal ringing highlights were getting to ring one of my favourite garden birds (Long-Tailed Tits AKA Lottis) and Reed Warbler of which I used to overlook but am becoming ever so fascinated with now, especially since I saw my first nest with it's intricately woven patterns.

Reed Warbler

It was also a nice treat when two juvenile Robins were caught. One of these Robin's taught us an important lesson: never hold a bird over the bird book. This little Robin had recently been eating lots of juicy berries and so the bird book now sports a lovely purple page!

A pair of juvenile Robins

I always enjoy ringing the Kenfig CES as in between net rounds I get to venture about looking for all sorts of fascinating gems such as moths, butterflies, grasshoppers and wildflowers. The place was alive with grasshoppers yesterday, every where you stepped a hopper exploded out of the grass in front of you.

Common Green Grasshopper

A wildlife highlight for me was seeing my first Leaf Cutter Bee which had taken up residence in the picnic table we were using as our ringing base!

The Leaf Cutter's home in the picnic table!

On one of my walks in between net rounds I came across a beautiful Large Skipper. This was my first Skipper and I actually had no idea what it was at first and had to seek advice from a few ringing friends. The wings in particular facinate me.

Large Skipper

A lovely morning was had and thanks goes to Kenfig and The Gower Ringing Group. Kenfig aslso has a great blog:

Now I'm off to Abbotsbury to the big Mute Swan round-up and to ring my first swans. Wish me luck!