Monday, 29 August 2011

Cooting Brilliant - 28th August 2011

Last weekend Chris, Kane and myself went out Coot catching. It was only my second time out colour ringing Coot but I was determined to catch one myself after having watched Kane AKA Cootman do it so many times, making it look easy...which it definitely is not! Chris was also out to catch his first Coot.

Cootman in action

The first stop was Crompton Lodges where Chris caught his first Coot!

Chris's first hand caught Coot at Crompton Lodge

Next stop was Plattsfield Park in Manchester City Centre. 

Plattsfield Park

Next up was Redsmere where I managed to grab my first Coot! A number of already colour ringed Coot were seen at Redsmere, these birds seemed wise as to what we were up to.

My first hand caught Coot

Next stop on the whistle stop tour of Kane's study sites was Pickmere.

Showing off the new merch!

Last stop was Bottom Flash. In total 19 Coot were caught; 18 new and 1 recap. Each Coot received it's very own shiny new colour ring combination as part of Kane's Coot study.

A newly colour ringed juvenile Coot

Each Coot also had it's biometrics taken; skull, tarsus, wing and weight were all measured.



It was also another great opportunity for me to get my eye in on ageing.

A prime example of an adult Coot with it's bright yellow legs.

The aim of the study is to help us understand more about Coots and their movements. Most people think of Coots as park pond birds that don't travel far (I used to be one of them) but this simply isn't true as the study is proving. If you see any colour ringed Coots then the sighting information would be greatly received at

A great weekend was had with the guys and I was even taught by Kane how to input the ringing data on IPMR - which is a very important thing to learn for when it becomes time for me to apply for my C permit. Massive thanks goes to the guys for another ace weekend and hopefully it will be repeated soon.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Colourful Coots - 21st August 2011

Last weekend I went to The Rutland Birdfair 2011 with Chris and Kane. It was great to have 'my boys' back from Iceland and hear about their Whooper chasing adventures, see here for Kane's Whooper blog post.

This was my first time at the Birdfair and I must say I really enjoyed myself. There was so much to see and do and so many interesting people to met and talk to. I loved the fair and will definitely be back. The highlight of the fair was meeting my favourite wildlife celeb: Johnny Kingdom, such a great guy.

Me and Johnny

I got to met so many great people including Stephen Moss, Mike Dillinger, Bill Oddie and lots of people from WWT. The WWT had it's own stand at the fair which was promoting the trust, it's work and in particular the current projects on Common Crane, Madagascar Pochard and Spoon-Billed Sandpiper.

Another highlight of the fair was getting ringed! At the BTO stall you could get ringed as Garden Warbler, Osprey or Pied Flycatcher. Each ring was numbered and you could then go online to discover the story behind the bird that you were ringed as: brilliant idea and great fun!

Photo 'borrowed' from Kane

Of course no weekend with my boys would be complete without a spot of ringing so on Sunday we went to Redsmere to kick off the Coot colour ringing season. It was my first time colour ringing and I have to admit I really enjoyed using bright pink rings!

Colour Ringed Coot

Kane was teaching me how to age the Coots and how he takes biometrics on these feisty little birds. It was great to be able to look at the differences in ages and I think I might be starting to fall for Coots with their red eyes, awesome feet and punky attitude!

In total 8 Coots were caught: 6 new and 2 metal ringed controls. The controls were both ringed in Manchester City Centre and travelled a distance of just under 14 miles. Kane is colour ringing Coots in the North West to discover more about their movements. The project is about to enter into it's 4th year and so far has produced some amazing results: See here. If you see any colour ringed Coots you can email your sightings to kanebrides’@’ where they would be gratefully received.

My first colour ringed Coot

A nice highlight whilst out looking for Coot was seeing and hearing a Green Sandpiper flying overhead.

Thanks goes to the guys for a brilliant weekend and it's so great to have you back : )

Monday, 22 August 2011

My Last CES at WWT Llanelli

Apologies for the delay in blogging but I've been very busy moving lately moving from Wales and volunteering at Slimbridge.

This blog post is about my last bird ringing session in Wales - The WWT Llanelli CES.

One of the net rides.

It was a quiet morning with not many birds being caught which made it a great morning for training. One of the things I enjoy most about CES is being able to examine the birds closely, learning about moult and ageing.

Examining plumage.

Species for the day included: Chiffchaff, Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and a very special bird for fellow ringer Cedwyn - a Garden Warbler, Cedwyn's first!

Cedwyn and his first Garden Warbler.

Weighing the Garden Warbler.

Measuring the wing length. Biometrics gathered from CES sessions tell us a lot about the lives of our migratory passerines such as this Garden Warbler.

I enjoyed my last CES session and want to say special thanks to Heather Coats for being my foster trainer for the last year, Cedwyn and Ian, Nigel Williams for allowing me to go ringing so often and to Peter Phillips for managing the ringing sites.

I am writing this blog post from WWT Slimbridge where I have been volunteering for the last couple of weeks in the research department. I will finish working for The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at the end of this week and will miss the trust dearly. I have had such an amazing time over the last year and am so grateful to the trust.

One of my favourite views at Llanelli - sunset over the saline lagoon.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Mini Wash Week 2011

Last week myself and  fellow bird ringer Cedwyn Davies travelled to Linconshire for the annual Mini Wash Week. Every year ringers travel to The Wash for the annual Mini Wash Week. There are always two teams at the Wash: the Norfolk team and the Lincs team. The Lincs team's base for the week was Friskney village hall in Friskney on the North side of The Wash. Friskney was a great base for the week apart from the fact that there were no showers and so we all had to go 5 days without! The 5 days are a bit of the blur and seem to have moulded into one day in my brain so I will write about the highlights rather than day-to-day. Throughout the 5 days we attempted to make catches 7 times and were successful 4 times.

The first bit of 'wildlife' I observed on The Wash!

This was my first time visiting The Wash, it is somewhere I have always wanted to go as I had heard so much about it. It was a lovely place and it was great to spend a week exploring the Linconshire side. The flora out on the salt marshes were particularly interesting, not so great is that the flora on the marsh is very low and so being in the company of 20 other people on a flat salt marsh with minimal vegetation for many long hours can have it's issues - I think you understand!

At one point we had to wait until the tide went out to get off a shingle island.

Trekking across the marsh
On Sunday morning we caught 1 Curlew which was a new ringing experience for fellow trainee Ian Blackmore who hadn't ringed any waders before was the lucky person to ring it.

Curlew. Photo: Ian Blackmore

On the Sunday evening we travelled out to the Wainsfleet Islands which involved trekking across 1 mile of boggy, uneven salt marsh carrying nets, cannons, keeping cages etc - a very good workout! After setting the nets we hid under large tarpaulin sheets for just over 3 hours before we heard the BOOM! We caught approximately 125 Knot and 50 Dunlin. I hadn't handled either of these species before and until I held them in my hands I didn't realise how bright and colourful they were. I am used to viewing these waders as browny grey blobs in the distance through a telescope or binoculars so it was a real pleasure to see them up close and to be able to examine their plumage.

Looking at a Knot's plumage

Two of the birds caught were controls: a Knot from the Highlands and a Dunlin from France!


Shinzii Dunlin. Photo: Libby Welbourn

The third bird I ringed on Sunday was a very special bird to me as not only was it my 1,000th bird but at the same time my 60th species. The bird in question was a beautiful Knot, age 6, ring number SV59060 - live long and prosper little fella!

My 1,000th bird/60th species. Please excuse the scruffy person holding the bird, they had just spent the last 3 hours hiding under a sheet of tarp on a shingle island!

On Wednesday we set cannon nets in two different locations aiming for Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew and Dunlin. I was on the Dunlin team and we managed to catch 10 Dunlin, 9 new and 1 recap. The other team had a nice catch of Bar-tails and Curlew, not sure on numbers but they did have 1 Swedish Curlew control. As our team had only a small catch of Dunlin we had more time to appreciate them and practice biometrics. Dunlin are stunning little birds. The Dunlin caught during the week were all of the Shinzii race.

The Dunlin team

Libby ringing a Dunlin

Measuring a Dunlin

Check out the plumage on this beauty!

Bar-tailed Godwit. Photo: Ian Blackmore

After the catches were processed the two teams met up again, had a much deserved lunch and said their goodbyes before heading off home. It took Cedwyn and I just over 9 hours to get back as we had to travel via The BTO head office in Thetford to pick up some bamboo poles for the WWT CES. It was really nice to see the headquarters and Thetford is a lovely place. On the drive back we travelled through many parts of England that I have never seen before such as Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire - stunning countryside. After arriving home around half 10 I had my long overdue shower and headed straight to bed. It sure was nice to be back home......and clean!

I learned a lot during this trip about cannon netting and had the new experience of setting on fields which is so completely different to setting on the beach, which is what I have done before. On a field there is so much more to consider when setting and everything has to be set carefully to ensure that the birds don't see the cannons or become wary of the nets.

When setting in fields cannons need to be buried into the ground to hide them from the birds.

Setting up in one of the fields

 The week was a very interesting learning experience for me and it was great to met so many new people such as fellow trainees Ian Blackmore and Libby Welbourn from The South Notts Ringing Group.

Libby and her Knot

Ian and his Knot

I saw some fantastic wildlife whilst in Lincs such as Artic Skua, Quail, Sandwich Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Curlew, Sanderling,  Marsh Harrier, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Merlin and Kestrel. I was also lucky enough to be able view 3 of the catching attempts from the bird hides and it was spectacular to watch the birds up close and at some points seeing them being chased by a Merlin.

Me and a Shinzii Dunlin
 I thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Wash and will definitely be going back next year and am currently considering attending The Main Wash Week later this month. I would like to say thank you to The Wash Wader Ringing Group, to Richard De Feu and Steve Dodd for being very encouraging and teaching me more about cannon netting and waders and to all of the other ringers who took part. I also want to say a big thank you to my good friend Cedwyn Davies for driving me to The Wash and back.

We saw plenty of these - Cabbages!

Back to work now and today is my last day working at WWT Llanelli : ( I spent yesterday morning ringing some Swallow pulli down in the yard with Tony Jenkins and this morning doing my last CES session (following in a future blog post). I want to thank you to Tony for letting me help him with his nest records this year and for letting me ring all of the Swallow pulli.

Ringed Swallow pulli