Friday, 24 February 2012

A Green Affair!

One last blog post about my ringing down in England and this time it's based on mist netting, for a change! Before moving back to Stirling there was a new site to be explored and what an amazing place. After only 3 brief morning visits over well over 100 new birds were ringed and processed!

A variety of species were caught including Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Chaffinch, Robin, Dunnock, Blue & Great Tits and Blackbird.

A high number of new Goldfinches were also processed with over 35 new birds being ringed, let's hope for some good recoveries from this lot!

A personal highlight was another new species for me in the form of a Collared Dove. Great birds and brilliant in the hand.

Gorgeous blood-red eyes

Surprisingly no Coal Tits were caught or even seen during the mist netting sessions. We did however catch quite a few wintering Blackcaps.

Ready for your close-up?!

By far the star species has to have been the Greenfinches with over 25 new birds being ringed. In the two years I have been training I have only ever ringed 15 Greenfinches in total so these new birds almost treble that! It was a fantastic way of getting my eye in on the species and I am now a lot more confident in ageing/sexing them.

These mist netting sessions were a great opportunity to help me progress towards my C permit, as I was processing large amounts of birds whilst getting the chance to practice what I have learned in terms of ageing etc. 

Huge thanks goes to Kane for helping me train towards my C permit and for allowing me to come out with him so often, also thanks goes to Ness for the photos, to our brilliant wee scribes and to the land owners for allowing us to ring on their fantastic 'mini nature reserve'.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Farewell Ducks!

That's me back in good old Stirling now and looking forward to the nesting season that's just around the corner. Already I have clocked onto a pair of Ravens that are scouting for potential nest sites on the cliff faces opposite my bedroom window - my first Scottish nest record card?!

As always I have really enjoyed my time down at Slimbridge, volunteering for The Species Monitoring Unit of WWT. I was sad to leave and even ended up staying a little longer than planned but am happy to be back in 'my patch' and at uni. During the last couple of weeks at Slimbridge I was lucky enough to help out on a number of duck ringing sessions with the wardens. 

Me and 'The Boss'

Through these sessions I have learned a lot about duck ringing, sexing and ageing as before I had little experience of the webbed feet variety!

It was a great opportunity to get to grips with taking biometrics of larger birds. I find taking biometrics of ducks difficult as I always feel like I need bigger hands (the guys make it look so easy!) but with practice I am definitely gaining more confidence. Ducks caught at Slimbridge have their total head, wing and weight measurements taken, this allows us to assess the general health of the birds.

 Fortunately most of the ducks processed were showing very healthy weights which indicates that they are coping well with the wintery conditions and should be strong enough to migrate soon.

As always a number of retraps were processed and these birds help to create a fascinating history for the different species. WWT receive many reports of birds that they have ringed in the UK that have been recovered all across Europe and beyond.

One of the many retraps

Whilst getting to grips with the different duck species I have become fascinated by their plumage, something that is never quite fully appreciated in the field. Personally I never noticed just how beautiful female Pintail's beaks are with the amazing marbling - now one of my favourites!

Absolutely stunning.

A really great way to end my volunteering at the trust and I can't wait until my next volunteering stint there. Thanks to Dave & Kane for teaching more about these cracking birds.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A Weekend For Hand Catching

Last weekend was a weekend made for hand catching. Cold weather and hungry birds made for a great couple of days' catching. In total 48 new Coots were ringed along with 17 Black-headed gulls, a Tufted Duck and a Canada Goose for good measure!

Of the 17 Black-headed gulls two were particularly special in that one was a Lithuanian control and the other was a Norwegian control - nice catches Ciaran!

I tried my hand at catching a Tuftie but again ended up with an empty hand and a purple arm! One day...

Kane did manage to catch this little beaut though - just to show us how it's done!

Another highlight was this Common gull caught in Manchester that left quite the impression on my finger :(

Common gulls and fingers don't mix - lesson learned!

Another great weekend with great mates!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Slimbridge Festival of Birds

Last weekend Slimbridge played host to it’s first 'Festival of Birds' and it was a great success. Over the weekend I worked on the ringing demonstrations, this being my first time working on demos.  It was a bit nerve racking at first, having lots of public watching your every move, but once I got used to it I quite enjoyed it.

On the Saturday I mainly helped out Brian and Maurice on the mist netting demonstration. The day ran smoothly with a good number of birds being processed, mainly tits and finches. A high proportion of the birds caught were retraps as Slimbridge plays host to a CES (Constant Effort Site) in the summer months. The highlight of the day was a male Bullfinch that was recaptured at the ripe old age of 6 years old, not bad for a Bully!

After the demo finished for the day it was nice to watch the commentated floodlight swan feed which looked stunning in the snow....with lots of hungry Bewick’s!

A very wintery Rushy

On Sunday I helped out on the duck demonstration with reserve warden Dave Paynter, Kane and Zen -  The Novia Scotia duck toller! Sunday was very busy as the ducks proved to be very popular with the public.  It was great to be indoors ringing (complete with log fire!) after spending all day Saturday out in the subzero temperatures, having delightful Blue Tits biting at my numb hands! A good range of species were seen throughout the day including Teal, Pintail, Mallard, Gadwall and my first Shelduck. 

It was nice to catch up with fellow trainee Alex Rhodes too who enjoyed ringing his first Teal

Although the weekend was rather busy it was also a perfect opportunity for me to concentrate on learning more about the ageing criteria for ducks.

I really enjoyed my weekend especially getting to ring the UK’s smallest duck (Teal) after having ringed my first Goldcrest last weekend (the UK’s smallest bird!).

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Just Another Day In The Office!

I'm really enjoying my time here at Slimbridge and will really miss it when I have to leave next week to go back to uni. One of the best things about working here is that you never know what's going to happen next. My favourite surprise so far was last week when I had a knock on my office door from Maurice telling me that the reserve warden had just taken a good catch of ducks and needed a spare pair of (ringer's) hands! Of course I leapt out of the office, along with Kane and Maurice and got myself over to the wee duck hut. 

Male Teal

It was a brilliant wee session where I got to ring my first Teal, Pintail and processed a beautiful Gadwall! It was nice to run into fellow ringer Ian Lees who helped us out in the duck hut too.

Teal awaiting processing.

It was not only great to handle these new species but to learn how to age them, which can be quite tricky on ducks at this time of the year.  

Male Pintail

Special  thanks goes to Dave Paynter for inviting us along and teaching me about the ageing of these new species.