Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Chough City

Just back from a rather busy few days in North Wales with Chris. We kicked off the weekend with a spot of nesting with Alex Jones. We had a great evening around the North Wales coast, even finding a perfectly camouflaged Ringed Plover nest. We also ringed a brood of Linnet that Chris and Alex had found a few weeks before.

On Friday Chris and I met up with Tony Cross and spent the day ringing Choughs around the North Wales coast. Until Friday I had never even seen a Chough and so when I got my very first views of an adult sweeping over the sea I was in owe. They are stunning birds with their jet black feathers and blood red beaks and feet, I feel so privileged to have been able to ring some chicks.

My first Chough!

Armed with a schedule 1 license for Chough we set off to monitor some nest sites around the coast. Tony has been monitoring Choughs for many years now and has been colour ringing them in order to gather as much information as possible about the species. As we visited each nest site we also read the colour rings of the adults for the project.

This was my first time ringing any kind of corvid and I really enjoyed it especially the calls the chicks make, reminds me of a parrot I used to know! The grip of their talons is quite impressive which is one of the reasons why it is easiest to let the chicks stand on their own instead of in the traditional ringer’s grip – feels very unatural not to hold them, as if they might fly away at any moment!

In total we checked 8 nest sites and ringed 21 chicks, a very busy day and one of the most enjoyable days I think I’ve spent ringing.

As well as gaining experience in ringing pulli and corvids, the day was also a great opportunity for me to gain confidence around heights. I used to absolutely terrified of heights, even struggling with small ladders but since becoming a ringer I have started to conquer this fear in order to be able to do the things that I want to such as seabird ringing. You wouldn’t of caught me anywhere near a cliff edge a couple of years ago but put a Chough on that cliff edge and my fear seems to just melt away – great therapy!

You'll find me on the edge of a cliff but there's no way you'd catch me going over it...well  maybe one day...!

Each nest site we visited offered some stunning scenery but the last nest was definitely my favourite. As the sun set over the sea we sat on a cliff top covered in Bluebells ringing a brood of four (rather well behaved) Choughs. As well as being a beautiful site this place kept us on our toes as we had to walk through a field with a rather large, angry looking bull – certainly kept us alert!

I really enjoyed what was the longest day I have ever spent ringing – over 14 hours and I would love to do it all over again some day. I always feel privileged to be a bird ringer and get opportunities like this, it’s the kindness of other ringers such as Chris and Tony that help trainees such as myself that are just what the ringing scheme needs.

2 very happy ringers with the last brood of the day

After finally getting back to Bangor at midnight we were looking forward to a good night’s sleep but life never stops for a ringer as the very next morning we were up early and on the other side of Anglesey before breakfast! We were ringing a surprise brood of Ravens with Tony – another new species for me and one that I have been wanting to do ever since I started ringing and found my first nest in 2010.

I’ve seen quite a few blog posts featuring the ringing of Raven chicks and they always comment on how ugly the chicks are but I must say I completely disagree – they’re beautiful with their blue eyes and thick jet black beaks.

Ugly? I think not!

A huge thanks to Tony for letting me come along and ring the chicks, I had a fantastic day. Also big thanks to Chris for inviting me and putting me up.


  1. Looks like you had a fabulous time. I need to work on the heights thing too :-)

  2. A wonderful entry about my home area! <3 I was actually there at the same time as you. I'm surprised you didn't get to ring any puffins, considering you were nearby with the choughs and ravens of Anglesey.