27 August 2015

How to get up close to a ringer

Gary Clewley writes:

Another year and another Birdfair at Rutland Water has come and gone. The bird ringing demonstration proved to be very popular again with people (and especially families) regularly able to get up close and see the process of ringing first hand. In total, around 175 birds from over 20 species were ringed or recaptured over the course of the weekend. This gave us the opportunity to show people how ringers are able to identify and age birds in the hand as well as explaining why ringing and nest recording are essential for monitoring how and why populations are changing.
Great way to get close and learn about our 'British' birds - Stephen McAvoy

Some species do tend to steal the show however, and the Lesser Whitethroats were particularly popular and also quite relevant to this year’s theme at Birdfair; protecting species in the Eastern Mediterranean. With their easterly migration route, there could be a good chance the Lesser Whitethroats which were ringed could be passing through the Eastern Mediterranean soon.

Lesser Whitethroat taken by Morris Rendall

There was a promising start to the event, when at 8:55 am on the Friday morning, the very first bird in the nets was actually a Sparrowhawk! Unfortunately in this case the bird proved too quick for the ringers and managed to free itself within seconds. So it was an especially pleasant surprise when another adult male Sparrowhawk found its way into the nets on the Sunday morning and even better it already had a ring on. This bird was originally ringed at Rutland Water in 2012 and we now know it is still going strong. A very lucky crowd were able to watch the ringers process the bird.

Adult male Sparrowhawk - Dawn Balmer
Sparrowhawk getting efficiently processed while a lucky crowd watch on - Dawn Balmer
Perhaps the most unexpected bird of the weekend was a House Sparrow (and perhaps a sign of the times since this species has seen a substantial decline in recent years) which is the first ever caught during the Birdfair ringing demonstrations.

Unfortunately, we also had our fair share of unfavourable weather over the weekend so there were times when we were unable to safely catch birds. But nonetheless there were ringers on hand to answer questions and even ‘ring’ some people with the wristbands we had available (if you were ringed you can find out your story here).

The ringing demonstration stand. You can tell where the bird is by the crowd - Stephen McAvoy

It is always a privilege to be able to ring birds and even more so at an event like this. It requires a lot of planning and I would just like to thank all those ringers who volunteered their time to help with the demonstration again for all their hard work, in particular the Rutland Water Ringing Group, as well as everyone who came along to see us.

Eds - There are ringing demonstrations run at various sites across the UK by individual ringers or groups however the BTO, in collaboration with the RSPB, are running their next event on Sunday 30 August at the BTO headquarters from 10 am until 3 pm (catching weather dependent).

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