26 January 2016

Avast! There be BTO buried treasure

From Viking hoards to Roman coins, metal detecting can be a very rewarding hobby. Many hours can be spent on the beach or in a field trying to uncover a hidden link to the past or some real life treasure. Why is the BTO interested in this, I hear you ask. Well we are increasingly getting reports of BTO treasure... bird rings!

Metal detector and spade. Taken by Martyn Franklin

The majority of these rings usually belong to birds that have been dead for 10 or 20 years, but our most recent metal detector report from Martyn Franklin was a touch older than that. He was searching near Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire when he came across 323412 in nearby farmland.

The mis-shapen ring of Martyn Franklin's find, that has been under the plough quite a few times.

After some searching, the ringing details of an adult Stock Dove were found in the deepest, darkest areas of our archive. Many thousands of ringing records are stored here, covering hundreds of species. This Stock Dove had been ringed 13 km away on 12 March 1943 and is the first Stock Dove to be reported by 'metal detector'. This joined other single reports of 14 species including Brent Goose, Bullfinch, Sandwich Tern, Goldeneye, Wren and Tree Sparrow.

The archive of many thousands of ringing details for birds that are long gone.

The BTO database shows that rings from 67 different species, ranging from Yellow Wagtail to Osprey, have been found over the years by metal detectors. The majority of reports cover urban and farmland birds, but coastal species like Shags and gulls also feature.

One very interesting use of metal detectors has been to find rings in the nests of birds of prey (licences may be needed). Lots of these have been in Peregrine nests or below roost sites and mainly cover thrush sized birds like Starling, Redwing, Dipper and even a Jay. Interesting nest studies in Norway have revealed rings in Eagle Owl nests and to date have found 19 BTO rings including from Oystercatcher, Teal, Common Gull, Tufted Duck, Blackbird and Guillemot.

If you have a metal detector why not get out there and find some bird rings. You never know, you might find one of the first rings ever used, from 1909! Don't forget to report it at www.ring.ac.