Saturday, May 22, 2004


Click here to read about ringing and for useful links.

An early start this morning for my first proper ringing session at Ferry Meadows this year. Chris, my trainer, had told me that when he visited the site last week, there had been water in places that reached above his knees! I have now ordered a pair of waders, but it's still a waterproof trousers, wellies and waxed jacket job, as usual.

Fortunately, the water level had dropped by this morning, leaving lots of deep, sloppy mud to contend with. At this stage in the season, the vegetation on the site (lots of willow carr, reeds, rosebay willowherb, nettles etc., plus my favourite, water mint) isn't too high, but it grows at a terrific rate and before long there'll be stingers taller than I am!

Chris was onsite before me and had the mist-nets up in record time. Altogether, 40 birds were caught in the nets during the morning (22 of which had already been ringed previously) - not a brilliant total, but considering the weather conditions (breeze and bright sunshine make the nets more visible to birds), not too bad.

A male Great Spotted Woodpecker was certainly biggest and noisiest catch of the day (photo above). Other species trapped included Sedge and Reed Warblers, Blackcap, Garden and Willow Warblers, Long-tailed and Blue Tits, Blackbird, Robin and Bullfinch. Two Reed Buntings were also noteworthy since they don't appear in the nets very often.

As a trainee, I'm on a steep learning curve. It takes many hours of practice, patience and perseverance to learn to ring birds. It's not easy and I'm still learning the skills and particular dexterity needed. Hopefully I'll get there eventually!

While it's a fascinating privilege to see birds up close, what I find most interesting of all is the phenomenon of migration. It's humbling to know that the tiny Sedge Warbler you've just released has been flying back to the same site from sub-Saharan Africa for the past four or five years (read a bit about Sedge Warblers here). It might only weigh 12g!

How does it find its way, which route did it take, where did it go, what did it see on the way...

A Nightingale singing from near the site was slightly unusual for Ferry Meadows.

What's in my CD player: Grand Slang - City Slang 1990-2000 (various artists, including Lambchop (of course), Tortoise, Wheat[us], Yo La Tengo and Calexico. Brilliant!)

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