Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Must Do Better

At the end of December the BTO encourage bird ringers to renew their ringing permit by submitting returns and confirming they are fit to continue ringing for the coming year. Fit in mind and body for now, but it gets more difficult each year, especially those 4am summer starts or scrambling up and down a quarry face to catch Sand Martins. 

So now my permit for 2018 just arrived hot from the Canon Pixma. This rather exclusive piece of paper will reside in the glove box of the car for the inevitable, often puzzled but mostly interested, occasionally irate questions from onlookers. 

Bird Ringing Permit

“Why are you trudging through that muddy field in the middle of a cold, grey January morning picking up wild birds from that funny looking net? Are you harming them? Are you catching them to eat ?” Then try explaining how the vital scientific work is also rewarding enjoyment,  see the look on their face as you show the rings, pliers, scales and other equipment, and then watch their reaction as the tiny Linnet they hadn’t spotted in your hand is released to fly away. 

Yes, each UK bird ringer must have a licence to capture and ring birds. They pay yearly for the privilege of being involved in the national ringing scheme, as well as buying their own equipment and the rings they use; unless of course they are fortunate in having sponsorship or a rich benefactor. A busy day of ringing 100 small birds costs about £25 for the “A” sized rings that passerines take. Donations readily accepted or just send a sort code. I’ll do the rest. 

A check of my personal ringing data on our Fylde Ringing Group database showed I processed 516 birds during 2017. An average of ten a week for a year is pretty pathetic by past performance of almost 25,000 birds since 1985 thanks to last year’s foul weather of summer, autumn, and early winter. But there’s a reasonable mix of species in that 516 and as it’s raining and snowing today, chance to recall a few of the highlights, guess where we went wrong and surmise how to be a ringing superstar in 2018. 

During 2017 Oakenclough near Garstang proved the most productive of sites and where ringing with pal Andy I processed 268 birds. Most encountered species was Goldfinch at 57 and Lesser Redpoll at 47 followed by 22 Redwings ringed during October and early November. 




In amongst the dross of tits and wrens that ringers choose to forget were singles of Sparrowhawk and Redstart; and always welcome, a couple of Tree Pipits, all worthy of bold lettering as is the custom of bird blogs in identifying the more exciting species. 

Tree Pipit



For the moment we have given up on Oakenclough, a very finch orientated but also weather dependent site where autumn migration hardly took place when many northern finches chose to fly over Yorkshire, Humberside and SE England on their way to the Continent rather than chance the series of storms that hit the West Coast. With luck there will be a strong movement back north in a few weeks’ time when we can return for Redpolls and maybe even Siskins. 

The weather also limited our visits to the Cockerham Sand Martin colony at the aforesaid quarry. Two visits only during the summer months resulted in my poor number of 33 Sand Martins, just half the full total shared with Andy. Normally we would hope to get in four or maybe five visits to measure breeding success but it wasn’t to be. 

Sand Martin

A few summer visits to Marton Mere realised 28 new birds including a small number of Reed Warblers and a couple of the recent colonist and now proved breeding Cetti’s Warblers. 

Cetti's Warbler

Regular readers will be familiar with, probably even bored by the blog’s continual mention of Project Linnet. Suffice to say that it is a very worthwhile project, so much so that during the year we had guest appearances from other ringers keen to get their hands on Red-listed Linnets. There was the added bonus last year of a single Stonechat to add to the Linnets and a handful of Goldfinches.


Of 70 birds ringed in my garden on lazy days, 51 were Goldfinches and just 3 House Sparrows. There are no prizes for guessing the most common bird in this part of Lancashire and probably the whole of the UK. How times change. 


Here’s hoping for better ringing weather in 2018.

Linking today to  Anni's Blog , Eileen's Saturday Blog and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


Steve Gale said...

Here's hoping for a profitable 2018 Phil. I enjoy reading my bookmarked 'ringing' blogs, it reminds me of my own time with pliers, nets and pesolas in the 1970s and 80s. I packed in in the mid 80s with an A permit and a respect for both the bird and the study of them. Rings back then were not as expensive!!!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I remember when you were kind enough to send me an email in answer to my questions about ringing....(I reckon you must have known I fell in the genuinely curious group rather than irate, since you are still 'speaking' to me). However, I really enjoyed this review, since until your blog this was an entirely new subject -- and it helps to read things more than once to cement information in my aging brain. And of course especially enjoyed the beautiful illustrations. Hope for good weather for you soon.

David Gascoigne said...

Good evening Phil:Good job! Here, as you probably know, the bands are provided but we have to fund everything else ourselves. So far we do not have a benefactor, but if you receive a surplus of funds from your supporters I know you will want to send it my way!

Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil,:) Most of what I have learnt about ringing, I learnt here on your informative blog. Today was a real eye opener. I had no idea that you paid for rings out of your own pocket,... I guess I had never thought about it before, but it was still a surprise, after all, you do a service that is important.

Very beautiful photos of each bird, I always love to see your close up images, where I can see the various nuance of colours in greater detail. What happened to the Sparrows! Do they have a different diet from the Goldfinches? To me it seems extraordinary that you ring more Goldfinches than Sparrows! I hope you have a more successful year of ringing this year.:)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil, I was glad to read that ringers need to have a permit. I am not sure if such a permit is needed here. I love all the closeups of the birds. The Redpoll and Goldfinch are beautiful. Awesome Sparrowhawk! The Stonechat is a beauty! Great photos and post. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Betty Crow said...

Wonderful post, as usual. I enjoyed seeing all of the birds, but especially the goldfinch. They look different from the ones we have here. I haven't been able to get out as much as I would like. It's been too cold, but it's warming up to the mid 60s today, so planning on a road trip today. Hope you have a nice, warm weekend.

A Colorful World said...

You are so dedicated, Phil! I knew trudging through muddy bogs on sleety days must be extremely difficult! But, I had no idea you also have to pay to be a ringer, and buy all your own equipment, etc. It is hard work, and you are at it constantly, and I am really impressed and amazed at all you do! I hope you get some benefactors. Wish I could help. Wonderful photos! Thanks for sharing them every week! All my best, Marie.

Jean @sonotorganized.com said...

Always learn something when I come visit your blog. No idea what the requirements are in this area. Must confess while I love watching birds, they also scare me and I would not be able to do what you do. So glad you are able to help them and do such wonderful work though. Always interesting to see how different your birds look from the ones around here as well. Hope you are having a great weekend!

Jane said...

Beautiful shots!

♥ Anni ♥ said...

Even tho you didn't link up this week, you took time to visit with us at I'd Rather B Birdin' and I had to stop by to say hello! [hope the weather over in your neck of the woods is improving...today we're gonna have some sun...finally. After about 2 weeks of foggy, drizzly weather I'm so ready for Spring.]

I really enjoyed reading the background of what you and other ringers have to do and all the long, trekking through muddy fields, hours of 'work' yet...so rewarding, I'm sure!! Great Work Phil!!!

I will take your link and add it to the listing...
Have a great week ahead!!!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I'm not a birder - I just love birds and always enjoy reading your posts. So many birds I don't know but love their little faces.

NC Sue said...

It always strikes me as funny to see your robins and goldfinches - they look quite different from ours. I wonder if they're truly related to each other?
Thanks for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/01/homemade-bagels.html

Mary Cromer said...

Love them all, and yet...oh my goodness Phil, that little Sand Martin...put that on my list of beauties...how sweet it is. It looks like a bit like our Purple Martins. Hope that your week is going very well~

Lowcarb team member said...

Thanks for all the information on this post.
As you know I am not a birder but enjoy seeing those I see, and the variety you so often provide on your blog.

Once again you've shared some lovely photographs.

All the best Jan

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