Bird ringing

Today I went bird ringing for the day in one of Dorset’s ancient woodlands! I had the opportunity to go with an experienced BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) ringer and learnt so much! (Socially distancing at all times).

Bird ringing develops information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing.

The birds aren’t harmed or hurt in any way when they are in the mist nets, held in the hand or having the ring put on!

Ringing birds is essential if we are to learn about how long they live and when and where they move. Placing a lightweight, uniquely numbered, metal ring around a bird’s leg provides a reliable and harmless method of identifying birds as individuals.

Ringing data contributes to the study of population changes and to our understanding of species strength/declines.

First we set up the mist nets – the birds fly into the nets and fall gently into pockets below!

After about 20 minutes we went back to check them. The first bird we caught was a juvenile robin!

The birds sit quite happily in their pockets until the experienced ringer gently extracts them. Though wild, with an experienced hand, the birds were not distressed about being handled correctly and are only kept for a few moments to collect their data.

Firstly they have a general condition check over then a sized-ring is securely put on its leg with special pliers to be able to monitor and record its data with the BTO.

Once rung, you measure the wingspan and weigh it. The juvenile robin’s wingspan was 75mm and it weighed 17.3g! Then you release it back into the wild!

It can be tricky to age some birds – but with a few of them, like the Great tit and Blue tit, you can tell from the wing feathers!

On the image above, you can see the feathers circled in blue are a blueish colour and the ones in red are much more grey and dull. This is an indicator that the bird is young and probably from last years brood. In an adult, the feathers surrounded in red would be blue as well as the ones circled in blue!

On some birds you can also sex them – lots of species have different plumage but on female that have been incubating her eggs, she has a brood patch. You can see one here on this chiffchaff!

We caught loads of different types of birds! Some of my favourites were the Song thrush, nuthatch, chiffchaff and treecreeper!

In total we caught 20 birds:

3 robins

4 blue tits

2 great tits

2 marsh tits

1 song thrush

2 blackbirds

1 nuthatch

1 blackcap

1 coal tit

1 treecreeper

1 chiffchaff

1 wren

The team of ringers had previously rung all the chicks in their nest boxes throughout the wood and the data we collected today gives an indication of the species population within the wood overall.

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