Our First Bird Ringing at Yew View

One of the many things I love about YewView is the number of birds that visit! There are a huge number of individuals and a fantastic range of species! 70 species of bird have now been seen at the site. With feeding stations all over the garden, a phenomenal amount of food is consumed on a weekly basis and it is almost a full time job keeping all the feeders topped up!

My niger feeding station has proved to be a big success and the numbers of goldfinch and redpoll visiting have been increasing.

It was this feeding station, in particular, that interested Ben Dolan, a friend of mine from Brewood ringers. It is especially interesting to ring goldfinch and redpoll as they may travel hundreds of miles, clocking up important data if re-netted.

So, why ring birds?

A huge amount has been discovered about birds by simply watching and counting them, but these methods rarely allow birds to be identified as individuals. Only if they have distinguishing marks can they be identified as an individual.  We are keen to discover how long different species of bird 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. Each ring also bears an address so that anyone finding a ringed bird can help by reporting its whereabouts and fate. If the bird is rented, the individual’s movements can be logged.

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Ringing, organised in Britain by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), with thousands of enthusiastic and highly trained amateur ringers, has provided us with incredible data. It has shown that the Arctic tern, our farthest-travelled bird, goes annually to the Southern Ocean and Australia (a tern ringed in Anglesey in June 1966 was recovered dead six months later in New South Wales, 11,285 miles away) while other British birds travel to the Siberian tundra and Arctic Canada. Ringing has proved how long birds can live for. The record is held by a Manx shearwater, ringed on Bardsey Island in North Wales in 1957, and found again when it was at least 51! “In an era of rapid environmental change, ringing is vitally important as a tool to monitor changes in our bird populations, tracking where they go and what they do,” said the BTO’s Mark Grantham. (info based onhttp://www.independent.co.uk article)

It would be amazing if one of our YewView Redpoll was logged again, possibly back in Europe somewhere, having migrated back to Scandinavia.

Ben arrived early on site and we went to look at the niger feeding station. Unfortunately, it was not in an ideal place for netting. Also, it was breezy, meaning the net moves  and the birds can see it.  The positioning of  the feeders also meant that the birds tended  to go up into a nearby tree, rather  than into the net! Ben set a  net in a best a position as possible. Looking around the rest of the site, we decided another possibly good spot was by a long line of hedgerow at the far end of the site. Lots of birds, including Reed bunting, have been seen here before they come onto the millet feeders in that part of the garden.

It was not long before we had our first birds in the net.  Removing them quickly, to minimise any distress, was essential. They were placed in a small linen bag and back to a bench to be logged. Ben expertly popped the ring on their leg, measured their wing length (an indication of age and sex) and they were released within a few minutes.

It is very special to be able to see these bird up close and to see features that you would never be able to see in the wild. It was fascinating to learn more about sexing goldfinch by the colour on their shoulder (browny black = female, black brown=male) and the extent to which the red extends past their eye.

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I was able to hold them, after they had been ringed, before releasing them back into the garden…. a real treat! They had to have their picture taken beforehand though…

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It was lovely to catch a few of the increasing number of Reed bunting that are visiting our millet feeders… such pretty birds and many just coming into their breeding plumage! In fact, many which I would have identified as female in the field, were actually male as, on close examination, you could see the black crown and white nape stripe just appearing.

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Unfortunately, we did not catch any of our target species, the redpoll. I have re-arranged the feeders slightly, to try to improve the chances of netting the visitors to this feeding station and we are going to attempt again next week.

In total, the morning gave us 35 birds:

15 x Blue tits, 4 x Great tit, 6 x Reed bunting, 3 x House sparrow, 6 x Goldfinch and 1 x Chaffinch.

Thank you Ben, for visiting… it was a fascinating morning!