Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A Ringing Week

Bird ringing has been a hobby of mine since the end of last summer. I started my training at Abbotsbury Swannery with ringing trainer Steve Hales.
For non-birdy people the Swannery is actually home to a lot more birds than just swans. Some of these birds live here but a lot of them are just passing through, feeding up or roosting for the night before they continue their long migrations.  A large part of the site is covered with reedbeds with most being inaccessible to the public.  It was here where I was to spend many autumn evenings learning to ring.

An Evening at Abbotsbury Swannery

My first day as a trainee is one I will take with me forever.  I remember feeling slightly nervous, maybe apprehensive. What if I didn't like it?! I had wanted to go bird ringing ever since I had seen it for the first time at the Kingcombe Centre (West Dorset) 3 years ago but had never had the chance to go out until now. The first bird we caught was the first I was to ring... so my first bird?!  A young male blackcap (and I loved it!).

So a few hundred swallows and wagtails later here I am back in East Dorset hoping to find other ringers to go out with.  Last week I managed to find two, so I was lucky enough to go out three times to two beautiful locations, both bringing an abundance of 'new' birds for me. By 'new' I mean species that I have not ringed before. This included goldcrest, lesser redpoll, nuthatch, siskin, treecreeper and great spotted woodpecker.

One of the locations was Manor Farm in Hampshire.  I have been here once before to ring and it is a stunning place, especially at sunrise.  You may know the farm from the BBC series Wartime Farm featuring Ruth Goodman. It is a relatively small site with a farmyard supporting a good number of sparrows and large grazing fields where birds such as blackbird, redwing, pigeons and various species of gulls may be found. There are a lot of hedgerows and a small orchard attracting smaller passerines such as finches, tits and (gold)crests.  On this particular day we were targeting redwing.

Redwing @ Manor Farm. Photo by Rob Skinner.

My personal favourite though, and a 'first' for me...

A Goldcrest (male).
He chose to stick around for a little while before flying off.

For the other two sessions I was based at Blashford Lakes, a Hampshire Wildlife Trust reserve on the edge of the New Forest. I would highly recommend this place to anyone who has a slight interest or respect for birds.  It is just incredible; so full of life, especially at this time of the year and the dawn chorus is like nothing else you have ever heard.  I have visited quite regularly over the last 4 years and I have seen a lot of birds there that I have never seen before.  This makes it a very exciting place for me to be ringing and it certainly didn't let me down last week. By the end of my first day ringing there we had lesser redpoll, mealy redpoll, and siskin on our list.  On the second day I got to ring great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and treecreeper. All very beautiful birds in the hand, even if the woodpeckers are trying to tear your hands to shreds!

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