A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to go ringing for the first time with a good friend. The ringers use mist nets which are made from a very fine mesh so that it is very difficult to see when looked at straight on. The birds then fly straight into the net and fall into a deep pocket and stay there, then a trained ringer extracts them, puts a tiny metal ring on their leg and records details such as their age, weight and sex. Then the birds are released. Each ring contains a unique set of numbers that allow its life and movements to be tracked. Later on if the bird gets recaught in a different area, we can trace it back to where it was caught originally and see where it has migrated to and from. Ringing birds is hugely important to understanding bird populations, their lives and the challenges that they face.
Throughout the morning we caught many different species of birds. We caught 4 black birds, 1 chiffchaff, 1 song thrush, 3 goldcrests, 6 long tailed tits, 4 robins as well as 2 dunnocks.
It was amazing to be able to see the birds so close up. I was taught how to handle them correctly. It was totally different from seeing them in the distance through a pair of binoculars. From their appearance we could learn a lot of information about the bird. For example the darker the eye ring is on a black bird, the more likely it is to be a Eurasian bird as well as the darker the beak, the younger it is. With a male blackbird if the primary feathers have brown tinges down their sides, then the bird was almost certainly born in that year, and just to make sure, if it is coupled with a dark beak you can be absolutely certain it is this year’s.
My favourite two species of birds that we caught had to be the charming long tailed tits and the song thrush. The long tailed tits were caught as a family and once they had been ringed and the necessary data recorded, we released them as a family all at once, as they flew of into the nearby shrubs they called to each other. The song thrush was very beautiful as well as very feisty! When it opened its beak it revealed a bright pinkish red gape. The feathers were in fantastic condition. It was a truly magnificent bird.
Photos below of the Blackbird, Chiffchaff and Blue tit.