Last weekend, I embarked on starting my ringing training at a site in Oxford with Andy Gosler, one of the best ringers in the country. Previously, I had gone along to a taster session (see a previous blog post) to see what it was like and I loved it so much that I decided that I wanted to learn to bird ring myself.
Waking up at 5.30am was certainly the hardest thing, but the experience was certainly worth it. Firstly, once we had set up the mist nets, we set about waiting before going off on various rounds to the nets to see if we had caught anything.
Throughout the course of the day, I avidly sucked up as much knowledge about it as I could, from how to hold birds, to setting up the nets. That day, as it was my first ringing session, I was just made familiar with the birds in my hand, learning how to hold them and how to pass them from one hand to the other, preparing myself for when I would be able to take measurements myself and do the ringing.
The data collected from bird ringing includes what the bird is (i.e. species), its ring number (if it already has one, and if not, one will be added), its sex (if it is a female, then what sort of brood patch) and age, fat and muscle levels, weight, and wing size. These results are then sent off the British Trust of Ornithology, who add it to there database.
By the end of the day, we had caught numerous Blue Tits (including a very handsome male) and Great Tits, a few Blackbirds (all male though), several Blackcaps (both male and female), some Wrens, a very small female Goldcrest, lots of Robins, and perhaps the highlight of the day, and the first ever catches on this particular site – two beautiful male Bullfinches in full colour. In total, 24 birds were caught over the course of the day. Most of these birds were held and released by me.
The day increased my patience even further due to long periods of waiting for birds, however, it was certainly worth it and I was even more looking forward to more by the end. At the end of the session, Andy told me that he was happy to take me on as a trainee ringer and I could apply for a permit via the BTO. I am the youngest person that he has ever taken on to train.
Next week, I will be bird ringing again, so my next post will probably involve what happens next time.
If you do happen to find a bird that is dead and has a ring on it, then you should report it to the BTO via their website. However, sometimes on the larger species of bird, if they have a ring, then you can easily read it in the field with a pair of binoculars. This too should also be reported with the location.