Sunday, 27 March 2011


I was asked last week by John Brown if I would be interested in assisting him doing his Ringing at Whitburn Coastal Park. His usual helper, Walter, is now in his 70's and hasnt been in good health lately so John is looking for somebody to step in and maybe take over from Walter. Always up for broadening my skills I absolutely jumped at the chance! And that was despite the ridiculously ungodly starting time. So, Saturday morning I was at the Coastal Park at 5.30am (yep, thats right, half past five in the flaming morning!!!). We started by putting out the mist nets around the mound. We only put up four seeing as its still early in the season, but later in the year there could be as many as ten nets up. He then showed me the tools and equipment he uses to ring the birds and then we went over how to record the details of what we catch. First we have to record the species of bird, then try to determine the sex and age of the bird. Finally we weigh the bird and measure the size of the wing. All fascinating stuff and I couldnt wait to get started. So after 20 minutes we went to have our first check of the nets. Amazingly there were six birds trapped. I must point out that the birds are not harmed in any way whatsoever. John delicately removed them from the nets and we took them back to the cabin to record their details. The species caught were 2 Dunnocks, 1 Wren, 1 Robin, 1 Great Tit & 1 Blackbird. John showed me the correct way to hold the bird without harming it, and I wrote all the relevant details down. I got a great surprise when he allowed me to hold the Robin and one of the Dunnocks as he checked the sex and measured the wings. It was an incredible experience seeing the birds so close up. After recording their details we released them safely one by one. It was a fantastic start to the day. We checked the nets every 20 minutes (any longer would start to be bad for the birds) and went on till around 11.30 but at this point it had died off. In total we caught around 20 birds and the undoubted highlight was a stunning male Sparrowhawk. Amazingly John had trapped the same bird in 2009. It was a superb morning and I had an excellent time. John said if it was something I was genuinely interested in I may as well apply to become a Ringer myself. Its definitely something for me to think about.

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