2 Dec 2013

SCAN wader ringing

SCAN had one of their regular wader canon netting weekends last weekend so it meant an early start to get to the designated meeting point at Rhos-on-sea, N Wales by 07.00 Saturday morning. It was a beautiful clear night and with high tide at 08.54 the nets were set the previous afternoon.

Quite a sizeable team had assembled and Steve briefed everyone what was expected and what to do before I disappeared down the prom to the far end of the beach with a radio to  prevent people walking on the beach until we'd made the catch.

Lots of  birds were moving and it soon became obvious we were going to make a catch and once the situation was assessed to be safe the canons were fired and everyone ran over to cover the birds with hessian sheeting to keep them calm before the extracting, ringing and processing took place. The catch was a good one with 378 birds being caught so we were divided into a ringing team and two processing teams who took all the biometrics - in the case of the Oystercatchers it was ageing, moult scores, wing length, total head / bill and weight.

                                                                            Total bill / head measurement

 Oystercatchers eye colours change with age and it was a good opportunity to see this close up.

 In the birds above the 1st calendar year bird ( age code 3) is the upper one with the muddy brown eye. The lower bird is a 2nd calendar year bird (age code 5)
 This bird is an adult age code 8 which means its at least 3 calendar years old but the exact year of hatching is unknown. With recent Oystercatchers caught by SCAN being first ringed in 1982 this bird could be anywhere between 3 & 33 years old!
                                                                    Phil with an Oystercatcher ready for processing

Young Oystercatchers also have pale fringing to the mantle feathers as can be seen below and can also be aged by their darker bills and legs.

We also caught a good number of Turnstones and with their connection with Hilbre I was particularly interested in these. By this time a few members of the public had turned up and its always nice to explain what we are doing and show people birds in the hand - a very important part of a ringers training is being able to communicate what you are doing to the public. I love it and its great to see peoples reactions when they can see these birds close up and learn about their biology.

Turnstone age code 3 (1st calendar year) showing rusty fringes to wing coverts. This confuses some people as you'd expect the adults to be more colourful given their bright breeding plumage.

Next up are the Redshank - beautiful little birds in the hand and a treat to see close up. Again the total head / bill length was measured and this time the length of the tarsus and toe.

                                                                                      Hamsa weighing Redshank.

The ringing team with one of the processing teams in the background and Susan talking to members of the public. Fortified with flasks of tea and Penguin biscuits all the birds were dealt with quickly and efficiently.

By midday we were finished and packed up and I drove home knackered for a kip in the conservatory before a black tie dinner to raise funds for the Northern Lights children's charity. I couldn't make Sundays canon netting session due to a commitment to try and sort a problem out on Jan's car. With that finished  I decided to do a bit of ringing in the garden for a couple of hours and ended up catching 30 birds including a party of 5 Long-tailed Tits. A re-trapped Coal Tit from 2 weeks ago was a surprise as was another new Coal Tit. They're not common in my garden so to get a retrap was interesting.

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