17 Dec 2018

Rigning Martin Mere WWT

I was lucky enough to be part of a SCAN team invited to help the regular Martin Mere ringing team catch and ring Whooper Swans and a few duck species at the weekend. Initially we were going Saturday but the weather deteriorated so a decision was made to go Sunday - only for the decision to be reversed again when a weather window opened itself up to an opportunity to revert back to Saturday!

Leaving the house at 5.30 Saturday morning, after a restless night ( I never sleep well when I know the alarms going off early), it soon became apparent that the weather was bitterly cold! I had ice on the inside of the Landrover windscreen. I soon warmed up though and and 90 minutes later had to brave the freezing cold again when  I arrived at Martin Mere.

With the team assembled a briefing was given by the ringer in charge and with everyone knowing their roles we started our catch.

We ended up with 73 Whooper Swans of which 38 were new birds and 35 re-traps from previous years. All birds were ringed and a 'darvic' colour ring added, aged, sexed, weighed and a wing length taken before releasing. They were wrapped in 'swan blankets' to keep them calm and the process was carried out with the minimum amount of noise and fuss by an experienced team. Sadly even several of these beautiful birds showed some evidence of past gunshot wounds.

As well as the Whoopers we caught 54 Shelduck - exactly half were re-traps with the oldest being from 2002. Another had been ringed in 2007 and not encountered since whilst yet another ringed in 2005 has had its ring read 20 times since then in the field.

I'd ringed Whoopers and Shelducks before but never Pintail or Coot so was really happy to get the opportunity to do so. Pintail are simply stunning!

As with other male ducks ageing depends on a combination of features - the presence or absence of juvenile tail feathers or median and lesser coverts and the demarkation between the colours on the outermost tertial.

From the photo below you can see the tertial has a distinct demarkation between the black and the 'pearl' and also has a very narrow fringe. This ages this bird as an adult male, Euring 4.

We caught one re-trap male Teal and the same ageing criteria can be used - again the border between the black and 'pearl' on the inner tertial is very clean and distinct making this an adult.

Coot are know to be wriggly, belligerent and scratchy and willing to fight each other and anything else that happens to upset them.  I'd never ringed one before but go the opportunity Saturday and was surprised at how small they were in the hand.  Small they may be but just look at those feet! 

Like the swans each Coot was fitted with a darvic ring to enable it to be identified in the field and released back on to the main mere. 

With the catch processed by 11.00 there was time for a quick hot drink and a chocolate biscuit before the predicted weather window closed and the heavens opened! A great experience and one I hope to take part in again. 

No comments :