Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ringing Our Birds

The swallows who have made nests in our tool shed have produced two broods this year.  Three cheers for a successful breeding season!

In a related note, I was delighted to discover that my friend Sybil is part of a program to ring birds for the British Trust for Ornithology or BTO.  Sybil and I have been having conversations about birds.  She's been telling me her tales of ringing house martins and sand martins and taking field trips out to Bass Rock to ring gannets. I had mentioned that our swallows had a second brood on the go but I don't know how big the nestlings were.   She came yesterday with her tiny little leg rings and notebook and we got this second batch of four swallows ringed and recorded.
Here's how you ring nestlings:
1.  Have a terrific trained up friend who knows what they are doing.  She gets on a ladder and sticks her hand into the nest and grabs the baby birds one by one and puts them in a cotton bag that draws close with a string.
Sybil gets the birds from the nest 
Record the number of the ring in a notebook and place it in the clamping pliers. Ensure that the number is the right way up so that it doesn't go onto the bird's leg upside down.  Once it is on the bird's leg you can't take it off to switch it the right way round so . . . don't make a mistake!
These numbers are TINY
Write down the number and clamp the number onto the nestling's right leg..

Clamping onto the thin little leg
We had four nestlings to ring.  Both Sybil and I agreed that if we had left the ringing another day, these birds would have been gone.  They were just moments away from leaving the nest.
The proper way to hold a bird for ringing
Once the ring is on the bird, you have to ensure that the ring can move freely and is closed completely.  After that has been done, place the young bird into a second bird bag.  One bag for unringed birds and one bag for birds with leg rings.

Back in the nest it goes!
Then it is back to the nest for our little birds.  Here's a weird thing you have to do when putting swallows back in the nest.  You have to spin the little guy around in a circle a couple of times (to make it dizzy?) before placing it back in the nest.  Once you've put the bird in the nest, you have to keep your hand there and gently hold it down as a mother bird would do for a bit.  Nestlings that have been put back in the nest this way are less likely to hop out again.
Holding the bird down so it won't jump out
Now I have some properly ringed birds!  If any birds come back to the place next year, I can record and report back to the BTO.  

Now that I have had four birds ringed, I am keen to get more of our birds ringed so that their movements can be recorded.


Dogbait said...

One of the benefits of not having a cat now is the profusion of bird life in our backyard.

Peggy said...

That's what we have noticed! I like cats, but I really love having wildlife more.

Shammickite said...

I love this post, it's fascinating, and I'm looking forward to finding out if those babies come back to the old homestead next year!

Shammickite said...

I think you must have given up on blogging.....