Friday, 13 February 2015

Brackenhurst, Wednesday 11 February - Student ringing demonstration

It was the perfect morning for ringing - cold with clear skies and little wind. Jim, Gary, Liz, Geoff, Duncan, Simon, Esther and myself set off for the ringing site with David Roberts from NTU's Conservation Society. We set up the usual nets at the ringing site (where food is currently being topped up every other day) plus extra nets nearby.

The morning started off well with over 25 birds on the first catch and 100 birds in total. Just under half of the birds caught were retraps, and all but one were from this and last winter, perhaps indicative of the relatively mild winters we have had following the harsher winter of 2012/3. There was a diverse range of species including House Sparrow, Goldcrest, plenty of new Yellowhammers and a noticeable number of retrap Great Tits (although very few Blue Tits).

Capture totals were (new/retraps) 100(59/41): Blackbird 5/3, Blue Tit 1/3, Chaffinch 4/4, Dunnock 4/1, Goldcrest 1/0, Great Tit 2/22, House Sparrow 3/0, Robin 5/3, Tree Sparrow 1/0, Yellowhammer 35/4.

We were joined at hourly intervals over the morning by NTU students interested in finding out more about bird ringing. Jim did a grand job of showing the students the different birds and explaining exactly what everyone was doing and why. The students were really interested and asked plenty of inquisitive questions. It was a great opportunity for them to see and learn about wildlife monitoring in practice rather than just in lectures. Approximately 30 students plus several members of staff joined us over the morning and we have a similar number coming along to another ringing demonstration next month. Many thanks to the Conservation Society for helping to organise the morning.

Nevertheless, the highlight of the day, which even surpassed Simon's famous lemon drizzle cake (double drizzled!), was a migrant adult male Blackbird from Heligoland. Apparently, Jim had just been discussing large migrant Blackbirds with the students so this was perfect timing! Heligoland is a small group of islands in the North Sea, home to one of the world's first ornithological observatories, and a major migration stopover for birds crossing the North Sea. It is approximately 600km (373 miles) from Southwell as the 'Blackbird' flies, with a shortest land route of around 950km (590 miles), so the bird certainly travelled quite a distance! The bird was noticeably larger than our resident Blackbirds, with a wing length around a centimetre longer than usual. Luckily, the bird didn't seem to mind everyone's excitement, and obligingly posed for photos - the perfect end to the perfect morning!


The German Blackbird and Brack students at the demo (G. Goddard)


  1. Not a continental black billed blackie then? Wasn't expecting the orange beak on this handsome bird!

  2. That feature is only in young birds - this was an adult!