23 January 2013

Garden ringing

The majority of garden birds caught in Orkney are either by using mist nets or whoosh nets. The mist net is a fine net, suspended between two poles, which the birds fly into and drop into a pocket at the bottom of the net. The whoosh net is designed to catch birds on the ground and uses elastic to pull the net over the top of the birds.

To use either type of net requires the ringer to have the relevant endorsement on their permit. Before a ringer can get the endorsement they need to be able to demonstrate that they can safely setup and use the net and that they can safely extract the birds from the net.

So today saw me round at Colin's house using a whoosh net to catch some of the birds visiting his garden as the garden at my house is currently lacking on birds. There are a couple of Blackbirds and the occassional Starling. All the House Sparrows and Greenfinch have disappeared. Although I am putting food out for them it appears they are seeking food and shelter from elsewhere and I have a theory that when the weather gets colder some of the birds vacate rural areas and head for built up areas. Presumably because the air temperature maybe slightly warmer and the food supplies a bit more abundant within a small range. So rather than stripping one location of all its food they take some of the food available and then move on to the next location knowing that they can go back for more from previous locations. I'd just like to point out that this is my theory and isn't based on any scientific evidence!!

Earlier in the morning Colin had seen a Waxwing about so had put some apple on his lawn within the capture area of the whoosh net hoping it would entice it in but it wasn't to be. It wasn't wasted though as the Blackbirds seemed to enjoy it.

Once there was a good gathering of birds in the capture zone the net was released and we had a catch of 22 birds consisting of eight house Sparrows, seven Starlings, four Greenfinch and three Blackbirds.

Having reset the net we then processed the birds that had been caught.

Hopefully the birds will soon return to my garden and Colin can bring the whoosh net here so that I can have a go at setting it up and make a start on ringing some of my garden visitors.

14 January 2013

Purps first for the year.

Today saw the first ringing session off 2013.

It started yesterday while I was on my way home from a week South on business. Thanks to modern technology I received an email from Colin to say he was planning on going for a cannon net catch over on West Mainland on monday morning and was I available. I quickly replied that I would be and we arranged to meet up in Kirkwall before heading over to the ringing site.

Last night's clear skies and aurora had been replaced by overcast skies and rain when we met up. Colin informed me that Davey had said that it was dry over at the ringing site so we set off and it rained all the way. We did a quick recce of the ringing site and there were good numbers of Purple Sandpipers (Purps) and Turnstones on the shoreline.

As the rain got heavier we retreated to the car and awaited the arrival of Davey. It wasn't long before he arrived and thankfully the rain eased. We went back to the ringing site and selected a suitable area for setting up the net. Then it was back to the car to get all the equipment and set it up. At this point Brian joined us to complete the team.

With everything ready Colin and I remained at the firing point while Davey and Brian headed off to locate where the birds had moved to. With high tide due at 11:00 it was time to play the waiting game which was the signal for the rain to start.

Eventually as the rain eased the tide turned and started to expose the area in front of the net. A few times the flocks of waders further down the beach were spooked and they headed for our catching area only to turn away at the last minute and go back to where they had come from.

Just when it looked like we may not get a catch a small group of Purps were spooked from down the beach and this time they landed just outside the catching area. The net was armed and Mother Nature lent a hand in the form of a couple of waves pushing the birds into the catching area. The net was fired and a catch of about 50 birds was caught.

The birds were duly extracted from the net and taken to a drier spot to be processed.

In total 47 birds were caught, 46 Purps (including about half a dozen retraps) and a solitary Turnstone.

A good catch to start the 2013 ringing season off.