Helen Schneider writes:
Just after dawn last Saturday a small group of young members of the Hampshire Ornithological Society (HOS) joined us at Keyhaven to learn more about the how and why of bird ringing. A short but sharp rain shower as they arrived did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm and they were immediately rewarded with the firstt catch of the day, a beautifully marked Redwing.
The ringing team at work once the rain cleared
Over the course of the morning there were opportunities to get up close and personal with common garden birds such as Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock and Robin. But there was also a wide range of other species to examine at close quarters. A selection of Goldcrest attracted much attention and photo opportunities. The male showed off his mix of bright orange and yellow crown feathers that clearly differentiated him from the females with their duller yellow and grey. Weighing in at around 5g, the size of the Goldcrest contrasted sharply with a Song Thrush over 15 times heavier, tipping the scales at a smidge under 77g.
Also high on the cuteness register were a couple of Long-tailed Tits both of which we have caught before. One in particular proved to be an old friend having been first ringed at Keyhaven in October 2017, making it at least 4 years old, a good age given the typical lifespan for this species is around 2 years. This bird was subsequently retrapped twice the following October, in February 2019, November last year and May this year, providing a good example of the kind of data that can be gained from ringing at the same site over the years.
1st year Meadow Pipit giving the group the opportunity to explore post fledging moult
The young birders relished the opportunity to observe in detail every aspect of the process from extracting birds from nets, taking biometric measurements including wing length, weight and muscle, and using key features of each species to age them. A decent count of 11 Meadow Pipits enabled some of them to get their eye in with moult patterns so that they were practically experts at ageing them by the end of the session!
Other species correctly identified by the youngsters included Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch and Linnet. A Cetti’s Warbler in the hand attracted close inspection and was a particular delight given that they can be frustratingly hard to spot flitting through the reeds even when their loud call gives them away. Each young person got the chance to gently hold and then release birds, a magical experience for every keen birder.
Song Thrush about to be safely released
The two youngest members of our Ringing Team, Jamie and Amy, both just 11 years old, did a particularly fine job of demonstrating to our visitors (and their parents) that it’s never too early to start ringing. We hope that the morning spent with the team has inspired these young birders to continue to pursue their interest in birds and their behaviour, and hopefully support their conservation for current and future generations to enjoy.
HOS offers free membership and specially organised activities for young members, for full details see the HOS website at www.hos.org.uk
Wild New Forest frequently runs event for young wildlife enthusiasts, for further details please make contact via the website at www.wildnewforest.co.uk