Friday, 21 March 2014

Ringing with NNRG

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to spend the weekend ringing with the North Notts Ringing Group. First up on Saturday was a trip to Besthorpe Nature Reserve near Newark for the first heron check of the year. Heron’s can be very early breeders and in previous years, the first visit has seen many chicks ringed. The heronry is on an island which is only accessible via boat. So, when the dingy was inflated, I was given the task of rowing across to the island. The idea was to secure a long rope to a tree on each bank to allow all the equipment and other ringers to make the journey across easily via a pully system. Sounded simple! Unfortunately, there was only one oar and a strong current so rowing across wasn’t quite as simple as it sounded! After negotiating a few low branches, we made it across and soon had the equipment and the rest of the team onto the island.

With the teams briefed and the climbers geared up, we collected the ladders, mirrors, buckets and clip boards and set off, eager to ring some chicks. Jez and Andy admirably climbed tree after tree and checked nest after nest. The result was 22 active nests. Unfortunately, the high winds of recent weeks appeared to have taken their toll on early breeding attempts. It seemed that birds had either delayed breeding or eggs had blown out of nests as all of the active nests contained either eggs or chicks that were too young to ring (1 nest). So, a nice morning but unfortunately nothing ringed. The next visit should be more productive.

After a picnic lunch in the sunshine, we headed off to Out Ings, near Sturton le Steeple along the River Trent, to set cannon nets in readiness for an attempt to catch wigeon the following morning. With two nets set, we trundled off home with the words ‘see you at 5am’ hanging in the air.

At 5am on Sunday morning, the team met up at Adrian’s house (sorry neighbours) before heading back to Out Ings. Jim warned us that last time, they had to wait about 8 hours before a catch was made…so we settled down and started to wait. Approximately 15 minutes later Jez came over the radio to say that there were a few birds in the catching area and we should be ready. Less than five minutes later we were careering across the field towards the smoking cannons.

It was a stunningly beautiful day and it turned out to be a great catch. Approximately 75 birds, mostly wigeon, but also a few mallard, coot and greylag geese were caught and processed. One of the female wigeon was a little unusual, with a bright greenish tinge to the secondaries (as is more normal on males, although males would be brighter) and an odd stripe down the beak. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has ever seen a similar bird.

It was a fabulous weekend and was great to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a while. Hopefully I will be able to join the team again for the second heronry visit in the next couple of weeks.

Birds keeping calm in bags before being ringed  
Male wigeon
Female wigeon
Male mallard
Crazy coot feet
Unusual plumage on female wigeon wing
Unusual beak markings on female wigeon

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