Sunday, 20 April 2014

Decoy making

Bird decoys are used during cannon netting to encourage passing birds to settle in the area in front of the nets. If made well, they will last many years but eventually, some will reach the end of their usefulness and new ones will be needed. Over the years, whenever a recently deceased bird that looks to be in good condition is found, it is put into the freezer until it is turned into a decoy. And so it was that last weekend nine members of the Wash Wader Ringing Group met at Nigel and Jacquie’s house to turn the frozen birds into a new batch of decoys.

The first task of the day was to process the (now defrosted) birds and record the details of where they were found, ring details (if ringed), age, wing length etc. After this, the day got a little gorier. I will spare you the details (or the photos) of how decoys are made, save to say it is a long, detailed and intricate process. The aim is to end up with a decoy that looks as realistic, and in as good a condition, as possible despite being stuffed full of cotton wool, wire, latex and formalin and having beads for eyes (oh and standing on a block of wood of course!). I came away from the weekend with a new found respect for taxidermists!

A little more work still has to be carried out once they are completely dry in a few weeks’ time (told you it was a long process) but by Sunday evening, 24 waders (curlew, black-tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwit, redshank, greenshank and knot) and one common gull had been re-born as decoys. Let’s hope they have long and fruitful afterlives helping us to catch lots more of their living relatives, and in so doing, help us to further our knowledge of their respective species.

Ready to be preserved (from the top: curlew, common gull,
bar-tailed godwit, redshank and knot)

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