Guest Blog: A Day in the life of a young bird ringer by Josie Hewitt
Today, the fantastic Josie Hewitt has kindly written a guest blog for me. She is a 17 year old C permit bird ringer, birder and wildlife photographer. Please visit her website at: josiehewittphotography.co.uk (her photography is amazing :) )
A day in the life of a young bird ringer
It's 5.30am and I'm suddenly awoken by my alarm beeping loudly from somewhere across my room so I drag myself out of bed and fumble around trying to switch it off before it wakes up the rest of my family. I packed all my ringing kit the night before so all I need to do now is get dressed and pack my sandwiches.
Once ready, I put all my stuff in the car and head to the ringing site which is just 10 minutes away. I arrive at about 6.00am and it's still pretty dark but the first few birds have started the dawn chorus. The air is perfectly still, it's fairly warm (for 6.00am anyway!) and there is a fair amount of cloud cover - perfect conditions for bird ringing. I unload all the stuff out of the car and carry it round to the base for the morning - a little clearing among the bramble thickets.
Leaving everything else at base, I take the poles and nets and begin setting up. The guy strings are all in place already so it's just the small matter of finding them first before I lay out all the poles and nets in the appropriate places to make things easier.
After 30 minutes or so, all 7 nets are set and ready to go so I return to base, open up my chair, get all the ringing equipment laid out and then I grab my bag of bird bags and head off to do the first net round of the morning.
Every net round is exciting because you never know what you might catch! On this particular site we've caught all manner of unusual things, from Spotted Flycatchers to Marsh Tits, from Firecrests to Jays, which is pretty impressive for inland Hampshire!
After each net round I take all the birds back to base where I process them one by one. If it is a new bird then I carefully fit a uniquely-numbered metal ring on the bird's leg before looking at various aspects of its plumage to determine whether the bird was hatched in the current year, previous year or before that. Depending on the species I can also use plumage and/or biometrics to determine whether the bird is male or female. After I have aged and hopefully sexed the bird, I then measure the length of its wing, record how much fat it has, the condition of the pectoral (breast) muscle and weigh it. These measurements together give an indication of the kind of condition that the bird is in at the time of ringing, something that is especially important for migrant birds. After all of this information has been recorded in my book, the bird is released.
In the case of a re-trap (a bird that has already had a metal ring fitted to its leg), I record the number on the ring instead of fitting a ring and then record the same information about the bird as above.
I do a net round every 20 minutes to ensure any birds caught aren't in the nets for very long and continue this until around 13.00 when I do a final net round and then start taking down nets. I extract any birds in the nets and put them in bird bags, take down the first three and then take all the kit back to base and process any birds caught.
Then I head round to the last 4 nets, extract any birds caught and put them in bird bags to keep them calm while I take down the rest of the nets. I then take the birds back to base and process them before returning to collect the rest of the nets and poles. Once all the kit is back at base and all guy ropes are rolled up ready for next session, I pack up my rucksack with my ringing box & the nets, put my chair in its bag and take all the kit back to the car. I then head home, unload the car, have a spot of lunch and a couple of hours kip to make up for the early start.