A little while ago my friend and I booked for a Winter Wader Ringing demo with Birds of Poole Harbour which took place on 21st December 2022, starting at 7.30pm, it would be in the dark and both of us weren’t sure what to expect. After travelling down in thick fog and going to the wrong place we eventually found where we should be, Sunnyside Farm on Stoborough Heath a slight technical hitch by me, but luckily we only missed the first introduction and they were just viewing the first bird!
Some of the team went out on the heath with night vision equipment and a large net to capture the birds which were transferred to a cloth bag and carried back to the ringing area. The first bird captured was a Common Snipe and they talked about ringing and the process they go through which was really informative, a scientific and complicated job! They take lots of measurements as well as ageing the bird and if the bird is already ringed they can find the data on that bird. There was one Common Snipe in the evening with a ring.
They were very meticulous in their actions, making sure the birds were not stressed and taking them back on to the heath before they were released away from the lights, also disinfecting all the tools used before the next birds. Really fascinating what they do and what the team need to learn before they are qualified to undertake this.
We saw five different species of birds in the evening and towards the end of the session they were having difficulty locating the birds because of the fog on the heath, but it didn’t matter as we saw the birds we were hoping to see and more! The Common Snipe of which they caught three, a little Jack Snipe which they compared with the Common Snipe showing them together. I had never seen a Jack Snipe before so another first, a lovely little bird.
Then there was a relation of the Snipes a Woodcock, he was quite feisty, all the other birds were very calm but the Woodcock struggled a little but of course the expert handler wouldn’t have any of its antics, and held it without any harm coming to the bird. Much larger than the Snipes they are red listed in this country but they are allowed to be shot for game in the season, it’s because there are thousands of migrants in the winter but our birds don’t have UK flags on them for identification, so the breeding numbers in this country are falling, such a shame.
Another surprise was a Fieldfare, what a lovely marked bird unfortunately this one had lost its tail, down to some sort of predator possibly, but the handler said it would grow new feathers in around a week. Again he was recorded going through the process of measuring, weighing, age etc. The final bird was a Lapwing, very special, gorgeous colours when up close. Going through the whole process again although they were having difficulty assessing it’s age so out comes the Bird Ringers bible, each bird species are different, how they manage to work it out I just don’t know.
Of course I was hoping to take some pictures and there was of course no Flash photography allowed for obvious reasons, so I had to take the pictures using the available light which was the teams head torches. A challenge as it was very dark with plenty of moisture in the air I took a fast lens F2.8 40-150mm and hoped I would get something. My first attempts were very poor, the head torches blew the highlights but after making some adjustments I managed to balance the light, that with juggling over people’s shoulders and manual focussing as the auto didn’t work in the dark I got some images I’m really pleased with.
These images are a great reminder for me of the work these people do, their dedication and taking time to educate us on the reasons for recording, especially at the time we need to understand our natural world and look after our environment better than we have.
As always click a picture for a bigger view and select an arrow to browse the images.