A very interesting week this week: the top news is Jonny Cooper being awarded his C-permit. It is well deserved: he has worked hard, is totally reliable and has made sure to take advantage of all of the opportunities that have come his way: working with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, ringing wildfowl and waders all over the country; going to Iceland to ring seabirds (and Red-necked Phalaropes (not jealous, at all)) and then spending a session with the team at Spurn for some additional, independent assessment.
I did a talk on Thursday and a ringing demonstration on Saturday. Thursday's talk was for the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Well-Being team. One of their projects is working with children who have either been excluded from school or who have other issues around being at school. The aim is to get them involved in nature and I was asked to give a "motivational and inspirational" talk on bird ringing (not my words). I was a little apprehensive about it: how do you enthuse teenagers these days? It has been a long time since my children were teenagers and, obviously, lost in the mists of time since I was. I decided to make it a little bit interactive: a short quiz to start and I took in a couple of different traps to show them how they worked and an MP3 player with the Latvian Redwing lure loaded. In the event, I needn't have worried. Two of the teens were just "too cool for school" but the rest were totally receptive. Being a cussed individual, I made sure that I continually directed questions and comments at the two most obviously disaffected youngsters and, by the end of the session, they were drawing my attention to some of the birds hopping around the hedgerow outside the window and asking about their identification. After the talk, they borrowed the MP3 player and were delighted when, playing it outside the Visitor Centre, half-a-dozen Redwing flew into the trees adjacent. The session was scheduled to be an hour long but, after the questions and chatting, it went for nearly two hours. I have also been asked by one of the others how they get involved in ringing. He has been invited for a couple of taster sessions and, if he wants to, can join my little team of trainees.
This morning's session was for the Trust's Watch group. This is their young members' group and we had 13 children, with accompanying parents, in attendance plus three members of the Trust staff to manage the audience. The weather was fabulous: little wind, which our nets were completely sheltered from, and a clear blue sky and continuous sunshine. I had Jonny to help me, and it was just as well as the first round catch was relatively large. As some of these children are quite young (6 years old, the youngest) I decided to save their legs and set my nets along the hedgerow opposite the Visitor Centre and another couple in the Wildlife Education Area. We had a really good catch, so I might have to try these positions again. The list was: Blue Tit 16(3); Great Tit 5(3); Wren 6; Dunnock 1; Robin 6(2); Redwing 6; Blackbird (1); Blackcap 1; Goldcrest 2(1); Lesser Redpoll 2; Bullfinch 1; House Sparrow 1; Reed Bunting 2. Totals: 49 ringed from 13 species; 10 retrapped from five species, making 59 birds processed from 13 species. Because the children were not arriving until 9:00, we didn't open the nets until 8:45. It would be interesting to try it again, with a few more nets and the nets open from first light: I would think it could yield close to 100 birds.
To say that the children, and their parents, had a good time would be an understatement. They were so enthused to see the birds close up, but also to see so many different species: a few of which they (and their parents) had never heard of. Jonny, bravely, was happy for them to go in small groups to watch him extract birds from the nets. We had a super couple of hours and some additional birding yielded Buzzard, Kestrel, Pied Wagtail and Raven. It was a lovely morning. Hopefully it will have given the children a real enthusiasm for birds, and we finished it off drinking coffee and eating jaffa cakes with the Trust team. Thanks to Chelsie and her team for inviting us to do it and for organising everything so well. ST / JC