Getting the ring on…
After arriving in Odense, I met Hans, a local bird enthusiast who is involved in bird ringing on Funen. During my time as a volunteer in England I had assisted Andy (ranger with AONB service) with some ringing and was interested in learning more. Hans kindly offered to be my “mentor” and after this I registered with the local bird ringing group (read their blog here). Bird ringing is carefully regulated and requires a special permit or license issued by the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen. Catching and ringing birds adds greatly to the scientific knowledge on bird anatomy, movement patterns, migration routes, life cycle, habitat choices etc.
Hans is particularly interested in ringing the elusive fieldfare (sjagger), a member of the thrush family. Over the last few weeks the temperature in Denmark has dropped significanly presenting us with an excellent opportunity to ring some hungry birds. The low temperatures force the birds to find alternative food sources, including apples from a local orchard!
Unfortunately birds are early risers so we start just after first light at the orchard . First we open the 10 large mist nets (~2.5m high with varying lengths) that are spread between the trees in the orchard. The nets remain in the orchard at night but are closed so the birds can not be trapped. The nets are made from fine mesh with specific size holes.
Once the nets are open we wait patiently and try to stay warm. When a bird flies into the net it becomes trapped and can not escape. The nets are checked very regularly (especially when it’s cold) and once we’ve caught something the fun begins. Some birds are quite “active” in the net and get very tangled, others seem to relax and sit quietly until you free them (robins for example). Carefully we remove the trapped bird, freeing the legs, then the body, depending on how it has entered the net.
The first thing we do is identify the species and the gender. In some birds this can be quite tricky and colouring must be carefully examined!
After this we determine the birds age by examining the wing feathers (specifically which ones it has molted) and take some measurements (eg. wing length).
Then a small metal ring is placed on the birds leg with a unique serial number. All the information is written down and within minutes the bird is released with his new piece of jewelry. Some birds will fly into a nearby tree and they can be seen examining their new “bling” with curiosity!
Contributing to science and conservation are main reasons for ringing birds, but on a personal level, getting the opportunity to see such beautiful creatures up close is truly an amazing experience.