Over the last month or two, I have been learning to read again, but in a whole different way – reading colour rings on birds legs! A bit of a specialised skill, I must admit, which involves spending a considerable amount of time standing in one place, staring at birds’ legs through a powerful telescope, looking for coloured bands, which sometimes have letters / numbers inscribed on the ring. It’s a tad embarrassing, but I do get a rush of excitement when I spot a colour ring and huge satisfaction when I finally get all the details! If you are wondering WHY birds get bling like this the BTO explains it all here. And if you happen to see a bird with bling, please tell someone about it – here’s how.
At Omeath, on the south side of Carlingford lough, close to the newly established Greenway, which I must find time to explore properly, I stopped to examine a mixed flock of birds roosting (chilling out, pruning etc.) at the waters edge. I scanned through the birds and was thrilled to spot a blue colour ring on a Common Gull (Larus canus), which I eventually read as 2AHX.
I sent the details to Shane Wolsey from the BTO in Northern Ireland and he was able to tell me that 2AHX was ringed on Copeland Island on the 29th of June 2013 as a pullus (chick). This was the first time the bird has been seen since!
Just across the water in Warrenpoint, I spied a large gathering of gulls on the roof of a warehouse close to the harbour. Before the morning traffic started, I set up the scope on the footpath in the middle of town and began searching through hundreds of legs for a splash of colour. My heart skipped a beat (is this sad?!) as I spotted a white band on the red-ish leg of a Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus). I edged closer, being careful not to get run over, and with a bit of patience and a lot of luck, I managed to read the ring – T5J4.
After asking some local ringers which scheme this bird might belong to, details were sent off to the Polish Ringing Scheme in Gdansk. It turns out this bird was ringed on the 5th of June 2011 as a pullus (chick) and has travelled almost 1,550 km to Warrenpoint – the point obviously has a lot to offer! Black-headed gulls which breed in northern Europe and around the Baltic Sea migrate to western Europe (including Ireland and the UK) for the winter. Check out bhgullsni for all the news on Black-headed gulls in Northern Ireland!
During our travels in South America, we did some thinking, as you do when you are on holiday, removed from being occupied by daily life. On new years eve we considered our lives, what we held dear and discussed our future options. We would return to Europe with many choices before us, without work or a place to live, free to choose the next step. It’s not often you find yourself with so free, with so few connections or commitments. At the bottom of Colca Canyon in Peru, with Condors soaring above us, as a final decision for 2014, we decided our next chapter would be in Ireland.
There are many reasons for me to reconsider Ireland as my home, the main one being my family. My mother, sister and two brothers live on the east coast, in a town called Dundalk. Living abroad for the past 5 years, it hasn’t been easy for me to stay involved in their lives, and I want to be part of family life again. Sentimental, but true. I am also looking forward to reconnecting with my close friends and extended family and following their lives a little closer too. I was truly honoured that so many helped me to celebrate my 30th birthday last July in Ireland, it was a very special day for me.
Another factor that calls me back to Ireland is nature. Ireland has always held a very special place in my heart when it come to green, wild open spaces. After travelling to various corners of the world, for me there is simply nothing that compares to the green rolling hills and wild coastline of Ireland, especially when the sun shines! Linked to that, I’m very excited about rediscovering Irish wildlife and nature in a professional way. My interest in wildlife, (birds, mammals, trees, bugs, flowers, the lot) exploded after I moved to Somerset to work with the National Trust in 2010. Since we made the decision to relocate, I have followed with a renewed sense of excitement the developments in Irish nature, though the wonders of the internet, social media and some wonderful podcasts from RTE!. I hope to become a certified bird ringer with the BTO, and to become an active member of conservation and environmental groups and generally integrate into the “wildlife family” in Ireland.
Over the last 6 years I have been involved in many different projects. From environmental monitoring and volunteer coordination to environmental education. With the skills I have collected, I hope to find a job that allows me to contribute to protecting and sharing Irish nature with everyone. My big passion is “local nature” as I like to call it; the wild and wonderful which exists under our noses and is accessible, free for all to see and enjoy! In the past I have created opportunities to share our wonderful world with children, and the results were amazing. I look forward to creating more connections between nature and people, in my home country.
From the comfort of a small farm in Denmark we are remotely building our new lives in Ireland, which will begin in May 2015. We are learning about Irish nature and heritage along with the unique challenges and opportunities that exist on the green island. It’s very exciting as there are so many places I look forward to visiting, and sharing with as many as possible.
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Twitter @JL_nature @2sloth
I maybe a little behind the times, but I have recently discovered the wonder of podcasts. In the last 3 weeks I have been volunteering as a bird ringer in the lowland rainforests of Peru, close to the Madre de Dios river, close to the Bolivian border. Staying in a remote research station, electricity is provided by a generator for 4 hours per day and the only internet access is at an ecolodge, 30 minutes walk through the jungle.
On the rate occasion that I had internet access, I decided to download a small selection of podcasts from RTE1, a national radio station in Ireland. I selected three episodes of a show called “Nature on One” presented by Colin Stafford-Johnson. The show, which I must admit, I hadn’t heard of before, highlights different aspects of Irish nature, speaking with various specialists and members of the public about topics like bird song and endangered animals in the Irish landscape.
While hand washing my clothes at the edge of the forest, on a very hot humid day, I popped in my head phones. They usually fill my ears with the sounds of exotic birds, toucans and parrots, but today i was instead brought back to my home country through the showcase of Irish wildlife. Despite being in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, in the depths of the Amazon, i was suddenly, unexpectedly overcome by a sense of longing for the wonderful, rich and familiar nature i grew up surrounded by in Ireland.
In terms of diversity, temperate countries like Ireland don’t support large numbers of species, and unfortunatly due to habitat loss, some species are becoming locally threatened or extinct. However, despite the limited variety and the losses we have experienced, i felt a great sense of hope. Hope that it is possibble to protect and conserve what we have, through education and awareness. It’s not too late to open peoples eyes, and ears to the value of nature, so everyone is passionate about protecting it. I am hoping to be part of this, to join in the efforts of important organisations like the Irish Wildlife Trust, and Birdwatch Ireland (among many others) to reengage people with nature and ensure its protection in the future. There are exciting times ahead.