Wednesday, 4 December 2013

29th Nov - 1st Dec - Whirlwind weekend

So Friday was the first day of non-birding related socialising I've had since I returned to University. I'm not entirely sure how I've managed not to do this for 9 weeks, but it felt great to go out with my friends again. We went to see the new Hunger Games film (highly recommend it) and then had lots of people round the flat. Then it was out to the pub for a bit, before me and Chris had to return home around midnight. Chris, somewhat madly, then headed out lamping with Hamza Yassin, but I got some shut eye.

Saturday morning was a 05:45 wake up to pick up Susan, Conor and Jimi at 06:15 for some cannon netting at Rhos-on-sea. Conor and Jimi are both 1st year students and keen to start ringing training, so I was glad they both decided to make the effort to come, despite the particularly early winter start.

We got to Rhos by 07:00 and after a little bit of Turnstone twinkling (a technical cannon netting term), the safety brief, catching up with old friends, some more twinkling and a very long run, the net was safely fired and lifted just before 8am. Only one net was fired, despite having set 3, and a good thing to. This one net managed to trap ~140 Turnstone (target species), ~220 Oystercatcher, 16 Redshank and a Dunlin. This made for some excellent extraction practise and I feel I'm really building confidence with this now. I managed to get most birds out quickly and efficiently, and quite a few were less than easy. This was all done during a fabulous sunrise and by the time all the birds were safely in the keeping cages, it had turned into a gorgeous, blue sky day.

I spent the next 4 hours scribing for the Oystercatchers and weighing the Turnstone. We had a lot of public interest, as this is a very public catch site, and a lot of excellent PR work went on throughout the morning. All in all, an excellent catch and one we all thoroughly enjoyed. A few good retraps and controls came out of it, and an excellent sample has been added to the ever growing SCAN database.

The ringing team with 1 processing team behind,
the other is to the left. (picture by Chris Bridge)
The beginnings of a beautiful day - (picture by Chris Bridge)

Conor and Jimi thoroughly enjoyed their first cannon netting session and both are now starting the process of becoming trainees. It's great to have a few more enthusiastic students on board! 

We had finished and packed away by 12:30 and then it was back to Bangor for lunch, some uni work and a short nap. At 22:00 we (me, Chris and Hamza) headed to Porth Penrhyn for some Woodcock lamping. Rather frustratingly it was another fruitless night. We were back to Bangor for 02:00 and slept like logs.

Sunday was another early start. Chris was up at 06:45 for another SCAN session, but I wasn't going. I had a full day of birding planned with Steve Culley, 4 students and some Bangor Bird Group members. This is the first birding thing I'd encouraged Bangor Uni birding group members to come to, so I was hoping for good weather and good birding, to get these novice students into bird ID. We were out from 08:00 - 18:15 and had an absolutely fantastic day! We went all round the Angelsey coast and got great views of many species. The highlight for me was undoubtedly a marsh flush that produced 80+ Snipe and 13 Jack Snipe! Having only seen one Jack snipe before, it was incredible to have several flush from right in front of me, at the same time. We also had Goosander, Common Scoter, Black Guillemot, Common and Grey Seal, a flock of Brent Geese, Chough, Long-tailed Duck, Pintail, Golden Plover, Woodcock and Tawny Owl, to name a few. Everyone enjoyed the day immensely and it was great to see some non-birders enjoying themselves so much! Massive thanks go to Steve Culley for such a brilliant, jam-packed day.

Everyone enjoying the Brent Geese on Holy Island
All expectantly waiting for Steve to flush a Bittern - No joy.
(Picture taken by Hamza Yassin)
Hungry Herring Gull found a starfish

So after 120 miles of driving, I dropped my car load off at 18:15 and just had time to change, grab some food, meet Chris and Hamza and pick up Susan, before heading to Llanfairfechan for some wader netting. We arrived at 19:00 and I immediately went with Steve Dodd to the pools. Redshank and Dunlin were already flying into the nets, without a tape lure, so the next 4 hours were spent knee deep in water (still haven't replaced my broken waders), busily extracting. This was the first time I'd done any decent amount of night extraction and I think, considering, it went very well. I had to ask Steve and Rachel for a few technique pointers with the first few birds, but the rest seemed to go ok after that. I couldn't help reflecting how far I've come in 22 months.

My first ringing experience was the January SCAN session in 2012, which was the Rhos-on-sea catch, followed by a mist netting session. On these two catches I managed to let 1 Turnstone go, unringed (1 of the 2 we caught that day, despite begin the target species) and snap one of Steve's wader net poles. I haven't made either of those mistakes since, thankfully! Now I'm one of the more experienced SCAN regulars, able to help in most areas of net setting, lifting and extracting, a competent scribe and able to extract from nets at night. I've ringed over 1500 birds of 72 different species, all over the country. I've met many fantastic people, including my boyfriend, through ringing, and it has become a major part of my life.

Once we'd finished extracting and taken down, we returned to base camp and helped ring/process the remaining birds. We got 51 Redshank, 49 Dunlin, 3 Snipe and 2 Wigeon.

A very successful session and another good step towards gaining my C permit. I was asleep by 02:00, after an extremely long and fun weekend, and ready for my 9am lecture.


  1. Great to read, Ros. Know exactly what you feel re. SCAN and waders. Good to hear of students out experiencing Anglesey's birds.

  2. Thanks Ian. It was a brilliant weekend. I'm hoping to get more students out soon. I've just set the boundaries for the University Birdwatching Challenge that A Focus on Nature set up, so hopefully I'll have lots of students BirdTracking soon!