Garden Ringing: 23rd & 25th March, 1st April

With the government lockdown coming into effect, the BTO issued instructions that all survey work that could not be done from your garden was to be cancelled. For bird ringing this is hard on our T-permit trainees, but it is impossible to adequately practise social distancing and monitor their activities or check their work.  This has meant that all trainees, except those who have a C-permit or are lucky / unlucky enough to be the children of trainers, will have no chance to develop and practise their skills until this period is over.

I am lucky enough to have a reasonable sized garden, in a rural location, with fields, allotments and trees all around.  My garden is also, no doubt to the chagrin of my neighbours, with their immaculately kept wildlife deserts, left very much to its own devices.  The “grass” is cut no more than once a month and wildflowers encouraged.

I have a feeding station offering sunflower hearts (opium for the bird masses) and fat balls plus a peanut feeder in my apple tree.  The garden isn’t huge but I manage to set three nets: a 9m and 3m dog-legged and a 6m.  Diagram below:


A bit messy but I’ve never been an artist!  The pond was full of frogs and toads, it now has a few frogs, lots of spawn (the most we have ever had), which is now hatching, and plenty of Smooth Newts, come for the feast.  It must be a hard life being a female toad in the mating season:

Frog Ball

I have made the decision not to overdo the ringing in the garden: to keep it to my usual two sessions per week, when the weather allows.  The key benefits of garden ringing are that it is largely unhurried, especially as my electronic cat scarer, backed up by a well-primed Super Soaker, is more than enough to deter the neighbourhood cats and tea, coffee and biscuits are on tap.

Unfortunately, the masses of birds we had coming to the feeders has dropped off considerably. Presumably they have more pressing matters: nesting, mating, incubating and rearing.  However, I am still catching birds, and it does make a nice change from the hundreds of Blue and Great Tits we have been getting in the woods.

Over these three sessions I have caught the following: Blue Tit 1(1); Coal Tit 2(1); Long-tailed Tit 1; Dunnock 2(1); Robin (1); Blackbird 2(4); Chaffinch 1; Goldfinch 11; Greenfinch 6; Starling 1; House Sparrow 1.  Totals: 28 birds ringed from 10 species and 8 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 36 birds processed from 11 species.

It is a decent variety, even if they are not the biggest of catches.  The difference is, when I am out with the team I do far more supervising than ringing. Any session where I have more than one trainee with me, I do no ringing at all, so it is nice to have it all to myself sometimes.


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