Purple Hands Are Back Again: Saturday, 14th August 2021

It is that time of year again when ringers go home with purple hands: the blackberries are ripening and the birds are taking advantage. This morning was a busier session than we have had recently. It was CES 11 and we had agreed with the Swindon Wildlife Group to make it one of our formal ringing demonstrations. As regular readers will know, my recent sessions have had disappointingly small catches and I was seriously worried about whether we would have a reasonable sort of catch to show twenty or so adults who had paid £5 each for the pleasure of our company (not to me, I hasten to add: to the SWG who use their income to support Wiltshire Wildlife Trust initiatives).

Due to a combination of factors (births, self-isolation from a Covid ping, family holidays, moving home, etc) it was down to just David and myself to manage the session. Fortunately, we had a steady stream of birds coming through and the assembled watchers certainly got a good experience. They were a lovely crowd as well, very interested, asking intelligent questions and one has asked me if I will ring the Swallows that nest in his workshop in future seasons!

We didn’t actually catch any birds until 8:00, a pretty late start to proceedings. As you can imagine, that didn’t fill me with confidence. That they were 3 Blue Tits, a Blackbird and a Blackcap didn’t seem particularly exciting. As the visitors arrived at just after 9:00, so the catch improved in variety. The first birds they got to see were a couple of juvenile Whitethroat, a juvenile Bullfinch, a juvenile Blackcap and an adult Chiffchaff in full wing moult. So it continued throughout the morning. The star attraction for the group was our second juvenile, and third in total, Green Woodpecker of the year. They are striking birds and the people loved it: being particularly fascinated by that long sticky tongue. I did my usual thing of showing people how to safely hold and release birds. Apart from stimulating interest in ringing, I feel that if they do have to handle a wild bird for any reason they might be better prepared to do so.

The list for the session was: Green Woodpecker [1]; Blue Tit 3[3](2); Great Tit (2); Wren [2]; Dunnock [2]; Robin [2]; Blackbird [2]; Blackcap [6]; Garden Warbler [4]; Whitethroat [2]; Chiffchaff 1; Willow Warbler 1; Bullfinch 1[4](1). Totals: 6 adults ringed from 4 species, 28 juveniles ringed from 10 species and 5 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 39 birds processed from 13 species. This compares somewhat better with the equivalent session in 2019 in which 58 birds were processed from 16 species. The key difference is in the number of retrapped birds (17) which, given how quiet the sessions have been to date this year, is entirely unsurprising.

We had birds continuously throughout the morning between their arrival at 9:00 and their leaving at just before midday. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable morning. Thanks to David for doing the donkey work of extracting the birds whilst the demonstration was in progress and to his dad, Trevor, for helping us pack away at the end of the session.

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