Rehabilitation and Ringing

I was approached, through the contact page of this blog, by a gentleman named Allan Gates, of the Mere Down Falconry Centre, about the possibility of my ringing two birds of prey that he is currently rehabilitating.

A few years ago I had a chat with the Oak & Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre about the possibility of ringing birds that they have rehabilitated prior to release. They were quite keen, and so was I – they had the most astonishing number of Spotted Flycatcher juveniles brought in from local woodlands, that they were hand-rearing, and which were very close to fledging and, at the time, Spotted Flycatcher had not been ringed in the Braydon Forest area.

I contacted the BTO and found that the process involved creating a project plan, paying for a special licence, paying a premium on every ring used (volunteer ringers pay for every ring we use and the cheapest is about 25p these days – my Barn Owl rings cost £2.00 per), and one was supposed to also estimate the number of those birds that you would expect to recapture and pay a fee upfront for each expected recapture. I decided that was both too bureaucratic and too expensive for me to take it on: bureaucracy being the biggest factor. I am not keen on paperwork.

However, as one of the birds being rehabilitated was a Peregrine, I was excited at the possibility and contacted the BTO again. This time I was delighted to be told that, provided this was to be an ad hoc arrangement, there was no need to do any of what had previously been expected of me. Brilliant! The second bird is a Kestrel, with a very interesting tale to tell.

I arranged with Allan to visit his facility on Thursday afternoon. It really is a fascinating place with an astonishing collection of birds of prey. Allan doesn’t open to the general public, either taking specific bookings for tailored activities at his site, but also attending local shows and activities to inform, educate and display the birds.

We dealt with the Kestrel first. This was a second year female. She was found by a local farmer having somehow managed to get into a barrel that had previously held some resin. Unfortunately, there was enough of it left in and around the edges of the barrel to coat her feathers. So many of her primaries and secondaries had stuck together that it was impossible for her to fly. Allan has spent an age cleaning her up, and using talcum powder to help separate the feathers. Unfortunately, the vanes of the individual feathers themselves are still sticking together and she is still unable to fly. She has started her moult, and new, clean feathers are already in evidence. Allan will be monitoring her moult and, as soon as she has completed her moult, she will be released back into the wild. In the meantime she will be well cared for at the centre.

The second bird was the aforementioned Peregrine. What a stunning individual:

Juvenile Female Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus

The bird was found on the ground unable to fly, holding its right wing in an awkward position, and brought to Allan for his attention. He took it to his local vet, who was happy to x-ray the bird. Fortunately, it showed that, although there was some bruising and swelling, the wing was not broken. It is now being treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and, hopefully, will be overcome its problems and soon be flying again.

It is a female bird that fledged this year. To me the most exciting thing about this bird is the fact that it was not already ringed! We hear all of the time about known nesting sites, which are monitored every year, and where the young are ringed in the nest, but this is Wiltshire and, outside of the pair on Salisbury Cathedral, records of breeding Peregrine Falcon are virtually non-existent. Where did it come from?

I was delighted to have the opportunity and very pleased to meet with Allan and Kayleigh, his assistant. Lovely people.

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