Following on from ringing a couple of birds at the Mere Falconry Centre (having being blown away at the chance to get up close and personal with a Peregrine Falcon), I have been lucky enough to be asked to ring birds at the RSPCA Oak & Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre. It helped that the Centre Manager, Rachel, used to work for the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and came across my activities through that route.
So, my new project for 2023 is to ring the larger and more unusual birds that are brought into their centre (although I am writing this today because I have actually started this week). We have discussed how to proceed and agreed that I won’t ring the commoner small Passerine species. I have just notified the BTO of the project, and am waiting with bated breath to get stuck into the bureaucracy, to finalise the project details.
In the meanwhile, Rachel contacted me at the end of last week, as she has a number of birds almost ready for release. On Tuesday afternoon I went on site to ring a Tawny Owl and a Barn Owl. The Tawny was an eye-opener for me: it had arrived at the centre with a broken wing. They fixed it and the bird has fully recovered and was ready for release. I have always assumed that a broken wing would lead to the bird being euthanised. Clearly that is not the case. I was able to both age and sex the bird using the guide referred to at the end of this blog piece.
The Barn Owl had been found suffering from an infection that had affected its vision. It is coming to the end of its treatment, has already successfully flown without mishap and will be released soon. I could age and sex the bird based on its plumage. Female Barn Owls have black specks on the white underwing coverts. The number and size is variable, and males may have a few but they are few and tiny. This specimen was definitely female.
Today I was asked back to ring a couple of Buzzards: by the time I arrived there were four!
The first Buzzard that I ringed had been found on the ground in the Swindon area and was malnourished. Although it has no sign of physical injury, it is being fed up before release back into the wild. It is putting on weight, but it still needs to put on at least another 100g before it is released.
The middle two birds had been brought in each with one broken wing: one has healed completely and is capable of flight. It will be released very soon. The other’s wing is still splinted, but it is mending and expected to make a full recovery:
The fourth bird, the most recent arrival, has a hip displacement issue, but is in otherwise good health. It weighed in at a decent 1,050g, which identifies it as a female: males top out at a weight of 980g. It will be x-rayed tomorrow to establish what exactly the problem is.
All birds were capable of being aged, based on the pattern on their tail feathers using Jeff Baker’s guide. (Baker, J.: Identification of European Passerines – A BTO Guide, pp 192 -195). The two with broken wings were juveniles that fledged this year, the other two were adults.
I cannot understate how impressed I was with the work the staff at the centre are carrying out and how much they manage to achieve.