Abbey Meads Community School: Thursday, 19th January 2023

I was privileged to be asked to do a presentation on bird ringing to the year 4 age group at Abbey Meads Community School (I don’t understand the school year system: I believe year 4 are 9/10 years of age). This came about because Zara, one of the children who occasionally join our ringing sessions, has been telling all of her classmates about bird ringing and this was her class. She is an enthusiast and is a competent ringer.

I was approached through her mum, Claire, and put in touch with the school when I agreed. After a visit to meet with Zara’s teacher, Tracy Dangerfield, where I had a chance to look around the school grounds, it was clear that there would be the possibility of doing a bit more than just talking about it. They have a small area with some wildlife ponds in and the school is very focused on exposing their pupils to the natural world. The school sports field is surrounded on three sides by varying depths of woodland. At the east and west ends of the field they have set up a number of feeding stations: mainly half coconut shells filled with fat and peanuts, and a couple of seed feeders.

When I arrived this morning, I checked in with reception, showed them my enhanced CRB registration document, and met up with Tracy. We did a walk around the field and checked the feeding stations at each end, and decided that the eastern end would be the better, as there was more activity there. I set a single line of just two nets one 18m and one 9m, which covered a line of 8 feeders.

I did my talk, from just after 11:00 until just after 11:30. There must have been 50 children in attendance. When I demonstrated the use of a Potter Trap they were intrigued. When I then demonstrated the use of one of my spring traps, they wanted me to set it up by the feeders! They loved it.

The children were really interested throughout, and there were lots of questions, and it was lovely chatting to them all. Mind, I probably ought to just say that I don’t like Grey Squirrels, rather than that I would happily shoot the lot of them, to a room full of 8-year olds! What was nice about the talk I put together was that I was able to use some of our recent data to illustrate salient reasons for ringing birds: movement within the country (our long-distance Blue Tit); migration (our record breaking Redwing recovery) and longevity (our record breaking Goldcrest).

At the end of the talk I left to open the nets to see if we might catch some of the birds that had been using the feeders. I couldn’t believe it: as I started opening up the nets, a chainsaw started up at the house marked with an X on the photo! What a nightmare: the birds just disappeared, and I ended up catching just a single Robin. Unfortunately, the noise of the chainsaw didn’t stop and, rather than keep the children out in the cold, we decided to call it a day. However, the children were very happy and excited with what they had seen. I sometimes forget just how enthusiastic children can be: they were queuing up to tell me how much they had enjoyed it. Three of Zara’s classmates have asked whether they can join me for some ringing sessions. We shall see how that develops.

We had some lovely views of a Green Woodpecker taking advantage of the school sport’s field. Apparently he is a regular. There was also a Herring Gull on the field: they nested on the school building roofs last summer. I have offered to make this a regular occurrence and the school are keen for me to do so.

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