Recent recruit Dawn, recounts her first 8 weeks ringing with Stanford Ringing Group -
I truly struggle to get out of bed at 06:30 each day for work, but when my alarm goes off at 03:10 on Saturday I practically bounce out of bed. At 04:20, the hedgerows leading towards the reservoir are littered with Yellowhammers. Mist fills the hollows and creeps behind the hedges. This is a truly beautiful site. As I cross the humpbacked bridge immediately before the meet point, I feel a now-familiar tingle of excitement. What will we see and handle today…what will I learn? And perhaps a little pessimistically, what will I have forgotten?!
Putting the nets up can be like a game of hide and seek, looking for poles and green guys in long green grass is challenging in the half-light. I’m told that I’ve seen nothing yet – just wait until the winter comes when we’ll be fumbling about in the pitch dark.
There’s a buzz in the air as the first net round comes back in. Literally dozens of birds are caught first thing and a good balance must be found between processing the birds quickly and educating us trainees. The quantity of birds diminishes for each net round and soon there is more time for training.
“What age is this bird?” John asks me. I look at the bird and try not to panic. Clearly, telepathy is the answer – please little bird, give me your secrets. And as the weeks progress, the birds do give up their secrets. Eye colour, wing length, counting white spots, analysing growth bars and plumage are just some of the things I’ve learned. Everything is just beginning to make sense when along comes Moult. Ah. Now there are all kinds of different things to understand. I’m sure around about the time I’m getting the hang of this, many of the birds will disappear off on their long migration.
So far I’ve been very lucky as there has been only one wet day in the 8 weeks I’ve been training, forcing us to end the session early. Often though, the wind picks up and we have to take the nets down. Then we’ll ring some Pulli. So far, the chicks I’ve held include tawny owls, tree sparrows, blue tits, great tits, reed warblers, stock doves and jackdaws.
To round the day off, we pop to the local pub together and I indulge in a pint of coke. What else could I possibly want to do on a Saturday morning?