Inspiring people, one bird at a time

Hazeley Heath Bird Ringing Demonstration ~ 22nd February 2015 ~ 

Back in August 2011 I attended Birdfair, the annual birding event held at Rutland Water. The BTO had a stand there and were putting on a bird ringing demonstration for the public to see and get involved with by being able to release some of the birds. Being the wildly enthusiastic and bird-loving youngster that I was, I was totally fascinated by this and was absolutely delighted to be asked if I'd like to release a Sedge Warbler.

This event got me, and has since shaped my life in a way I could never have imagined.


I don't think I stopped grinning or talking about it for the next month or so while I tried to find a trainer who would take on a 13 year old trainee. Eventually, I did, and for that I will be forever grateful - I owe a huge amount to my old trainer, not only for training me up to be a competent ringer with the skill set needed to deal with a variety of ringing situations, but also for the advice he gave me on everything from education to business, decision-making to making the most of the opportunities that get thrown at me and many other things too.

It is thanks to the demo at Birdfair all those years ago that I am now a qualified C Ringer and my passion for birds, their conservation, ecology and behaviour is more deep-seated than ever before.

So enough reminiscing and back to the present. Way back in January, Martin asked if I would be able to help with a ringing demo on Hazeley Heath, one of our usual sites, in conjunction with the Hart Countryside Services. Of course I said yes and marked the weekend on my calendar to ensure I kept it free.

Last week was half term and I had fellow young birder, NGB and photographer Sorrel Lyall come to stay for a few days with the aim of doing some ringing, getting her a lifer or two and seeing some nice birds. You can read her blog about her visit here: http://sorrellyallwildlife.weebly.com/wildlife-blog/ringing-with-josie-hewitt-in-hampshire While Sorrel was here I checked the weather forecast for the weekend quite frequently because it was looking iffy and until lunchtime of decision day (Friday 20th) it looked as if the ringing demo would have to be cancelled as the forecast was for it to be windy and to start raining at 10am! Thankfully, by about 15.00 that afternoon, the forecast looked rather different and was good enough to warrant the demo going ahead, even if there was the chance we may have to pack up slightly early.

Sunday dawned bright and early, but not too early thankfully, as my alarm was set for 6.00. Martin picked me up at 6.30 and we headed to Hazeley where we met Ian, another ringer, loaded up with all the kit and headed over to the net rides. It took us about 40 minutes to put up all the usual nets and then we returned to base where we processed a Song Thrush and Great Tit and then waited there until Dave, the countryside ranger, turned up with all the demo stuff - marquee, table, display box, demonstration net etc... We then moved all our chairs, rucksack and other stuff over to Dave's van where we then set up the marquee, table and other bits and bobs, ready for when members of the public started to arrive.

Over the course of the morning approximately 50 people stopped to see what we were doing, many stayed for ages, fascinated by the birds and hearing all about ageing and sexing techniques as well as background information on species and any re-traps we had the original ringing data for. It was awesome to have so many people captivated by what we were showing and telling them! We caught a lovely variety of species including 3 Siskin, 1 Lesser Redpoll, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Goldfinch and of course the obligatory Blue Tits and Dunnocks.

The weather held out for much longer than expected and we definitely got packed up just in the nick of time, as the rain started almost as soon as we got back in the car to head home.

All in all the demo went really well and to be fair, really couldn't have gone much better!!

There were two main highlights for me. Firstly, it was fantastic to see young people taking an interest in the birds and secondly, but most importantly (for me), the huge smiles on people's faces at seeing the birds up close and people's faces completely lighting up with massive grins when we helped them release a bird.

And that's what it was all about for me - inspiring and engaging others, while increasing awareness and educating people about birds and the environment.


Here are some photos from the morning:

















Snipe Ringing

Snipe Ringing ~ 8th February 2015 ~ 

Yesterday evening (Saturday) Martin, Liz, Andy and I headed to Fleet Pond at 7pm to set the nets for this morning's session. We set all the usual nets - the straight double and dog-legged triple but we also set the extra double as we had high hopes after the last session (20 birds of which 18 were new)!

This morning dawned bright and early and Martin got there first to open the nets and then Liz, Andy and I got to the site for 6.15 to join Martin and Ian joined us shortly after. We donned our waders and then headed down to the marsh with all the kit.

Approximately 45 minutes before sunrise seems to be the optimal time for heading out onto the marsh and despite it being very clear with a very bright moon (not ideal conditions by any means), at just after 6.40 we decided to give it a go. When we were setting nets last night, there was a lot of evidence that Snipe had been roosting all around the nets - lots of poo on the ground and the odd feather - so we were very hopeful of a good catch this morning.

As we walked towards the nets we flushed a few birds, some flew straight over the top of the nets, or even round them. We quickly extracted those that had been caught in the nets and returned to base, where we ringed and processed them. In total we caught 11 Snipe, including 1 re-trap and a Song Thrush (quite unexpected)!





2014 at a glance

2014 - what a year!

Well, that's 2014 nearly over and done with but wow, what a year it's been. I've had some pretty bloody amazing opportunities, visited some fantastic places and met loads of wonderful and inspiring people so I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been a part of it. 

A special mention must go to A Focus On Nature and the Next Generation Birders as well as all the ringers & birders that have offered their advice and/or enthusiasm over the last year; for without the help of all the people around me, I would definitely not have achieved as much as I have over the last 12 months.

Here are some of my 2014 highlights in pictures:


A very obliging Grey Phalarope in East Sussex
A memorable encounter that I shared with some fellow AFON
members on the Somerset Levels
The group of us that spoke at the AFON #youngbirders workshop
at the BTO
My first ever Stone Curlews which rounded off an amazing day
at the #youngbirders workshop
It was a privilege to follow the breeding trials and tribulations
of a pair of Starlings that nested in my neighbours roof
Ringing some young birds of prey, such as this Kestrel, was
an unforgettable experience
Meeting other young like-minded birders is always good fun
Ringing some Barn Owl chicks and meeting some more great
people thanks to AFON
Finally catching up with a Nightjar at a ringing session
after 6 failed attempts
A trip to the Farne Islands with 7 other young photographers
Cairngorm family 'selfie' - fantastic wildlife, scenery and company (most of the time)
Masses of jellyfish washed up on a beach on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula
Spotted Flycatcher trapped and ringed in Hampshire - a cracking
species to have in the hand
A few days spent at Portland Bird Observatory with some good
birds and cracking company 
I <3 my patch - Nightjars, Dartford Warblers & Woodlark...
what more could you want?!
Met some amazing people on the NGB Bardsey trip
Stunning scenery on Bardsey Island
Some cracking birds on Bardsey too
After 3 years of training, I achieved my C Permit for ringing!!!
There's nothing quite like being out on a marsh in the freezing cold
catching some lovely birds and great company too
What a way to end the year - speaking at the BTO Conference with
5 of my birding friends in front of c.300 people. Very nerve wracking
but an amazing opportunity and experience nonetheless

Thanks again to everyone who has supported me over the last 12 months. I am extremely grateful for all your support and really do appreciate it because without it, I wouldn't have done or achieved half as much as I have managed in the last year, so for that I really do thank you.

So, with only 5 minutes of 2014 remaining, here's to 2015 - I hope it's a good one! Happy New Year folks!