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.
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.