Bird ringing is an essential element to the understanding of birds because the number of birds ringed generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing.
Although, we have been bird surveying and ringing in Britain and Ireland for over 100 years, we are still discovering new facts about migration routes, breeding and wintering areas.
I’ve recently got back from the Strait of Gibraltar Bird Observatory where I was involved with the ringing group there. We ringed many migratory birds including nightjar, scops owl, black redstart and various finches.
The ringing being undertaken at this observatory is important to identify changes in the migration patterns of bird species, particularly in relation to factors such as climate change. Migration is a challenge within nature conservation work since many populations of birds regularly move over large areas, and problems en route or in the wintering quarters can result in declining breeding populations in areas far away. Many migratory birds are declining in numbers and detailed survey information about the annual movements, including important stop-over sites (i.e Gibraltar) and winter quarters, is a top conservation priority.
I am also a member of Chew Valley Ringing Station where we monitor the resident birds but also witness the gradual incoming of migratory birds. However, bird recordings have seen an all time low compared to previous years. The wet summer of 2012 and the subsequent cold winter are thought to be a factor. Body fat and muscle are recorded when the bird is in the hand which determines the general health of the bird, so whether it has been feeding enough. So having extended phases of wet seasons can have a detrimental effect on the population of our resident birds as well as our migratory birds.
As a dedicated bird ringer I will be continuing this hobby if mine to further support the British Trust for Ornithology, and let’s hope that bird numbers will increase in 2014!