The Pleasure…and Pain of Ringing

Saturday, Easter weekend and we woke to the faint patter of rain on canvas and the dawn chorus of birds. Quietly, so as not to disturb slumbering parents, we dressed, left the caravan and headed out into the early morning light to meet with local ringer Tony Cross.

Heading north we drove into the rugged landscape of North Wales through sweeping valleys, along twisting roads and past reddish, brown and green mountains with occasional patches of brilliant white snow, a reminder that its not quite summer yet. After an hour we had arrived in a beautiful woodland, with moss covering fallen trees and ancient walls, browned leaves crackling softly under foot.

Here, amongst the hornbeam and beech, Tony has a feeding site for a rather special woodland bird… the hawfinch. A rather large, beautiful finch with a huge bill, capable of cracking opens cherry stones, the hawfinch is another British bird that has undergone a large-scale decline since the 1940s. Tony’s project involves colour ringing adults to try and increase sightings of this species which is usually very difficult to catch.

A beautiful male Hawfinch, complete with colour ring

The weather was perfect, the earlier rain having ceased and the sky cloudy with only occasional bursts of sunshine sparkling through the trees. Birds were dropping down readily to the food covering the ground, and on take off flying directly into our nets.

Our task was then to extract them from the net, ring and measure them, all the while avoiding that powerful beak! Easier said then done!

An equally beautiful female hawfinch…check out that bill though!

In total we caught 21 hawfinches, all of which were given a uniquely numbered metal ring and a colour ring. A huge thanks must go to Tony for such a superb day’s ringing and for giving us the opportunity to get up close, and in some cases a little too personal (well my fingers think so anyway!) with these amazing and beautiful birds.

And so to the pain…..
and boy does it hurt when these guys get hold of you!

 You can follow Tony’s ringing activities at his Blog also!

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