The Early Bird Catches… The Bird!

‘Pray for rain’, it’s not what you usually hear from bird ringers. When mist netting we usually want calm, dry, overcast conditions. Not rain. But this morning we were not aiming to catch birds with a mist net. This morning we were joining Tony Cross, a mid-Wales based ringer, who is a dab hand at catching birds using a method called ‘dazzle and net’. It was also the first time in a very very long time, that my alarm was set with a two in it! Even New Year celebrations saw me hopping into bed at just after midnight. But with a nearly full moon, and recently clear skies, our best chances were to be had in the early morning and to take advantage of that forecast for wet weather.

Once again in the pitch dark, and climbing higher into the hills, the forecast rain certainly made an appearance. Only as we climbed suddenly it switched, through the headlight beam the rain drops turned to snow flakes, soon it was snowing heavily and the view ahead looked more like hyper-drive on the Millennium Falcon. On arriving at the site it was off into the wind, snow, the ground sodden and crunchy all at the same time. In places it sucked at your feet, creating loud squelching noises, not good for a stealthy approach to birds!

It was not until the third field, and having flushed a fair few Snipe and Golden Plover, that our luck finally came in and Tony landed a Woodcock.  The first bird for Tony in 2015 and by the light of the torch it was clear the bird was already ringed. Closer inspection however revealed that this was not a British BTO ring, it was a ring from the Latvian ringing scheme! In five years of catching Woodcock, and ringing over 2000 different birds unbelievably this was the first one to be caught with a foreign ring on it! Cue delighted whoops from Tony! What a privilege to be there on this morning.

Star of the Show – the Latvian ringed Woodcock

As we explored more fields, we managed to catch a few more birds. A couple more Woodcock, both unringed this time, a Snipe (have had a lot of practice ageing those recently!), a Fieldfare, and an absolutely cracking Golden Plover. Only the Latvian ringed Woodcock could top that bird for me!

Stunning Golden Plover

As dawn approached the snow eased, to be replaced by misty, drizzly fog. The seeping blue light of dawn revealed a still snowy landscape, with trees and the edges of fields hidden by mist, and a trio of rather soggy, cold but very happy ringers.

Read more about the Latvian Woodcock at Tony’s blog Ruffled Feathers.


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