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Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Welsh Ringing Course, September 6-9, 2019 A trainee’s view





                                      Members of the course trapped over 500 birds during the weekend



   It is 11pm on the first night of the course, and our group is already out on the wild and remote Gower coast, with far-reaching views to the lighthouse on Lundy, and the waterfront at Llanelli. We are getting a lesson in dazzling waders.

We take it in turns individually to go out with Tony Cross, one of the UK’s most experienced lampers, and a man rumoured to ring at least one bird every day of his life.

In a couple of hours we net 32 birds: Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Sanderling.
Given a surfeit of enthusiasm, we have some difficulty persuading Tony to stop. Only the prospect of an early start in the morning eventually forces us home, after a cracking start to the weekend.



                                              A young Grey Wagtail caught at Oxwich on the course


Next morning we start mist-netting on Oxwich Marsh, a mixed scrub and reed site which yields a good variety of warblers, finches and pipits.

Among the top species were 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 11 Stonechats, 3 House Martins and no less than 7 Tree Pipits. Later we catch some 50 Swallows and Wagtails at an evening roost.

One of the biggest revelations for me personally was the use of spring traps, baited with meal worms.
Martin Thomas rings a good proportion of all the Meadow Pipits ringed in Wales using this method, and he demonstrated just how effective they can be. Over 2 afternoons he caught 15 Rock Pipits in a small coastal cove, which was a new species for all of us trainees.

In poor weather, or for a C permit holder without a mist net endorsement, these traps provide an excellent alternative.

                                              A Rock Pipit caught with a spring trap

We were lucky with the weather, and caught a little over 500 birds in total, so the trainees got to process an average of around 50 birds each. One of our team managed 10 new species!  (see totals below).

That having been said, this course has consistently caught reasonable numbers of birds, even when the weather has not been so kind. Wader dazzling and spring traps provide flexibility if it is wet or windy – which in September is a greater risk.

Last but not least, course organiser Kelvin Jones sends out a brilliant after-care package, containing tips on ageing and moult, and a series of quizzes, certain to cause hours of debate over a pint.


If you are looking to choose a course, here’s why you should consider this one:

1.      The philosophy is about learning and having fun. It is distinctly non-competitive and friendly. So no one is going to shout at you for making a mistake. It feels genuinely inclusive, with equal numbers of male and female participants.

2.      There are only ten trainees on the course, divided into two groups of five, which means an excellent teacher/pupil ratio.

3.      You will be on the Gower Peninsular, a spectacular part of the country. The 2019 course attracted attendees from as far away as Norfolk, Liverpool and Yorkshire
.
4.      If the weather is bad, there are alternatives to mist netting.

5.      The ringing programme is brilliantly organised by Owain Gabb, with help from lots of Gower Ringing Group field assistants, who open the nets, do all the scribing etc. Martin Hughes from Northumberland and Justin Walker from the BTO were excellent tutors
.
6.      Accommodation is in bunk beds indoors. Mostly dormitories, but some smaller rooms are also available. Basic comfort, but great if you don’t fancy camping. Breakfast and dinner included, for a very reasonable cost
.
7.      The Gower Inn is 60 seconds walk from the accommodation. What’s not to like??

Brian Milligan, course participant


Species Name
Ringed
Recapt
Total
Blackbird
8
6
14
Blackcap
65
1
66
Blue Tit
32
33
65
Bullfinch
1
1
Cetti's Warbler
3
5
8
Chaffinch
3
3
Chiffchaff
29
1
30
Coal Tit
1
1
2
Dunlin
7
7
Dunnock
8
7
15
Garden Warbler
1
1
Goldcrest
6
6
Goldfinch
1
1
Grasshopper Warbler
2
2
Great Spotted Woodpecker
1
1
Great Tit
10
9
19
Greenfinch
23
23
Grey Wagtail
6
6
House Martin
3
3
Long-tailed Tit
7
5
12
Pied/White Wagtail
11
11
Reed Bunting
4
4
Reed Warbler
18
3
21
Ringed Plover
11
11
Robin
14
9
23
Rock Pipit
13
2
15
Sand Martin
1
1
Sanderling
1
1
Sedge Warbler
12
1
13
Song Thrush
1
1
Stonechat
11
11
Swallow
59
59
Tree Pipit
7
7
Turnstone
13
13
Whitethroat
6
3
9
Willow Warbler
9
9
Wren
10
8
18
Grand Total
417
95
512

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Brian. Your feedback is hugely appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is an excellent initiative. Well done to all. As a member of Glamorgan Bird Club I am in awe of the expertise within the ringing community and it's it's strength on Gower and within the GOS.

    ReplyDelete