Bird Ringing

In his “History of Devonshire Ornithology” David Jenks (2004) wrote, “I think it is fair to say that ninety years’ of ringing in Devon has provided us with more knowledge of the county’s birds than all other ornithological pursuits put together”. This point is arguable and, as a ringer himself, Jenks admits to the possibility of bias but there is no doubt that the scientific ringing of birds was responsible for the recognition of the importance of South Milton Ley to breeding, passage and wintering birds and contributed greatly to the subsequent decision by Devon Birds to acquire the site.

Bob Burridge and colleagues first evaluated the suitability of South Milton Ley for ringing in February 1968 and operations commenced during May 1969. Since those early days, ringing has continued on an ad hoc basis with up to five qualified ringers operating at the site at its peak. Devon Birds has always actively supported scientific ringing at South Milton Ley, not least by installing and maintaining the ringing hut on the north-west side of the reserve and more recently by funding new steel mist net poles and improvements to the net rides.

Extracting a warbler from a mist net in Marsh Ride

Ringing activities must be risk assessed and all ringers must abide by the rules of the B.T.O. ringing scheme and the Ringers Manual and within any restrictions imposed by the reserve management team. Mist net rides were initially confined to the seaward end of the reedbed but are now distributed throughout the length of the reserve. Access to some of the these, particularly those at the western end of the reserve, may be prevented during periods with high water levels and conditions may also be imposed by the management team, for example during the breeding season. Additional sites may be used on occasions provided nets do not obstruct paths but no new net rides may be cut without the express permission of the management team. A copy of the current ringing risk assessment can be found here: SML Ringing Risk Assessment.

SML Net Rides
Location of principal mist net rides at South Milton Ley. (Map data: Google, 2015)
Net NumberNameLength (metres)
4Telegraph (removed following the widening of Horswell Ditch)18
9Lower Marsh18-36
10Ringing Hut18

Names and lengths of principal mist net rides at South Milton Ley.

SML Ringing Hut net ride 2017-05-31 2Ringing Hut Ride

SML Lower Marsh net ride 2017-05-31 3Lower Marsh Ride

SML Marsh ride from south 2017-07-06 4Marsh Ride

Blaca Ride

Willow Ride 2Willow Ride

SML Telegraph Net Ride 2016-12-01 Alan Pomroy 1.JPG

Telegraph Ride

Crake Ride 2019Crake Ride 25/05/2019

Crest Ride 2

Crest Ride