On the 14th August 2018 I ringed a number of Sedge Warblers at South Milton Ley. I’ve just heard that one of these, a first year bird, was controlled at Sandouville, Seine-Maritime, France, 311km ESE just two days later and then, amazingly trapped for a third time at Mars-Ouest, Sant-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu, Loire-Atlantique, France, a further 330km SE on 23rd August. What are the chances of that? Time to buy a lottery ticket I think!
For the last two autumns, I have been targeting southward bound Tree Pipits as they pass over SML. The realisation that they are suckers for tape lures playing their song, even in what seems like the most unsuitable habitat, tempted me into trying and, although catching them in a reed bed sounds unlikely, they could be tempted to settle in the tops of willows and eventually their curiosity would draw them down to the tape player in the grassy strip at the bottom of the net ride. Result – some ending up in the net. This year however, Tree Pipits were thin on the ground so, in mid-September, I switched my attention to Meadow Pipits, who suffer from the same fatal attraction.
The recommended method for trapping Meadow Pipits is to set three nets in a triangle around a bush and tape lure the birds in. There isn’t a suitable open space at South Milton so I tried the Tree Pipit method. So far this year it’s yielded 37 birds. Most pipits are trapped in targeted operations and few are caught by chance so, with such low numbers involved, I had no expectation of any recoveries. I was, therefore, pretty surprised (and excited) to receive a ringing recovery report last evening. My excitement was tempered by the realisation that the bird had only travelled 18km and that the recovery wasn’t going to add a great deal to our knowledge of the species. Still it’s the first ever Meadow Pipit control for SML and having a bird ringed and controlled the next day must also be a pretty rare event for the species. End result – a brief period of smug self-satisfaction!
Receiving a ringing recovery report from the BTO always generates a moment’s excitement. In the case of Reed Warbler BF09952, this was tempered by the fact that I knew the bird was carrying a Dutch ring when I trapped it at SML on 22nd August 2017 and had been waiting for over 14 months for the details to arrive. The bird was a 1st year, ringed at Erlecom, Ubbergen, Gelderland, The Netherlands on 11th August 2017 and controlled at South Milton 11 days and 707 km later.
The ringing recovery referred to in my previous post relates to a 1st year, male Blackcap, ringed at South Milton Ley on 16th September 2017 and controlled at Puente de Celemín, Benalup de Sidonia, Cádiz, Spain on 22nd November 2017, a distance of 1,554km almost due south of SML.
No great surprise in the location, slap bang in the middle of the normal wintering area for British-ringed birds in the western Mediterranean but, as this is the first ever foreign control of a Blackcap in nearly 50 years of ringing at SML, I think I am entitled to a moment of smug self-satisfaction!
The map above, cropped from the BTO’s Birdfacts webpages, depicts foreign ringing and recovery locations of Blackcaps encountered in Britain or Ireland. Purple dots indicate locations where birds that have been ringed in Britain or Ireland have been found and Yellow dots indicate ringing locations of birds subsequently found in Britain or Ireland.
I’ve just returned home, after two weeks in sunnier climes, to find a BTO – Ringing Recovery Report sitting in my Inbox. The bird in question was a Blackcap, ringed at SML and controlled in southern Spain. The use of the word “Recovery” started me thinking about the nomenclature employed by British ringers and use of the terms Control, Recovery and Encounter in particular.
My personal view is that a Control is a ringed bird, which has been caught elsewhere by another ringer and released unharmed to go on its merry way. In the darker reaches of my head I tend to think of a Recovery as relating to a bird, which has met either a natural or untimely death and ironically, the one thing it won’t be doing is recovering any time soon!
However, in BTO-speak, a Recovery is a subsequent encounter with a ring, irrespective of whether its owner was alive or dead, re-captured by a ringer, found under a window, brought in by the cat or whether the number was read through a telescope. Note the use of the word Encounter in the previous sentence. This now replaces both Control and Recovery in the latest, on-line version of the BTO’s ringing software – DemOn, where all contacts with a ring from the date of ringing onwards are referred to as Encounters. Grudgingly, I think this makes sense as it encompasses all possibilities by which a ring number could be recorded, and I cannot think of a more suitable alternative, despite scouring a thesaurus.
I’m struggling with the demise of the Control though. It still seems the most appropriate term when a ringed bird is subsequently recaptured elsewhere. There are checks involved. It is a form of control where the ring number, identity, age and sex of a bird are recorded and is not dissimilar from the process at UK airports. I suspect it will be some time before I return from holiday overseas via Passport Encounters or the nice man from Building Encounters comes around to check I have used the correct size beams in my new extension!
Details of three birds controlled at South Milton Ley have been received from the BTO:
1. A Reed Warbler, ringed as a juvenile on 31st July 2016 at Westdown Plantation, Wiltshire, UK and controlled as an adult female at SML on 8th July 2017.
2. A Reed Warbler, ringed as an adult female on 2nd July 2017 at RSPB Cors Ddyga, Anglesey, UK and controlled at SML on 16th September 2017.
3. A Chiffchaff, ringed as a juvenile on 26th June 2017 at Hartland Point, Devon, UK and controlled as an adult female at SML on 16th September 2017.