Bird Ringing

bird in netbags bags

I arrived in the moors around 5am, Damian, Wilf and Martin had already set up the bird nets; one of which stretched out down the length of the path that leads to the pond. Damian and Wilf had removed some birds from the net and placed them in white cotton bags, which now hung from a stick wedged into a stack of wood. The occasional movement of the birds’ wings and feet within the bags, produced a fascinating yet slightly disturbing sound: a strange rustle that seemed simultaneously quiet and close, reminiscent of moth wings against a window pane or lamp shade.
The ringing process is quite intense, and accompanied by an almost poetic litany of spoken calculations, as the birds are measured, weighed, identified, ringed and released. Occasionally a bird voices its anger or pecks at the fingers of the hand holding it. Martin told me that the Thrush provides the most vocal protest, except of course when I’m recording: Wilf pulled a Thrush from a cotton bag, measured, weighed, ringed and released the bird without it ever making a single sound. However, in the second sound file above we can hear the poetic calculation of a Blackbird and its voiced disapproval as it passes through the ringing process.
The untangling of the birds from the pocket of the nets is quite elegant. It takes five years of training to be able to remove the birds confidently, and as Damian says, it becomes an intuitive process. The movement of the hands and fingers seem to perform an intricate digital ballet, as the bird is eloquently and quickly removed. Some of the people who had come to watch the bird ringing had the unique honour of releasing a bird from their hand and feeling its departure back into the air.

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