Friday, December 10, 2010

Many new rings to read

Winter is not only the perfect season for reading bird rings, but also for catching some of the species that are often colour-ringed. This year is no exception. Over the past week hundreds of gulls were caught and ringed with metal and colour-rings by gull researcher Frank Majoor and colleagues and today a number of Tundra Bean Geese (first of this season in NL?) were caught and ringed together with a few Bewick’s and Whooper Swans. Below a short report to get you all focused again!

We hadn’t even been standing on our spot for a full hour yet but I could already hardly feel my toes. The thin soles of my rubber boots didn’t give a lot of isolation from the cold slippery ice on the asphalt. It was another cold morning in the Wieringermeer. We kept an eye on the white and brown spots on a distant sugar beet field that were swans and geese. Some Tree Sparrows and Skylarks called when they flew over our heads. We could have been standing there waiting for hours and hours, but fortunately our cannon-detonator soon told us over the radio to get ready for some action. After a 3 to 1 countdown we first saw swans and geese taking off and a large net falling over a part of the flock. Only a second or two later we heard the bang. Canon-netting, shooting a net over a flock of birds, is just about the only way to catch adult geese and swans. After a quick and smooth collection of the birds we set up our little ringing station in one of the local farms’ sheds. For several scientific purposes the birds were then ringed, weighed and measured. The catch was quite successful and we were able to ring the first large batch of 25 Tundra Bean Geese of the season.

Tundra Bean Goose in the loving hands of Wim Tijsen 

In the flock of geese we had also caught 3 Bewick’s and 6 Whooper Swans. Besides a metal and a colour ring on the legs, the geese and the Bewick’s Swans also got a yellow neck collar with a black code which makes it a lot easier to identify them in the field. Some special attention was paid to the shape of the bill and head of the bean geese because of the continuing discussion about the identification of Tundra and Taiga Bean Goose. Surely these birds were all Tundra, but still we thought it’d be useful to take photos of all the heads. After all birds were ringed and all measurements were taken the geese were released at the catch site and the swans, following standard procedure, a few hundred meters further away, on the IJsselmeer. All birds appeared in fine condition and happy to be free again, so now it’s waiting for resightings! All resightings can be reported on the website

 Famous goose and swan catcher Kees Oosterbeek at work

Then a few words about the ringed gulls. I received word that gull researcher Frank Majoor and his crew have caught and ringed a large amount of gulls (Black-headed, Common and Herring) in the Netherlands last week. For example on the 3rd of December >250 Black-headed Gulls and almost 200 Common Gulls were caught in Zoetermeer. All of the latter species got a white colour ring beside a metal one. The next day, on the 4th of December, about 400 Black-headed Gulls, 125 Common Gulls and 90 Herring Gulls were caught in the city of Groningen. Again all Common Gulls were also colour ringed. The grand total of caught and ringed gulls last week is 1310 Black-headed and 369 Common Gulls. This means that we’ve got a lot of ring reading to do again! More information about this project can be found on the website Frank Majoor is also the one you should contact when you’ve read a white colour ring on a gull.

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