Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Elevators, Cannons, Mists and Ringing by Zach Haynes

I’m Zach and I’ve always loved nature but only got really serious about it when I started a blog just over a year ago. Through doing that I got to meet loads of great nature groups and people and especially birders. Everyone has been really friendly, helpful and encouraging and it’s given me the chance to do a lot of things I hadn’t done before including bird ringing which has to be one of my favourite activities. I love it as you can get so close to the birds and see little features you don’t usually see. Birds are even more beautiful close up! Another thing I didn’t know is that there are many different ways to actually catch the different types of birds. I thought I would take you through some of the catching methods that I have experience with.

Mist Netting:
This is a technique that I first saw at High Batts nature reserve. It was kind of simple setting them up, just putting two poles into the ground, fixing them in place with strings and pegs and stretching the net between the poles. It involved us walking around every 20 minutes to check them and retrieve any birds that we caught. There were some really interesting and lovely birds, for example, a Great-Spotted Woodpecker and a Tree Creeper! This was a very good way of ringing a lot of different birds that hadn’t been ringed before, we didn’t actually get any re-captures! It only works for smaller birds though, apparently geese aren’t very good for the nets!

Elevator Netting:
We did this near Ripon on some ground owned by a military base. It was pretty extreme bird ringing as there were signs warning us to not touch any military debris as ‘it may explode and kill you’. The elevator nets were actually huge! They reached the top of the trees in the little clearing it was in! The net was split into four parts, one net going in each direction, like the points of a compass. The nets on each of the four arms were about 3 mist nets high and you used a pulley to haul them up into place, and lower them again when you checked them to get the birds out.
There were also some mist nets set up in a different area but we didn’t get as much as we did from the elevator nets, but there was a lovely Long Tailed Tit that I did get to see up close. The site was in a good place for Redpolls, Redwings and Fieldfare and to help catch these birds their song was being played through a big speaker. We did well that day and did manage to catch some Redpolls, Redwings and Fieldfare, all of which I’d only ever seen once! There were 429 Redwings ringed at this site this Autumn. I got to release a Redwing too.

Cannon Netting
This was the one that I did most recently at my nearest reserve, Nosterfield. It’s a great place to be. I got there just in time to hear the sound of a cannon firing. It was hard to see what was happening from a distance, though you could see the cannon smoke, but as I got closer I could see the net and the birds.  We caught 70 Coots with only one recapture!
It’s exactly as it’s named, there is a net in a small cannon and it is fired it over a load of target birds, in this case Coots which were feeding on bait. We transferred them all into bags in fours and then again two to a bag. I was lucky enough to be able to hold seven of the seventy to get ringed and weighed, they’re feisty little things though, they have very sharp bills and claws and do their best to wriggle free.

I do all of my ringing adventures with the East Dales ringing group. They’re a really friendly group of people and congratulated me for getting into the BTO Bird camp which I am really looking forward to. I’m looking forward to working with the experts and finding out more about ringing as I hope to be able to train as a bird ringer.

Hope you enjoyed.
Zach Haynes, @nerdboy386


  1. Interesting post Zach, I hope you have a great time at the BTO Bird Camp.