Monday, 7 May 2012

A taste of bird ringing on Skokholm

Those of you who have been on Skokholm work parties will know the pleasure of that golden time before breakfast when the time is your own. I was planning to get up every morning before dawn to open the mist nets and hopefully catch some birds to ring. Unfortunately the weather demons had other ideas and wind and rain put paid to that except on two calm mornings. 

Bob, Jerry, Will and myself ringed 60 birds and caught one retrap on the 24th April. On the 26th there had been a big fall of birds as they dropped in with some early morning drizzle. By the time we had to pack up to start work we had ringed 92 birds of 6 species and a retrap Wren.

To give an idea of species that day - 
Willow Warbler 48
Chiffchaff 6
Blackcap 32
Sedge Warbler 2
Whitethroat 3
Grasshopper Warbler 1

Grasshopper Warbler
Looking back through the island records, this is a fraction of the birds that were caught in the days when a Heligoland trap was used. The massive advantage of this large trap is that it can be used safely in all weathers whereas mist nets cannot be used in wind or rain. With so many windy days on Skokholm it is a shame that when enthusiastic ringers are on the island no ringing can be done. 

A Heligoland Trap in Devon
© Copyright David Medcalf and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence 
As mentioned in the 2011 report, it is hoped to make the island an Accredited Bird Observatory again. It was last accredited in 1976 but with the reintroduction of appropriate bird ringing and trapping regimes it is hoped to achieve this if the materials can be found and the traps built. 

The rebuilding of a Heligoland trap would seem to be essential to ensure the effective monitoring of birds using the island as a stop off point on their migration in Spring and Autumn. A small cost compared to the whole renovation project but a massive boost to the status of the island.

Wendy James

If you would like to help financially, or in any other way, to make the building of a Heligoland Trap happen, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Friends via 

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