Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Swallowing hard

Last night was perfect - for midges. On an evening swallow roost netting at Borth, Jane, Andre, Sarah and I got absolutely eaten alive by the little biters! Still, loads of midges should mean loads of food for hirundines and so it was! In typical fashion the first birds started swooping in on the sound lure about an hour before dusk. Every now and then they would disappear for a while and come back with a few followers. By the time they were actually ready to enter the roost there must have been well over 500 swirling and chattering over the three 60 ft nets set in the reed bed. In a very short space of time the nests were full of swallows, nearly 200 of them!

Andre extracting some of the nearly 200 swallows caught last night

Swallow has always been a bit of a bogey bird for me with regard to recoveries. Since I started ringing I have caught nearly 10,000 of them and I cannot remember ever having one recovered abroad!! That's nearly £2,000 worth at today's prices and I joke (well you have to really) that I might just as well have thrown the money, 20p at a time, into the bottom of the reed bed!! The thing is, you just never know what amazing journey the next bird ringed might reveal and clearly many other ringers' swallows have been recovered as can be seen from the maps in the brilliant Migration Atlas produced by the BTO.  Ringing isn't just about foreign recoveries though. We did control one ringed bird last night and this will, in a small way, add to the data on movements within Britain. On a national scale too, age ratios of catches can be used to gather important information on productivity and identify good years from bad. Still I'm hoping that the £37 I invested in the national ringing scheme last night earns a bit more interest than that invested on swallows so far!

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