Building up a picture of where our birds come from, or go to, and how long they live through ordinary ringing studies is all a numbers game. Recovery rates for many species are pretty low so unless you can afford to use some of the expensive new technologies you usually need to ring a lot of birds to get a small amount of information back. Glass half-empty people take this as a reason not to ring at all whilst the more enthusiastic and optimist of us see it as a reason to do as much as possible. Whatever the species, whatever the study, data can only be accumulated by increasing the sample size but you do have to start somewhere! Every project, even those that have been running for years and years started with the first bird. Although I have now ringed well-over 3,000, I can still remember vividly being lowered down a mine-shaft in 1986 to ring my first ever Chough and I even remember catching my first ever Dipper back in 1980! (I have now ringed over 5,000). The point of this? No, not trumpet blowing, just pointing out that every single bird ringed has the potential to add something to the sum of all human knowledge be it a common bird or a less common one. A couple of recent recoveries highlight this fact.
I have just been informed by HQ of a retrap of the only Cetti's Warbler we have ever ringed on Borth Bog (well actually the only one we have ever ringed outside of the Teifi Marshes). This bird, ringed as a 3J back in August 2012, was controlled 105km away at Shotton Steel Works, Flintshire in April and May 2014 by Merseyside Ringing Group. It may have been the only one ringed (and it may not have been part of a specific project) but it is now a line in the 2nd Edition of the Migration Atlas!
Juvenile Cetti's Warbler on Borth Bog
Similarly bird-watchers in Aberystwyth have reported the return of a ringed male Black Redstart to the Old College. It can't be absolutely confirmed yet (until someone gets a nice clear close-up photo of the ring) but my money is on it being the male Paul ringed back in December 2010 returning for his fourth consecutive winter. If so this adds just a bit more to our knowledge on site fidelity and life expectancy for this uncommon species in Wales and it is interesting to see how many local birders are now eager to know if it is the same bird rather than bemoaning the fact it has a ring on!
Male Black Redstart on the Old College in Aberystwyth (Photo by Janet Baxter)
I look forward to posting the recovery details of the Great Snipe in due course because that would add a whole new page to the Migration Atlas 2nd Edition!!