What's the best present you can give a bird-ringer for Christmas? Well you could do a lot worse than a Christmas Sandwich!
A few years ago we started colour-ringing Sandwich Terns at Ynyslas National Nature Reserve in order to study the annual autumn passage of these amazing birds through the site. In 2013 we caught 83 different Sandwich Terns but were only using BTO metal rings at the time. Few recoveries of these birds have been received so far but as Sandwich Terns are long-lived some may yet arrive. Following our success in 2012 we registered a colour-ringing scheme in 2013. As is often the way, the autumn passage was considerably smaller in 2013 and 2014, with unfavourable weather conditions at crucial times, and we only managed to ring 11 birds in 2013 and just 2 in 2014. In 2015, after another unpromising start, things improved and we colour-ringed 43 birds, including 4 retraps/controls of birds ringed in earlier years/elsewhere. We have already had a number of sightings of these birds in Southern England on their onward journey and some from breeding colonies in the North-East of England.
Late on Christmas Eve I received an email forwarded by Ewan Weston, who co-ordinates sightings of colour-ringed Sandwich Terns in the UK, from Mark Boorman who had recently read the ring of one of these terns at Walvis Bay Oyster Beds in Namibia!! Certainly brightened a wet winter evening and absolutely amazing to know exactly where one of these birds is spending their winter, amongst the Pelicans and Flamingos on the Skeleton Coast on the edge of the Namib desert - it's certainly no turkey!