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Post Info TOPIC: Alder Flycatcher - in Cornwall early Oct '08 - a story of unacceptable birding behaviour?


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RE: Alder Flycatcher - in Cornwall early Oct '08 - a story of unacceptable birding behaviour?


As Ian says, the discussion has moved from the specific to the general and back. One aspect of the general which we were discussing while out and about today was ringing to protect specific birds such as birds of prey, to prevent them from being taken from the wild. Maybe unsatisfactory, but unfortunately necessary. I don't know if it is still necessary to protect songbirds, as keeping them seems to have died out, but I remember the R.S.P.B prosecuting people for illegally taken goldfinchs and linnets. Or would people think of that sort of ringing as something entirely different?

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This thread could of course keep going round and round and round and....sorry

So, to finish for me, I still maintain the following point throughout this debate:

Despite my personal appreciation and understanding of ringing, I still fail to make the differentiation between the (metal) ringing of Oldham Waxwings, birds which will quite possibly never be re-trapped and whose ringing is still little more than 'ringing 'cos they're there' and the ringing of the Alder Flycatcher, whose ringing went to further my own appreciation and understanding of the species and it's potential movements, despite the fact that I didn't nor would have any intention of, twitching it.

This thread evolved (naturally) into a for or against ringing for which I have found very hard to argue against ringing, afterall I have friends who are ringers and have enjoyed the fruits of their hard work in literature and sometimes if I'm lucky enough, in the hand! But the fact remains that this original thread began (quite rightly) as a query over the ringing of a single vagrant for the purposes of identification and on that basis:

1. This occurs annually at observatories and regular ringing 'stations' up and down the country, sometimes those occasions make the birding 'rags' but nothing is ever said. Sure they're probably as bad as each other to some, but being at said observatory/ringing stations they pass for some kind of scientific purpose

2. Sometimes, just sometimes (or is it?), the ringing of common residents (and no doubt other species) has, in my opinion, little impact on our understanding of their status etc, and in our county's context I know this to be true.

3. I cannot see how the ringing of any rarities or vagrants in this country goes to contribute to their conservation or any other ecological puropse any more than do field observations, of course I realise it can be argued but, Alder Flycatcher/Yellow-browed Warbler, what's the difference, why ring either then?

The fact is I'm not a ringer so I don't knock it (I've been on the fence remember ), I'm not a twitcher so I don't knock that either but I am deeply engrossed in bird identification and rarities in the UK and due to that and that alone, for me, the ringing of the Cornish Alder Flycatcher was justified (go on, knock it ).

Great input from everyone.



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Hi,

I've noticed that some contributors are examining ringing as a 'conservation tool', i.e. monitoring bird populations so that action can be taken to where populations appear to be declining and then possibly investigating the cause of the decline.

I agree with Bill that the answer to preventing population decline is through creation and protection of suitable habitat. Surely though, ringing is/ returns are one part of the overall jigsaw, i.e. they may highlight a potential problem or indicate the migration routes of certain species which would allow research into those areas to identify problems occuring on migration routes, e.g. shooting and trapping of summer migrants.

So if ringing is seen as a controversial and emotive topic, how do the same contributors view the tagging of certain species with GPS? For example the Bald Ibis, which have been fitted with transmitters to track migrations routes in order to save the species from extinction. Essentially, we, i.e. the birding community, are still trapping an individual bird and placing on it a piece of equipment thats wouldn't be there otherwise. Is this right?

Personally, Yes, because i don't believe 'man' has the right to just wipe out a species, of any animal. I'll stop there and get back on Ian's fence (actually I'm on the gate cos the fence was full biggrin.gif).

If some of the contributors see ringing as interferring with the birds life, then should we still be placing bird feed on rindle road? Sorry, I'm playing devils advocate here!

With regard to the Alder flyctacher, had I been in the country, I may well have gone for the bird and would probably have been happy for the bird to have been rung to establish its identity, but this is purely a selfish view on my part and a desire to increase my british list. However, had I travelled down on saturday, i would probably have been railing against an inconsiderate ringer who couldn't wait another day and just wanted to add another species to his ringing list!

There does seem to be evidence to support the theory that when a rare bird is rung, it disappears overnight. Or maybe as birders we only remember the one that got away because we missed it. Maybe when a bird disappears the rumour mill and finger pointing starts!

Of all the rare birds we have seen, have many have been rung and stayed? Did the BF Bunting not stick around for a few days at least? We probably don't know what the stats are for birds being rung and they staying because its not reported in the same way as when the bird disappears never to be seen again.

It does 'smack' a bit of the bird being ringed to establish its identity just to increase the list of several hundred birders. What was the scientific value? I don't know, I'm stuggling to see this other than to say that Traills Flycatcher has the potential to reach the UK. You couldn't justify it on the basis of the flycatcher expanding its range!

I've probably not added much here other than throw another question into the mixing pot! Enjoy

-- Edited by Iain Johnson at 23:59, 2008-12-01

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Ringing is not a conservation tool but a tool to monitor aspects like hands on conservation such as habitat creation to assess how successful they are. As I have already alluded to, I used to work for the RSPB monitoring Stone Curlews, and although I had no part in creating heathland or other habitat for them, the recording and marking of nests and then colour ringing the chicks is just as valuable. The only way we could assess productivity and therefore how successful changes in farming practices or Stone Curlew plots (uncultivated area amongst crops set aside specifically for Stone Curlew nesting habitat) have been is to count the number of young birds which reach fledging. This could only be done by counting colour-ringed birds at the communal autumn roosts, these colour rings allowed us to identify indivdual birds which we could never have done otherwise.

Again, what does this have to do with ringing Blue Tits in a garden or at Constant Effort Sites (CES)? Again, it's not just about finding out where they move to, but productivity can be assessed. I assure you Bill, assessing the number of juvenile birds ringed each year is scientific (or the BTO wouldn't be running it for so long), it can often be a first indicator of something wrong, such as this year with the low number of young Blue Tits being caught can highlight a possible problem, either nationally or just on a local scale. I don't suggest for a minute that birders don't do a valuable job in compiling records for county reports (after all I am a birder first who sends his records to the relevant recorders and a ringer second), but I doubt very much that most birders age (or are able to age) every bird they see. Could many people age a Robin or a Wren at this time of year in the field, they can be difficult enough in the hand?!

Ringing birds isn't just about putting a metal ring on its leg, every bird caught is aged and sexed and features such as moult, brood patches, weight are all recorded which then goes into a very big database.

As far as the Oldham Waxwings are concerned, they are technically being targeted in the same way the flycatcher was but this time they are not being caught to confirm their identity (which given my background is something I disagreed with), but as part of an on-going colour-ringing scheme which does at least have some scientific integrity.

Yes, I do work for the BTO, so I could possibly be seen to be "too close" to the subject, but regardless of that, I do believe ringing plays a vital part in the bigger picture and will continue to do so.

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Hi Bill,
I think you are the gentleman who originally initiated this very full and honest discussion, so hello!
It's almost 20 years since I ceased to be an active ringer and the qualification requirements may have altered since the mid/late 80's; - I honestly don't know.
In the mid 70's when I joined the Merseyside Ringing Group as a trainee, the basic requirement of the BTO for one to progress to a higher licence (C, and then A, the full licence) was for a person to have ringed 1,500 birds minimum, under supervision.
I tell you this to give you some insight; for if the requirement is still about the same, it is one of the reasons ( or at least a very likely driver) as to why the "numbers game" results. I feel this is perhaps one of the aspects, i.e. the ongoing effort at ringing anything and everything, which incurs your disapproval).
The Merseyside Group insisted that their trainees exceed the basic BTO requirement then by a factor of 3 before they could be considered for advancement, as they were especially keen to encourage excellence within their particular group in all aspects of handling birds efficiently, and with a degree of care and consideration with the bird's wellbeing uppermost at all times.
Of course anyone can be taught how to hold a bird correctly and to utilise ringing pliers properly to apply the correct ring size within a half hour; it's dead simple.
The real reason that training takes so long, is the attainment of the required standard of extracting birds of all shapes and sizes from mist nets without harming them, often having to perform the task at speed. After thousands of extractions one did acquire the deftness, speed and subtlety of touch almost of a magician. Only C and A licenced ringers can (or at least could) operate mist nets unsupervised.
If the occasional bird were hopelessly tangled (and the more competent the operative might be, the fewer might be such instances), or if a bird might be showing signs of stress, the net would be cut in the interests of such a bird.
I have no interest in ringing these days, but it was a wonderful phase of learning and also gaining fantastic respect for what birds are capable of.
When I lived in N.Wales from 1973 to 1977, I trapped the same Lesser Whitethroat in 3 years out of 4; it appeared each year on its territory just over my garden fence in the large hawthorns, generally a day or so either side of May 5th. I would as often as not hear its first rattle when I was still in bed and it was like Father Christmas coming. It was always very humbling when I thought of its travels to East Africa between our meetings.
Ringing gave an intimacy and an added dimension to my appreciation of birds which I shall always consider to have been a privilege, and I should like to think the effort I put in added to our sum of knowledge in at least some small way.
Concerning the Alder Flycatcher (which I did see), it was in fine fettle, and was trapped purely to establish its identity and to enable it to take its rightful place in British ornithological history. Trapping such a healthy bird did it absolutely no harm at all, and it certainly wasn't done to satisfy "the big listers". I do not consider myself a big lister, I simply got up off my backside and drove 1005 miles (there and back) and was happy to count it as a Traill's Flycatcher.
Bill, I absolutely defend and respect your right to have an opposite view on this, it's an argument not a quarrel ( it's called free speech).
Cheers, - Mike Passant



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Been away for a couple of days and returned to see there is still some life left in the ol' thread yet!disbelief.gif

It's great to see how many people have contributed constructively to this thread.

Waxwings being ringed in Oldham! Well what do we think about that - it is a least (unlike the Cornwall flycatcher saga) a local topic - surely as Ian has suggested worthy of some comment? Still plenty of people sitting on Ian's imaginary fence - must be some serious danger it's going to collapse under the collective weight!! giggle.gifgiggle.gif

A few further points.

"there will always be an anti ringing opinion, generally held by people who have never been involved in it". Fair enough but they may have many valuable points to make. Equally, might it not also be the case that sometimes a person (myself included) can be too involved in something and stand far too close to their subject and are not be able to stand back and see the bigger picture? Also I would guess that there are some ringers who later question some of the usefulness/ethics of the work they have done and may well cease to be ringers because they don't agree with some of the policies? It would be interesting to hear their side of the story.

For all of those who have suggested that the ringing of this flycatcher was acceptable just to put it on the British List - well I have tried to buy into your arguments but I am sorry I still can't see it! - maybe it is me that is stood far too close to the subject and not able to see the bigger picture! My version of the bigger picture is that we should be doing ringing for bird's benefits and not our own.

I don't think anyone who has posted on this thread is anti-ringing. Actually, I think it would be very interesting to hear the thoughts of anyone who is against the ringing of birds altogether. I am sure they will have some very valuable points to make, that we may well all have overlooked. Maybe in 100 years time bird lovers then will look back and frown upon ringing, pretty much in the same way that we now frown upon our long ago bird watching ancestors, who thought shooting and killing a bird dead.gifdead.gif in order to identify a bird was an acceptable way to pursue their hobby?

If I have read the situation correctly the two schools of thought here are firstly, ring anything/everything that we can or secondly, selective/targeted ringing. I am a supporter (with considerable provisos) of very limited selective ringing.

There are two areas on which I have yet to be convinced about some of the pro-ringing arguments put forward.

Firstly, several contributors seem to have suggested, is that ever more ringing is the answer to solve the problem of declining/disappearing species. A lot of hard work has already been put in by dedicated ringers in trapping and ringing struggling species and has produced some "hard data" and important facts in terms of movements etc that we should now be hopefully able to act upon to help save these species. We have already got the information (through several channels, including ringing!) that we need - we now need to use that information to produce results! It could very conceivably be argued that if all this ringing effort has produced the raw data that we need to help save this species and it is then not put into action which obtains positive results, then it may well have all been a waste of effort/time/money! More ringing of declining/disappearing species is, in my opinion, not the answer to those species problems - habitat creation, feeding opportunities, the provision of nesting sites are some of the more obvious answers. In an ideal world - ringing should produce data, which in turn should produce results which eventually benefits birds.

Secondly, the Constant Effort Sites which are used for ringing and are supposed to reveal species breeding productivity year on year by the percentage of adults and juveniles trapped. Really, if it is looked at from a scientific point of view and I am being kind here, just doesn't seem to hold much "scientific" validity. There are so many variables that could affect this data that we really must question whether this data is actually useable at all - OK use it as a very rough guide but let's not give too great a credence to it. Sure a lot of the information/data that we produce from any form of bird study is understandably to a greater or lesser degree imprecise - but this data to me seems to be especially "woolly". Might be on dodgy ground on this one though - particularly as statistics is not one of my strongest subjects!

Yes, ringing recoveries, might produce some nice and interesting stories but is that enough? Equally, ringing should not be an academic study that produces information/data that just "sits there" doing nothing. I agree populations of species still need to be monitored - but let's be frank, ringing isn't the only way populations can be monitored. Finally, we already have a mountain of information, again some of it obtained from ringing work, on many bird species, which we seem to be unable or incapable of doing anything with or about.

Ringers and ringing has done a terrific amount of valuable work on behalf of ornithology but I am just suggesting that a very large percentage of that work is now done. It's time to adapt and move on.

Apologies if people are already thoroughly fed up yawn.gifyawn.gif with this thread!!

Bill.


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News from the newly formed 'Oldham Bird Observatory' is that the waxwings and others were being having metal rings and not colour rings fitted.

There was a project were Waxwing arrivals were being colour ringed in Aberdeen and thier movements were tracked as they moved south, but this is not the case in Oldham.

To join the debate, Im not sure where I stand on the subject of ringing, as I can see Pro's and Con's for both sides.

How would we know that a Manx Shearwater released at Start Point in Devon at 1400hrs on 18th June 1836 and was was back at Her nest(bird was called Caroline) 225 miles away at Skokholm at 2300hrs the same evening. A Manx was even taken to Boston ,USA and released at sea and was back at its burrow on Skokholm 3000 miles away in 12.5 days.

But then again, what was the point!blankstare.gif

There is no doubt that ringing can be scientific, and can be used to gather data on bird movements, especially on sea birds who's fishing grounds are being depleted for one reason or the other or as a monitoring process for bird numbers...... but I have witnessed a ringing session at Filey were 2 ringers had an argument over who was going to ring a Radde's Warbler because they both needed it for thier ringing list..not very scientificdoh.gif

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Now I know why I couldn't find those waxwings this afternoon on my very first jaunt to Oldham. Found a College, found a library...didn't find any waxwingscry.gif. I thought it was the fog, but now I'm not so sure!

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Yes Ian you read my thread correct the waxwings in Oldham were been rung in fact the first bird to be caught was a Male blackbird, I was quite amazed to see the ringing in action, must admit they were good, and not certain where the information was going, so from a personal point of view, if the birds are rung how and where is this informaton published.... I have become a member of the BTO and did receive a copy of a ringy thing magazine but it was abit ott, can we have simple info, ie waxwing trapped in Oldham turned up here here and here therefore we have learnt this this and that, or something along those lines?

its a good thread and has moved from cornwall to oldham in a week abit like myself.

keep birding.

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No, no, no, I told myself to stay away from this thread now, let it die a dignified death, to stop going over 'old ground' but I just can't, I love this thread, it has depth, thought, passion and enlightenment, so.......

If I read Paul Heaton's post on the Oldham Waxwings right (and if I don't it's your fault Paul ) the birds were being or attempted atleast to be ringed, so how does that sit with our debate

I certainly know where they breed/ come from, that they roam around the country whilst they're here and that they'll return to their 'homeland' when the time's right. Oldham college isn't a bird observatory, is it Sure we might get 're-traps', even back across the North Sea if we're lucky, we might in years to come re-trap a really old bird, the oldest we've ever known but the question is, are they being ringed just because they're there or is it really scientific at all

I know we've had what seem like all the answers but I don't necessarily see where the ringing of these Waxwings fits in with them but I'm happy to be convinced if anyone isn't fed up with this thread already

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I've only just found all this stuff about the ringing of the Alder Flycatcher.
In a general cross section of the birding community there will always be an anti ringing opinion, generally held by people who have never been involved in it. That's fine; thats as it should be.
In Victorian times the Alder Flycatcher would have been shot to establish its identity. ( If you have ever read the greatly readable work of that great old gent of British ornithology David Bannerman, you will recall how often he says ..."of course, the bird should have been collected..."
We have progressed far since then, with our field guides, cameras, AND with a responsibly administered ringing scheme. It was the correct decision to ring the Alder Flycatcher to establish the identity of a "first" for Britain. If you cannot see that as justification, then I still respect your view, I just don't agree with it.
As for someone saying birds don't stick around once they have been ringed, that is simply untrue. The 1975 Spurn Desert Warbler remained there on the canal zone for 3 full days following its capture. The Adswood Tip Little Bunting was seen by only a very few of you on the day of its discovery, which was the day I trapped and ringed it, but I know that 100's saw it after it had been ringed. ( Mind you, it was encouraged to stay by Geoff Lightfoot, the finder, chucking grain out for it); - that apart, ringing it didn't make it clear off.
I did 10 years as a ringer, initially with the Merseyside ringing group, latterly with the South Manchester group. Have I ever seen a bird killed during a cannon netting session? Yes is the honest answer; if you fire on a wader roost you will from time to time kill one or two in a 1,500 bird capture. Does that mean mass wader ringing should be banned?- No, if the recoveries highlight, identify and rank in terms of relative importance those internationally vital resting and feeding grounds upon which those migrants depend, in a world where estuaries and wetlands are always going to be under threat from the human scourge.
What is the point of ongoing ringing of common birds, i.e. Blue tits, etc?
Well just after I packed in as a ringer, (due to pressure of work and the escalating cost of rings), something called the "constant ringing effort" was being introduced . The aim was to spend a certain no. of hours at a given site, on the same frequency,(weekly or monthly or whatever), trpping and ringing common birds, and over years any fluctuation in populations of common species would become apparent, when collated centrally for the whole country.
I assume this goes on now still, and I imagine that in the face of declines in our Skylarks ,Song Thrushes, House Sparrows, and even Starlings, there is a greater need for this effort now than ever before.


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Paul Heaton wrote:


As to a comment very early on in this informative thread " I am sure no human would want to carry round a metal chain birth to death" I was ringed in 1999 and celebrate my wedding aniversary each year, I have also worn a watch since a child, plus the chain around me that is the hum-drum of life get me down, so keep it up lads very interesting.

Keep birding




Ah yes Paul - just one very small difference - you wear them out of your own choosing!!biggrin.gifbiggrin.gif I guess! confused.giflaughing.giflaughing.gif

Bill.



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The BTO have just published a new book about bird ringing, mine arrived yesterday - its a fantastic read and I'm sure it can answer lots of questions that you may have about ringing and bird movements.

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This has been a very produtive thread and well argued by both sides, and I do like the fact that Ian always plays Devil Avocate,evileye.gif therefore I am sure he would forgive me for been court jesterbiggrin.gif

But first this year on the Scily Isles I met a couple of ringers, and had a many an interesting discussion, and when I found a curlew with colour rings, I was amazed to find out it came from France, added to my wealth of knowledge, last week I found a coloured ringed cormorant at Audenshaw, yet to have info on that, but its interesting to know this extra bit of information.

As to a comment very early on in this informative thread " I am sure no human would want to carry round a metal chain birth to death" I was ringed in 1999 and celebrate my wedding aniversary each year, I have also worn a watch since a child, plus the chain around me that is the hum-drum of life get me down, so keep it up lads very interesting.

And I see ian promoting books well done that mansmile.gif

Keep birding

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Thanks again Neil, that's a pretty big BTO hat you have there

Some more points regarding your latest post...

I can't agree to any stretch of the imagination, certainly in a Greater Manchester county perspective with your comment "Blue Tits had a really bad breeding season, with low productivity, how do we know this? Ringing data". Our county has an excellent grasp of it's bird populations, their sucess rates etc, you only have to read the new 2007 county bird report to be bombarded with information on their population trends and fluctuations, breeding successes or failures and the like yet ringing has played virtually no part (if anything at all) in this mass of information, it has come from observers in the field, birders carrying out survey work, nestbox schemes (most BTO surveys I might add) and just being generally out and about, mooching around and sending their records in. The situation may very well be different in other parts of the UK but we have few active county ringers and as you can see by the enormous amount of information on the sightings forum here alone, it is birders doing all the leg-work here. I can't help thinking it's decrying the work field birders do and believe whilst ringing might very well add plenty in some parts of the country, certainly in the counties I know in the north-west, it plays little part in forming the bigger picture of bird populations etc.

Don't get me wrong, it's all very interesting, Peter Alker's colour ringing of Sedge Warblers at Pennington Flash many years ago found out some really great stuff, true 'soap opera' standard in the lives of the little blighters and I've no doubt there's more to find out with other species. I have personally encouraged the colour-ringing of Tree Sparrows in our area so we might understand a little more about their movements but of course colour-ringing doesn't require the bird to be re-trapped and it gives birders like me something else to look out for when things are slow, I love 'em!

But yet again, I come back to the crux of the matter. If the ringing of this lone vagrant was wrong (and I fully appreciate you personally might not feel it was Neil) then why do bird observatories carry out exactly the same practise day in day out? Rarities are ringed regularly in the knowledge their chances of survival of extremely low, picking yet another completely exhausted Goldcrest off the ground and ringing it will prove what? Should Fair Isle be shut down outside the breeding season? Which proves more about seabird populations at that fabled Isle, ringing or survey work?

To be fair though, I think it's time to come clean about my own opinion on this subject and whilst ,as said before, I find it easy to see both sides of the argument, to play devil's advocate the fact is to me ringing in any perspective (nestlings, vagrants, colour-ringing schemes etc) are just another part of birding, it's not my 'bag' (neither is photography or twitching) but I understand and appreciate it. I regularly utilise the data and findings from ringing, sure I find the relentless ringing of every bird at observatories not my cup-of-tea but then again I've never been a ringer. Many people can't understand why people will charter a plane to fly to the other end of the country to see a little bird which will soon probably die (spending as much money on getting there as they would if they went to the bird's homeland!) but I do, I've been there, done it and I can appreciate.

The systematic list details on the website includes all the interesting ringing data I could find and I defy anyone to find them 'not interesting' or to say 'wow' at seeing even the commonest bird in the hand of a ringer but there are two sides to every argument, we just often struggle to see both of them. Birders and ringers have all too often not seen eye to eye and neither has fully appreciated the other's interests, but diversity amongst species (and I'm not talking about birds here folks) increases the enjoyment and understanding of our chosen 'hobby'

P.s. the 2004 BTO book 'Time to Fly- exploring bird migration' by Jimm Flegg is a superb must read book which clearly demonstrates better than any forum post ever could, what ringing recoveries have acheived over the years.

-- Edited by Ian McKerchar at 13:34, 2008-11-27

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I'm not sure I did disagree with the catching of this bird, just what it contributes to the bigger picture. All ringing it did was to prove that it was an Alder Flycatcher rather than a Willow Flycatcher that had been blown thousands of miles off course. Yes it changes British Birding history by adding another species to the list but as it is highly unlikely to find its way back to it's native range and get back into the population, then to me, it's scientific value is negligible.

For those still asking why the need for ringing still goes on, I may have my BTO hat on with this bit, but the final line of my original post "Marking birds as individuals is the only way that survival rates can be estimated, and therefore is an essential part of bird conservation" . Yes we now know which routes Sedge Warblers take to Africa and that not many Siskins we see in winter are from the continent, but ringing is about more than just movements of birds, it helps us monitor populations. I used to work for the RSPB colour ringing young Stone Curlews. As each bird was fitted with a unique combination of colour rings, these birds could be seen again in autumn roosts or the following year and so we knew they had fledged successfully and entered the population which we otherwise wouldn't.

Okay so Stone Curlews are a rare bird which we need to monitor you say, but what does this have to do with the need to still ring Blue Tits? Well this year, Blue Tits had a really bad breeding season, with low productivity, how do we know this? Ringing data. Through the ringing data collected, the number of juvenile birds being caught was well down on previous years, which could be just a blip but could be the start of something more serious. In the 1980s, ringers were discouraged from ringing House Sparrows as they were so common, so by the time it was realised the population was going down, we didn't have the ringing data which could have highlighted this decline earlier.

So ringing is still just as valuable today as it was when we thought Swallows wintered at the bottom of lakes.

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Finally, we get a ringers point of view to balance the argument, so thanks for taking the time and trouble Neil

Some well made points for sure but I cannot still help feeling much of this debate come from your personal 'type' of birding to some extent. Whilst I openly acknowledge the benefit (and have done in previous posts on this thread) of what ringing has achieved in the past and that without it we would be without much of our current knowledge but I'm well aware of the ageing of many passerines down to the shape of the tips of the rectrices, that loads of our winter Siskins come from the continent and aren't surprised that a Nightjar can make it's impressive north-south migration several times, all of which I have learned through ringing in years gone by but the point many would make is that now we know it, why continue? Do we really not expect apparently resident species to make small seasonal movements and if we do prove it, how does that help us? Don't get me wrong, I personally see the bigger picture but what I don't get and the original crux of this whole thread, is the apparent damning of one ringer but not another, I fail to see the difference between them, the further ringing of another Blue Tit will doubtless contribute nothing to my own knowledge yet the ringing of a single vagrant (unfortunately highly likely to perish anyway?) has contributed greatly, horses for courses?

The apparent 'targetting' of a single vagrant for ringing caused this concern, that it was unessasary, just for the twitchers and had no scientific contribution. For me and my 'type' of birding I could personally justify it's ringing as necessary, I am in no way a twitcher (I gave that up in the mid-90's and have never looked back) and have learned plenty from it, the same way as I can still find the ringing of every Blue Tit necessary for some. Is the ringing of a transatlantic vagrant (which was in surprisingly good condition anyway) anymore stressful than that of a garden Dunnock, do we think the Alder Flycatcher knew it wasn't in America?

Perhaps I'm lucky, I can see and appreciate both sides of the argument, I also have to admit to still enjoying seeing birds in the hand, they certainly look different from seeing them in the field but I struggle to appreciate how you can agree with ringing at observatories, reserves, back gardens etc, apparently for science but not the ringing of a vagrant for which it's capture changes the history of British birding, no matter how small that may be

Oh, and by the way John, man on the moon...ah come on, pull the other one

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Neil Calbrade wrote:

As a ringer who rings every Blue Tit that comes into my garden...



Neil,

You said everything I would have liked to have said, but far more eloquently. I am not a ringer but regard ringing as a 'science'. As with all those sciences that depend on the collection of large amounts of data, you might not guess quite where the research will lead until all that large amount of data has been collected.

As a parallel, (not too clumsy I hope) people may remember, or have read about, the controversy surrounding the space race in the 60s and 70s. Vast amount of money spent and for what, "non-stick frying pans and biros that write upside-down" was the popular cry. What wasn't realised at the time were future spin-off benefits such as cool laser heart surgery, GPS tracking, advanced communication technology, the hundreds of everyday items that use miniaturised circuitry that we now all take for granted, plus much much more.

OK a bit off-subject perhaps but my point is that whilst ringing a single blue tit might seem pointless it is valuable as part of the bigger picture. We still have a lot to learn.

Cheers, John



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Fantastic post Neil.

cheers
jason

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As a ringer who rings every Blue Tit that comes into my garden, and who happens to work for the BTO in Norfolk (though these are my viewpoints, NOT the BTO's!) I thought I'd enter this particular debate.
I do agree with some of the early points made by Bill that this bird was just trapped for the purposes of confirming its identification, not really any more scientific purposes, I mean, a bird that far out of its native range that has been blown thousands of miles off course doesn't contribute much to science.
Had it been a readily identifiable bird, it would not have been targeted, it is only because in field identification is nigh on impossible. Initially Kester was refused permission to target the flycatcher as the ringers guidelines clearly state "except at accredited bird observatories (in the normal recording area), ringers must not deliberately operate or set nets or other catching equipment with the intention of catching a rare bird known to be in the vicinity", especially as Nanjizal isn't his ringing site. However, there is a list of species (of which Alder Flycatcher is one) drawn up by the BOU and other organisations in this country and abroad where the catching may be permitted to assist in our understanding of the identification of the species, and it was only because of this that permission was (reluctantly) granted, not to allow the the twitchers to get their tick confirmed.

The question of why do ringers ring birds, well why do photographers photograph them, or birders watch them or even jump on a plane to twitch these birds? Why do people catch moths (which in some instances require killing the moth to identify it by looking at its genitals!!)? They do it as a hobby or as a passion. I am no where near as obsessive about ringing birds as many people I work with, but I find my knowledge of bird identification in the field has increased in the time I have been ringing, for example I now know how to age Yellowhammers by their tail feather shape which previously I didn't. Also it teaches you about the habits and movements of birds. Last winter I had a regular flock of Siskins in my garden, no more than 20 at a time, but when I put a net up over many weeks, I caught over 200, including a Dutch ringed bird, so they weren't even all local birds. Without catching them, I would never have realised just how many birds use my garden. Admittedly I never find out where the vast majority of birds I catch end up, but that doesn't stop me, and occasionlly you do get an interesting recovery, for instance this summer I caught a Nightjar in Thetford Forest that had been ringed 9 years ago in Sussex, so when you think how many times that bird had flown to and from Africa over its lifetime, it never ceases to amaze you.
We may think we do, but we still don't know all there is to know about birds and where they go, even the common garden birds throw up the odd surprise, a Blackbird that bred in Thetford every summer yet travelled back and forth to winter in Devon for example. Final quote from the ringers manual as to the value of ringing - "Marking birds as individuals is the only way that survival rates can be estimated, and therefore is an essential part of bird conservation".

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Another angle. Myself & Tom McKinney travelled to Co Galway to see the Little Blue Heron at our earliest opportunity, Wed 8th - Thur 9th Oct, a nice short break for a quality bird. Not long after enjoying the bird we heard news of an Empidonax sp. in Cornwall. I didn't know much about the genus at the time though was soon informed that the Alder / Willow Flycatchers were inseparable in the field, so no worries. Unless you're already in the area why travel to see something that can't be assigned to species level ?. Clearly hundreds did make the trip and came up trumps. Not that I could do anything about anyway. It wasn't until landing in Liverpool early Thurs evening that I learnt the bird had been assigned to species and I just had to make the effort. Thus overnight drive to Lands End only to dip out. So if the bird hadn't been trapped and identified to species level I wouldn't have bothered. No animosity, just bad luck - it's just one of those things.



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I'm in total agreement with John Tymon,I don't think there is any need for ringing in this day and age,apart from certain endangered species such as Aquatic Warblers,where a lot as been learnt in recent years about their habits and movements.I also know that Tree Sparrows which have suffered a rapid decline are being colour ringed in order to follow their movements,that to me is acceptable if it helps the long term recovery of these birds.Ringing without doubt causes unecessary stress to birds,there are many examples of this.I had to restrain one ringer a few years ago who wanted to jemmy the roof off a Barn Owl box to ring the young owls.when I asked him how many ringing recoveries he'd had,he told me only one,out of numerous birds he had ringed over a good number of years.Hardly a reason to stress so many Barn Owls and young! We all now know where Swallows go to in winter,that Sedge Warbler take a different route when migrating north,than they do when going back south,all very applaudable in its day.But why do ringers feel its necessary to catch every single bird that moves to put a leg iron on it,what advancement in scientific knowledge is going to be gained by clamping every Blue Tit,Dunnock etc.that ringers can get their hands.If there are any ringers out there perhaps they could explain why they feel it is necessary,and what benefit is to be gained by their actions.confused.gif

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The particular thread is fine here, they often develop from their original intention, evolution of some kind (I'd also be dissappointed if this was your last post on the matter Bill, items like this on the forum stir allsorts of emotion, generate more discussion, threads, posts, hits etc, increasing the forums popularity and if kept sensible as is always the case so far, increases it's actual use!)

Anyway, back to the thread in question...

I defend my 'on the fence stance' (note this may or may not be my actual opinion ) that singling out the ringing of the Alder Flycatcher is entirely unfair. Bird observatories the length and breadth of Britain (also elsewhere in Europe, America etc etc) regularly target particular species for trapping with the view to identify it, Fair Isle has many examples of this, so is this wrong too? The Masked Shrike a few years was trapped just for identification purposes and as someone with very good experience of the species I don't even think it was necessary!

The trapping of the Alder Flycatcher confirmed what was thought by some (more luck than judgement?) to be the true identification anyway, so did we actually contribute of our understanding of the separation of these two similar species, especially when we consider that this is unlikely to be the last time this species occurs in the UK? Bear in mind that once upon a time it was considered not possible (or atleast extremely unlikely) to identify Blyths Reed Warbler (let alone get one past BBRC) without it being trapped. Now, perhaps with the benefit and experience gained through trapping the species, they are regularly id'd in the field and trapping is no longer considered a pre-requisite for BBRC acceptance. Alder and Willow Flycatcher in the states are most often 'lumped' as Traill's Flycatcher at bird observatories due to their similarity and the length you have to go to confidently identify them to a single species, so can the trapping of one out of context individual go further our understanding of them?

Probably over a dozen Yellow-browed Warblers were trapped in the very same Cornish valley this year alone, so what was the purpose of that then? They weren't actually individually targeted for trapping but the traps (terrible terminology is trapping really) were placed to specifically trap migrants, so what's the difference? By the way, before anyone readings this thinks otherwise, the Nanjizal man in question is a highly experienced and conscientious ringer and birder of excellent reputation

So, the identification of the Flycatcher could not be made from field observations and for us to prove that the first ever a transatlantic crossing of this species to the UK had been made, trapping was necessary, this is fact.

Whilst I am no scientist (not even!), it's capture and the subsequent dissemination of information from it certainly advanced my own knowledge and I'm sure that of many others, this too is fact.

Conservation? Well, perhaps not on this occasion unless further vagrants manage it, meet up, breed and God knows what else

It's all a matter of opinion from the view off my fence and whilst we all still live in a society where we're free to have one (an opinion that is, not a fence, although you can have one of those too if you like, just not mine), I say you voice it






-- Edited by Ian McKerchar at 19:46, 2008-11-24

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Surely, this saga has nothing at all to do of whether you approve of ringing or not?

I personally am in favour of ringing - it has provided a mountain of knowledge that may well help us look after the welfare of many species. John T is also right in suggesting that some ringing is a waste of time/effort/money and probably of the lives of some birds? Just because ringing has been going on for years in a particular format does not mean that it should carry on in that way forever!
Any canny organisation/business/individual/society should constantly look at the way things are done and review and adjust the way they operate - maybe it is time for that on ringing?

Anyway, that's really a side issue - my main point was and still is - that this bird was initially seen and could not be definitively identified in the field. I suggest that this bird was then only trapped and then ringed to "dress up" and give a pseudo-scientific veneer of respectability to the rather more uncomfortable, unjustifiable and plain truth that the bird was only being trapped so that it could be identified! Not as far as I am aware one of the objectives of the ringing scheme - which is "to undertake research which contributes to conservation and to advancing scientific knowledge of birds". I re-iterate my earlier opinions that the trapping and/or ringing of this bird would not have taken place, if a positive ID had been able to be given from field sightings and also that the trapping and/or ringing of this individual bird will add absolutely zero to " conservation and to advancing scientific knowledge of birds"

Sorry to be so serious and get so hung up on one individual bird (that was many miles out of our area anyway!) but there should be important principles at stake here.

Definitely, definitely my last post on this particular matter!!

On a more positive note, maybe this thread might continue on a more general ringing theme and how and (if it needs to be?) it can be altered/improved?

Bill.


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Steve Suttill wrote:

Whilst I can't defend every instance of ringing (and everyone will have stories of maverick ringers) if no-one had ever ringed a wild bird we would probably still believe that Swallows hibernated and that Barnacle Geese did actually hatch from barnacles!

As for birds being wild - should we not feed them? Should we not provide nest-boxes? Where do we draw the line?

Steve





If anyone can give me a valid reason for ringing every blue tit,great tit,dunnock,moorhen,coot, etc at pennington flash,ill hold my hands up.I realise that 30 - 50 years ago we had much to learn,and pioneers of ringing,have enabled us to protect vulnerable species,but in my experience and your looking at 33 years,i think it becomes a competition by many ringers,who rings the most,I have come across traps for water rails in the past with dead water rails in them,ive found nets unmanned with birds in them.This was mainly in the early 1980s,but that sort of thing sticks with you.,
By the way one of my best, if not the best birding friend ive had is a warden on North Ronaldsey(Paul Browne),so has you can see i do have ringing friends,but,just don't like it myself.smile.gif

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Whilst I can't defend every instance of ringing (and everyone will have stories of maverick ringers) if no-one had ever ringed a wild bird we would probably still believe that Swallows hibernated and that Barnacle Geese did actually hatch from barnacles!

As for birds being wild - should we not feed them? Should we not provide nest-boxes? Where do we draw the line?

Steve

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AS A BOY ,I TOO AS IAN WILL KNOW LUCKILY HAD A GREAT FRIEND IN FRANK HORROCKS,AND PROBABLY YOU COULD COUNT ON 2 HANDS THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO COULD REALY BE THOUGHT OF AS A FRIEND BY FRANK,I WAS ONE OF THOSE,AND FRANK HATED RINGING WITH A VENGENCE,AND IM NO DIFFERENT IM AFRAID,IM FED UP WITH EVERY BIRD I PHOTOGRAPH,HAVING SOME SORT OF TAG OR RING,WHY DO WE RING DUNNOCKS,BLUE TITS,COOTS,MOORHENS ETC THE LIST IS ENDLESS,AND WHY WHEN IM ON A BLEAK MOOR IN YORKSHIRE AND A MALE HEN HARRIER GRACES ME WITH ITS PRESENCE,DO I HAVE TO SEE IT WITH BRIGHT WINGTAGS,OR GULLS PAINTED YELLOW,OR COMMON TERNS WITH 3 DIFFERNT COULORED RINGS ON?
BIRDS ARE WILD AND AS SUCH SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE,TO LIVE AS WILD BIRDS.IM SURE NO HUMAN WOULD LIKE TO CARRY AROUND A METAL CHAIN FROM BIRTH TO DEATH,SO WHY SHOULD A BLUE TIT DO SO.THATS MY THOUGHT,SO YOU KNOW WHICH SIDE OF THE FENCE IM ON.smile.gifP.S SORRY IM ALL IN CAPITALS,MY CAPS LOCK STUCKsmile.gif

-- Edited by JOHN TYMON at 14:51, 2008-11-23

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Those who know me or have been on the forum long enough, know I like to play devil's advocate in these situations, so here goes...

If we're so against the ringing of this flycatcher (right or wrong) then why ring most birds anyway? What more will we learn from the ringing of another migrant Coal Tit on the east coast of England or Coot at Pennington Flash? Surely we're against the ringing of any migrants (or non-migrants) at bird observatories up and down the length of Britain then, after all they all do the same thing, target birds (often very tired migrants) and by and large I don't think we're really pushing the boundaries of species limitations or movements anymore.

How much stress does the ringing of a bird have on it? How much thought and consideration went into the catpture of the Alder Flycatcher? We really can only speculate at both, although concerning the latter I know first hand that much careful consideration went into it's capture, but should he have waited until the weekend for the masses to arrive? Wouldn't that have been pandering to the twitchers then? What if the bird had flown off before they had the chance to catch it, opportunity missed? Was it's capture scientific or personal gratification? I have to admit that not being able to identifiy a first for Britain on your local patch which you pound relentlesly day in day out unless it is caught (and no there is no way to identify the two closely related Epidonax flycathers in the field in these situations) would be a very difficult pill to swallow, especially if you're a ringer and it's on your patch which you legitimately utilise for ringing purposes! If we find a bird we can't identify we call an experienced mate, spread the word and let the masses arrive and make their judgement (which isn't always a great idea ) or allow a rarities committee to assess what we've seen but what if none of that would make any difference, what if it could only be identified from biometrics, would you let it slip through your fingers? Tempting though isn't it.

The 'Chinatown Warbler' has been formally submitted as two species but a third is still mentioned by some and another race of one of those submitted by many others, so would we have gained anything by catching it? I am not a ringer, infact as a very young teenager I enquired about becoming one and was 'summoned' to the house of Frank Horrocks by the man himself where he pointed out why I shouldn't do it and quickly talked me out of it but personally I would have learned loads from it's capture. It would have further my own knowledge and depending on which species it was, could have pushed the boundaries of what is achieveable in the identification of certain species in the field. We need to remember that an awful lot of identification features we utilise as birders in the field were initially discovered and honed in the hand by ringers, my own copy of Svensson's ringers guide is one of those most often thumbed on my shelves such is it's wealth of information which can be used by us in the field.

It all comes down to whether you agree with ringing or not, I personally don't think you can single out the ringing of the Alder Flycatcher but not the ringing of Waxwings in Aberdeen, Blue Tits at Woolston Eyes, Mediterranean Gulls in Belgium or Manx Shearwaters on Skokholm and the like.

Love it or loath it, which one are you , anyway despite having loads more to say on the matter I've a nice gull roost to attend now, no ringing there...

-- Edited by Ian McKerchar at 14:37, 2008-11-23

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Have just spent a nice couple of days in Cornwall and the Flycatcher site was very quiet,
in fact did not see another birder in my whole visit down there?

Bird of the trip was a Little Egret in the harbour watched for 20 min while I ate my fish and chips,biggrin.gif

Word of warning,you need a big scope for the bay, had a couple of distant divers and with a pacific diver been reported would loved to have had a friendly boat man to take me out.

keep birding.

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Pleased to see that this post has at least generated a response.

Re our own Chinatown Warbler - in my opinion surely their can never be any justification whatsoever to trap a bird just to satisfy our own whims?

Just like to add my final points on the Flycatcher saga. Sorry did not realise this was old news and been debated heatedly elsewhere.

Firstly, what right do we have to physically interfere with an individual bird's life just so that we " can identify this bird to species level"?

Secondly, whilst I am neither an expert birder or ringer I would expect that trapping and/or ringing is done only for specific purposes. I am sure there are specific objectives - to increase our knowledge of this species and when necessary to be able to put this knowledge to good purpose if we need to help this species to prosper. Was the trapping of this individual bird of any benefit to this particular bird in this country? - no. Will the trapping of this individual bird be of any benefit to this particular species in this country? - almost certainly no. Therefore the only conclusion that can be drawn, is that the trapping of this bird was purely for mans benefit - in my opinion unacceptable.

As a final thought - what if the unthinkable happens and a Willow/Alder Flycatcher turns up again this time next year. Are we going to trap every single bird just so we can know what it is?

Birdwatching/twitching is occasionally a bit of a let down, with us sometimes departing a little wiser but still disappointingly not quite sure - this should have been one of those occasions.

Bill.


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interesting but old news, this subject was i believe flogged to death on birdforum where typically it degraded into handbags at dawn but to add fuel to our own more gentlemanly discussion, how many birders would have happily seen manchester's own 'chinatown warbler' trapped to solve the identification?

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To quote an article in October British Birds magazine, written by the finder and ringer Kester Wilson - so a first hand account.

" After considerable discussion between the BTO, BBRC, BOU and Natural England, it was decided on 9th October that, in order to identify the bird to species it should be trapped. Strict requirements were issued to me, with the minimum measurements required to identify the bird to species to be taken, the bird to be released as quickly as possible, and no in hand 'parade' to birders present to take place ...

The necessary biometrics were taken and the bird was then quickly released, and it then remained in its favoured area for the rest of the day ...

Many people were surprised that the bird was stil present on the second day, with the first night being so clear, but, on the still-clear evening of the 9th, the wind veered to the west, which meant that it was then blowing straight up the valley and the bird's favoured area was no longer sheltered ... the bird departed overnight"

None of this suggests that it was ringed for the benefit of twitchers, or that it was the ringing of the bird that caused it to move on.

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In Kester's defence and to make the thread a little more rounded, the fact that he didn't ring the bird immediately and thus gave everyone over a day to come and see it if they wanted to before it was rung allowed for anyone to see it if they really really wanted. I think that was good of him as birds do have a tendancy to shift off after ringing as this example shows.
Should he have waited for more people to come down and tick it? Well if that is part of the arguement being made in this thread then the twitchers have to adopt the 'drop everything and go for it immediately when news brakes' approach or else negative news will greet them quite often. Although recent rarities later on this autumn have been more showy there have been plenty of birds where the only way to see it would have been to go for it straight away to avoid disappointment.
In terms of the birds welfare, it was watched feeding merrily and constantly in the sunny weather which brought out a late bought of flies. The bird was processed very quickly and the article to come out on RBA showed that it was very strong still and had good fat levels considering what it had just been through.
The fact that the BTO granted the licence to especially ring this bird shows that it was a decision wholy taken in the name of science.
I'm not a big lister Pete but still wanted to see it and made the trip down, got lucky because I got a car together and went immediately. Petrol is on it's way down now too! wink.gifwink.gif
Thanks. Henry.



-- Edited by Henry Cook at 15:46, 2008-11-21

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As far as I'm concerned the ONLY reason the bird was caught was so that all the big listers could add it to their life list.Not only that the fact it was caught before weekend meant that a lot of birders who can't just drop everything dipped on the bird.It almost invariably happens that when a bird is caught and handled it is never seen again,and this was no exception.I know of birders who drove all the way down to Cornwall overnight to see the bird,only to find out it had been caught the day previously and had not been seen since.In my opinion no consideration was given for the welfare of the bird(which had just had a very stressfull journey across the Atlantic just a few days previously).The only consideration was given to the people who saw it and were desperate to get it i'd so they could add it to their list.
By the way this is not sour grapes as I did not go and did not have any intention of doing so,my twitching days are long over with the price of fuel.

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It seems to be a similar story to the Oswaldtwistle Melodious Warbler - although the ringer there acted without permission.

I understand from reading the latest edition of Birding Northwest that the ringer was suspended in this case!



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By identifying it to species level, that species can then be admitted to the official British list and be covered by UK laws relating to wild birds, etc. When permission was granted by the relevant organisations, it was stipulated that only the relevant measurements to identify it be taken, rather than a full set of ringing data and that no 'parade' of the bird be carried out in front of birders present.

I understand where you are coming from, but hopefully the decision taken was for purely scientific reasons.

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Currently reading the December issue of Birdwatch magazine. On page 58 there is an account of the discovery of this bird in Cornwall in early October. Started reading the article hoping to learn something about this species and finished reading the article with steam coming out of my ears! steaming.gifsteaming.gifangered.gifangered.gif

To cut a long story short there are two possible species that this vagrant bird might have been - Alder Flycatcher or Willow Flycatcher and to quote this months magazine ... "Alder and Willow (one of the hardest of all field identification nuts to crack), it was clear from the outset that, without trapping, the bird would defy verification". Apparently permission to trap the bird was initially refused and later granted ... the magazine article continues " Thankfully, pragmatism prevailed and the green light" (to trap the bird) "was given the next afternoon".

So it looks to my eyes that the only objective in trapping this bird, was to look at the biometrics of this bird, so that numerous birdwatchers/twitchers would be able to tick a box on a list to say that they had seen Alder Flycatcher! If that is the only reason that this bird was trapped then I am sorry but I consider that to be totally, totally, unacceptable behaviour! Whatever happened to the old and valid idea that the welfare of the bird must always come first? Naturally, if there is another reason this bird was trapped, maybe we should all know - but I have to say that I am extremely sceptical!

Bill.

-- Edited by Bill Myerscough at 12:05, 2008-11-21

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