On Friday 2nd February, students at RGS got the opportunity to watch bird ringing take place in the school grounds.

The bird-ringing net, which was put up between two poles, was mostly invisible to birds, but did not hurt them if they flew into it. Bird ringing can be used to track the movement of birds, so that it is easier to tell how far the bird has moved and where it has come from. Tracking the birds’ movements is important because it lets people know where the best places to set up protected areas are. The caught birds are fitted with a small metal ring, so they can be identified, and the whole process does not harm them.

The net was set up in a specific spot, near bird feeders and where birds had been recently observed, so the chances of catching one would be increased. Binoculars were distributed so students could do some birdwatching while they waited. Birds were obviously nearby, judging by the chirping in the trees above, but it was important to be patient.

Things soon became a little tense as time went on, and the breeze blew at the net, making it more visible. There were several sightings of birds flying extremely close to the net, but changing direction at the last minute. A curious squirrel was also spotted nearby, but it seemed more interested in the bird feeders.

Finally, about five minutes later, a long tailed tit flew into the net. The licensed bird ringer carefully freed it, holding the tiny bird in a special grip, so as not to hurt it. It had black, white and pinkish feathers, a miniscule beak, and (as the name suggests) a long black and white tail. The bird ringer weighed and aged the bird, and took the wing measurement. Weighing the bird was important to check if it was healthy.

Afterwards, a great tit and a gold crest were also caught, weighed and aged. All birds were handled under licence and were not harmed in the process.

Having a bird ringer visit RGS again was an amazing experience, so thank you to the Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Wilder Schools programme for organising it.