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04 September 2017

Animal management lecturer introduces bird ringing to inspire next generation of ornithologists

An animal management lecturer is hoping that a bird-ringing scheme will inspire a new generation of ornithologists and conservationists.

The 2016-17 academic year was the first full season of nest ringing at the Lackham campus and saw Level 2 and 3 Animal Care students busily involved in building and putting out nest boxes in woodlands across the estate.

Students then monitored progress by watching nest building, laying of the first eggs and the hatching of chicks, both common and less common species, much to the delight of staff.

Animal Management lecturer Paul Wexler initially introduced bird ringing in 2015 after he began training the year before under the British Trust of Ornithology (Ringing scheme).

The scheme itself has been running for more than 100 years and is the attachment of a small metal tag of a wild bird to enable individual identification.

This then helps keep track of its migration, population, size, longevity and any changes.

The best information is gained from ringing birds in the nest because then their precise age is known.

Spotted Flycatchers have been watched on the estate for a number of years, but in 2015, one nest of five chicks was ringed, in 2016 two nests were monitored and ringed and so far in 2017 three nests have been ringed and two more are being monitored.

Paul, a lecturer at Lackham for the past 14 years, said: “Amazingly, these nests are only about 240 meters apart!

“It is mostly the common but beautiful blue and great tits that have occupied nest boxes, but this year we have also been lucky enough to have a box occupied by coal tits.

“Ten chicks have been ringed and it will be exciting to follow their progress over the years.

“Tit species are not particularly adventurous and stay in local woodlands but some species at Lackham travel great distances.

“One particular summer visitor, the spotted flycatcher, which flies from Africa to Europe to breed, returning after only a few weeks, has sadly suffered significant decline, but we have spotted one.

“It is hoped to build our bird ringing activities and inspire a new generation of ornithologists and conservationists graduating from Lackham.”

For more information about our animal courses visit www.wiltshire.ac.uk.