Bird Ringing

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) co-ordinate the bird ringing scheme for Britain and Ireland. Each year around 900,000 birds are ringed over 2,600 trained ringers. Ringing allows for the collection of scientific information on survival rates, productivity and bird movements. The rings are made from light weight metal, each inscribed with a unique number. These rings are placed around the bird’s leg which is completely harmless and does not affect the bird in any way.

Ringing allows us to study how many young birds leave the nest and survive to become adults, as well as how many adults survive the stresses of breeding, migration and severe weather. Changes in survival rates and other aspects of birds’ biology help us to understand the causes of population declines.” BTO website

Birds are caught using mist nest, a type of fine mesh net between two poles. The birds fly into these nets and become trapped. They are safely removed by trained ringers who apply the ring and take weights and measurements from the birds. Chicks are also ringed in the nest.

Nuthatch being ringed
Copyright Dawn Balmer (www.bto.org)

Other types of rings used are colour rings. These can be on the legs (often seen on wading birds) or around the neck of larger birds (geese and swans) the colour combinations and/or numbers can usually be read through binoculars or a scope. There is a Greylag goose frequently seen around the south end of Shetland with this type of neck ring.

Stonechat with a metal ring
Copyright Ruth Walker (www.bto.org)

Turnstone with colour rings
Copyright Ruth Walker (www.bto.org)

Greylag Goose in Shetland with collar
Copyright Richard Ashbee

What to do if you find a bird with a ring

You can report metal and colour rings through the BTOs reporting website here

Metal rings can be near impossible to read on a healthy bird. Most rings found by the general public are from dead, injured or trapped birds. (The BTO themselves do co-ordinate re-capture projects where ring numbers and measurements are taken and the bird is released). BTO rings and colour rings, as well as rings from other institutions throughout Europe can be reported to this website just follow the onscreen instructions.

If you would like help with this process, contact us at shetlandcommunitywildlife@outlook.com or the Shetland County Recorder at the Shetland Bird Club at recorder@shetlandbirdclub.co.uk


Hedgehog Hibernation

Our British hedgehogs have recently been classified vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as it is estimated that there are less than a million left in the UK.

Hedgehogs start to hibernate in October/November and the Scottish Wildlife Trust have some useful information on making them more comfortable in your garden.

(image: © Michael Gäbler / Wikimedia Commons)

Juvenile hedgehogs weighing less than 500 grams during late autumn will be unlikely to survive through their winter hibernation and so will need help. Download this factsheet caring for autumn juvenile hedgehogs from the RSPCA for advice.

Or you can call the SSPCA on 03000 999 999 if you find a sick, injured of underweight hog.

To help preserve our prickly friends, please report your sightings on the Big Hedgehog Map an initiative set up by People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

How to make your garden more hog friendly –

  • Resist the temptation to remove all of the leaf litter from your garden. Instead leave log and leaf piles which make a perfect nesting place as well as great habitat for all of the invertebrates (beetles, slugs etc) that hedgehogs love to feed on.
  • If your fruits have finished for the season and the kids don’t play football in the winter, remove all types of netting from the garden as hedgehogs and other critters can easily become entangled in it.
  • Before beginning any work in your garden, check for hedgehogs hiding in bushes etc before using any strimmers or lawnmowers. Compost heaps make lovely warm nesting places for hogs, so do be careful and check before forking it over.
  • As we are approaching bonfire night, please build any bonfires as close to the lighting time as you can, and always check them thoroughly for any animals which may have begun nesting in it.

Hedgehogs have surprisingly large territories, they have been known to roam up to 2km in a single night. To allow free movement of hogs between neighbouring gardens and fields it is also recommended that you add a 13cm square hole through fences.