Conservation Ecology Society trip to Kenfig Nature Reserve

In her role as BTO Student Ambassador for Swansea, Cerian Thomas (MSc Environmental Biology student and BSc Zoology graduate) took 16 students from the Department of Bioscience’s Conservation Ecology Society to Kenfig Nature Reserve.

Chaffinch with Papilloma virusThey observed the Reserve’s Warden, Heather Coates from the Gower Ringing Group and fellow ringers as they set up mist nets in three locations on site, and carefully ringed, measured and weighed caught birds, recording information in their data book to submit to the BTO, before releasing the birds back onto the reserve.  Bird ringing has been going on for numerous years and provides science with a large, ongoing data set that can help track the movements of birds throughout the year on their migrations and estimate age and sex proportions in populations from ringing data and re-trappings.  They were able to show us the process, how they can sex species and age them where possible from moult stages.  Students found it useful seeing the birds up close to improve their common bird identification.  Some caught chaffinches had symptoms of Papilloma virus, which causes crusty sores on their feet and were not ringed, as rings can cause unnecessary pain.   A red data book species, the reed bunting, was also caught at the site, a couple of which were re-trappings, showing their survival at the site and allowing students to see one of the UK’s declining species up close.  A few students asked for the chance to hold a bird in the ringer’s grip under careful supervision.   A total of nine species were caught, including a great spotted woodpecker, reed bunting, goldcrest and long-tailed tits.  After lunch, one of the ringers kindly took the group down to Kenfig pool and showed us a black-necked grebe, an uncommon visitor to the UK, a great example of how this site can be important for rare species.  

The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) is the UK’s leading bird research organisation harnessing the skills and enthusiasm of over 40,000 volunteers to monitor UK birds.  Part of Cerian’s role as BTO Student Ambassador for Swansea is to encourage students into surveys and avian science, and now that an important link has been made, students have been invited back to observe the ringers during one of their core ringing surveys in the summer.