Got woken up by the rain falling on the tent, obviously it sounded worse than it actually was being under canvas. I glanced at my watch and I smiled when it said 05:10. I tried to sink deeper in to my bag and pulled it tighter as I drifted back off to sleep. Re-awoke a few hours later and the rain had stopped but a strong persistent wind buffeted against the tent. As I washed in the camp lake I was surprised that nearly all of the ice had melted from the lake with just a few long lengths floating mid way. Just a single Sabines Gull was present as it stood on one the last remaining sheets of ice. It was decided at breakfast to stay in the office tent and get "office jobs" done as the wind was far to strong to search for nests. The birds would be keeping low and it would make it difficult to track them. My job was to make flag rings. We had speakers and so I got my iPod and put some music on with the Kettle boiling so there would be a readily supply of Tea throughout the morning. The flag strips already contained the letters which had been pre printed. I had to take them with a pair of pliers and then soften them up in a saucepan of boiling water, then wrap them around a masonry nail and get them flush on each side keeping them evenly crimped so that the flag didn't rub or graze against the leg or cause discomfort to the bird. There was a bowl of cold water to dip them in to before I shaped them but this made them taught again so I shaped and crimped them whilst they were straight out of the boiling water. This actually stung the tips of my fingers and by the time I had finished all of them my finger tips felt raw but the were all complete and ready to go for when we start trapping and banding/ringing birds.
Later on after lunch around mid afternoon the weather began to change for the better and the wind reduced and eventually came to a halt. It was then decided to go and try out the bow net and see if we could trap any of the Dunlin. The photo above shows the Bow Net, it is a German design and obviously being German it works extremely well. How it works is that you go to a nest, then the bird sitting flushes off, you place the net over the nest and peg it down over one half, then collapse the ramaining half which sits flush by being held by a pin so it is then totally collapsed. The pin is attached to a stretch of thin black string (which acts like a fishing tracer wire) tied to thicker yellow string on a spoil that you unwind to a reasonable distance away so you can either see the bird return to the nest or if you can not see it you allow enough time for the bird to return to incubate. You pull the string which in turn removes the pin causing the net to spring up & open over the nest trapping the bird. The net is quite large and causes no harm or injury to the relevant bird. We only use them on Dunlin, Red Necked Phalaropes, Semi P and Western Sandpipers on this project.
Whilst waiting for the bird to return we set up all of the banding/ringing equipment. It is my job to pull the string and then run to the nest, collect the bird, bag it and return. The bird is processed and the process goes in the following order. Weigh the bird, place the standard metal BTO ring, then the coded flag ring, then the colour rings and then the geolocator. After this the bird is measured, Culmen, total head,closed wing & Diagonal Tarsus. Flight and body feathers are checked for moult. Feather samples are taken from either the primaries or secondaries depending on the species and also breast feathers are taken. Then swabs are taken from the Cloacal gland and the inside of the bill. Then a blood sample is taken from the vein that crosses the arm (joint of the wing). The feather samples are for Isotope analysis and the bloods and swabs are taken for Avian Influenza.
The colour rings are sealed together by being melted by a soldering gun as per the 2 photos above. HRG is very confident and competent when processing the bird. I find myself learning a lot today. I admire her dedication and passion for what she does. She is a clever and talented individual and I believe she will go a long way unless she burns out or settles for a more office based position which results in less time in the field.
Both of the Dunlin today were of the race Pacifica, I learn that the reason for them being Pacifica and not of Arcticola is because neither birds were in moult. Arcticola moults whilst on the breeding grounds/nest, however Sakhalina race cloudy's the water but I am told that there is not enough known about Sakhalina as of yet. The above photo shows the measuring of the diagonal Tarsus.
We stayed out in the field until late and the first two of the geo-locators has been installed leaving 33 to be installed remaining. Other notable sightings today included: A pair of Black Scoter were new in and 20+ Long Tailed Skua's routinely patrolled the area. The weather remained nice for the evening and the sun burned down from a blue sky above. The rain returned as I lay in my bag at the end of the day as I write these notes at near on 03:20 hrs.
*After the pause in postings this past few days this blog will resume to be updated on a daily basis again as of today*.