THE New Year will mark a key anniversary in our understanding of Britain’s bird life: the 100th anniversary of the then revolutionary science of bird ringing. And to mark this milestone, a special book has been published which would make an ideal stocking-filler for any bird lover.
Until 1909, much of our knowledge of British birds was held in folklore. Country folk had for centuries known that certain birds appear at certain times of the year and that, for most common species, the annual breeding season started on February 14th – St Valentine’s Day.
Some of this so-called “knowledge” was fantastical nonsense: some people believed that swallows spent the winter buried in mud at the bottom of lakes!
Then ornithologists came up with the idea of capturing birds in huge but delicate nets and clipping a uniquely numbered ring on their legs which, on recapture, told where and when they had been. It was thus discovered the swallows migrate to and from Africa.
Since then, some 36 million birds has been ringed in Britain and the British Trust for Ornithology now has the biggest bird data base in the world. This and many other intriguing facts are outlined in a special book now published by the BTO called ‘Bird ringing: a precise guide.’
- Bird Ringing is available from BTO on-line sales at www.bto.org or by telephone, 01842 750050. It costs £7.50 plus p & p.