Bird Ringing


Bird ringing has been part of the reserve’s monitoring programme since the early days of Rutland Water in 1975. Since 1988, ringing has been organised by the Rutland Water Ringing Group, who are all either fully qualified ringers or undergoing training from members of the Group. Most are amateurs who ring birds as a hobby and an extension of their bird watching. Nationally, ringing is controlled by the British Trust for Ornithology, which is responsible for ringers’ training standards, issue of rings and maintenance of national ringing data archives. (See the BTO’s website.)

A Sparrowhawk, ringed during the Birdfair in 2001

The aims of ringing at Rutland Water are to monitor bird populations in different parts of the reserve, especially through participation in the BTO’s Constant Effort Scheme, ringing of nestlings in the breeding season, integrated population studies of particular species, and ringing of wintering passerines and wildfowl.

Non-ringers are able to see ringing in action at specially organised demonstrations particularly at the Ringing Group stand at the British Birdwatching Fair

CES site and results

One of the ringing rides alongside the reed bed

One of the most important parts of the work of the ringing group over the years has been the maintenance of a Constant Effort Site (CES). Under the scheme, run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), data is collected in a standardised way. Mist nets are erected in the same positions for the same amount of time on the same number of occasions, year after year. This standardisation allows annual comparisons to be made of the populations of various species. Throughout the country, over 100 such sites are registered with the BTO, and contribute very important data to the nationwide Integrated Population Monitoring Programme.

A ringing ride through a scrubby area

The ringing group has operated a CES at Rutland Water regularly since 1988 and it is one of the most valuable of the BTO’s sites since the total number of birds caught is very high. Ringing takes place from dawn until mid-day on 12 mornings at 10-day intervals throughout the breeding season. Eight 18m mist nets are erected, four of them in an area of reedbed and four in an area of scrub.

Breeding birds

A number of species breed in nest boxes which have been erected in various parts of the Reserve. These are used mainly by Blue and Great Tits and, particularly, Tree Sparrows. The nests are monitored closely by members of the Group, who ring the nestlings at the appropriate time. Other breeding species whose young are ringed include Cormorant and Common Tern, which nest on islands in the lagoons. House Martins are studied as part of the BTO’s project, “Ringing Adults for Survival”, which aims to estimate survival rates of adult birds and so provide early warning of any declines in survival in the future.

The Water Rail – a winter speciality on the reserve

Wintering wildfowl

Duck traps built of wire mesh and situated in shallow water are often operated in winter in association with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. The most frequently caught species are Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal and Moorhen.

The picture on the right shows a Water Rail, one of the winter specialities on the reserve. Although they do breed on the reserve there are many more present during the winter months, as birds arrive in Britain from Scandinavia, Poland and the Czech Republic. Many of these birds have been ringed – for example, in one three-year period, 34 Water Rails were ringed at Rutland Water. The ringer pictured here is Andy Mitchell and the photographer was Peter Dewar.

Bird-ringing demonstrations

If you would like to learn more about ringing or see the process in action, the Ringing Group usually have a demonstration and display at the Bird Fair.

News of ringed birds

We recently had details of a Coot, Fulica Atra, that was ringed at Rutland Water on 17/1/2000. Four years later it was found dead in Kuopio, Finland during the breeding season on 5/5/2004. This is 2119km ENE of Rutland. The BTO say that this is only the second record of a British-ringed Coot travelling to Finland.

As there is a UK breeding population of about 55,000 Coots you don’t normally think of themt as long distance migrants. In winter, however, the UK population is quadrupled as migratory birds from North West Europe arrive. It must have been one of these that was caught in 2000