Thursday, 13 May 2010

Nest finding & ringing in Germany.

I'm just back from spending a few days in Germany, after a request to the BTO from Andreas Michalik (a PHd student at Oldenberg) needing help to find Robin nests as part of his project.

Andreas, along with his colleague Bianca Alert, want to study orientation and learning mechanisms of Robins. It is known that the birds learn the rotational fix point of the star (normally the north star) as north. However it's not known how long the birds have to see the sky for this and it's unclear how they can detect the rotation. Andreas tells me there are two possibilities: they can either see the rotation or the other possibility would be a time-delayed pattern comparison. So to test each hypothesis against each other, Andreas & Bianca will hand raise young Robins that have not yet experienced the star pattern and will present a rotating artificial sky to them, as well as a sky that will ''jump'' the pattern every hour.

So over the last few days we've been searching for nests around Oldenberg and I'm pleased to say we managed to locate a number of Robin nests - with many of them at the right stage to be collected from the nest later this week. However I must say that I found finding the nests quite a challenge, as they were not as easy to find as they are in the UK!

Yesterday we took the afternoon off, so that Andreas could demonstrate to me how he catches gulls and wildfowl using nooses. We set up in the harbour at Wilhelmshaven, where we were greeted by a number of hungry Herring Gulls, Lesser Blacked Back Gulls & Black Headed Gulls. After a wait and a much persuading (with bread!) Andreas quickly caught a Herring Gull. By this time, the other gulls had seen what had happened and disappeared sharply! We also caught Mallards in the city parks around Wilhelmshaven, using the same method with the nooses.

Andreas releasing the Herring Gull, after fitting a nice shiny Helgoland metal ring to it!
Ageing Mallard.

Helgoland ring.

Last night it was a pleasure to be in the company of Susanne Homma & Olaf Geiter - for a number of years I have been in contact with Susanne with many Greylag, Canada & Egyptian Goose ring sightings, that birders in Germany had sent to WWT. It was great to put faces to names and to learn more about Susanne's & Olaf's goose ringing project, which they carryout throughout Germany.
Many thanks to Andreas & Bianca and Susanne & Olaf for their kind hospitality during my stay.

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