After a period of extreme laziness, I decide to get out the mist nets this morning and see what I can catch. Bird ringing satisfies a basic human hunting instinct, and there’s always a sense of anticipation and adrenaline flow when approaching the net. I was once obsessed, spending hours in the field, but gradually gave up in favour of more sedentary pastimes.
My return is not spectacular. No great treks through deep marshes, or setting up hundreds of feet of nets on beaches in the dead of night; just a single net in the garden, with the simple aim of seeing how many goldfinches I can catch. The first time at a site is often the best, since the birds are unaware of the net, and if conditions are right, a good catch is usually guaranteed. I haven’t ringed in the garden for years, and so all the birds will be new.
Setting up early before the birds arrive is the best tactic, and with everything ready, including coffee in the garden shed, I wait for the early arrivals. Invariably it’s the robin that succumbs first, and true to form it drops gently into the corner of the bottom shelf. Dunnocks too are early risers, but the tits are never far behind. It’s difficult to decide just how many individual birds use the garden, but a morning’s catch always produces many more than can be seen on the feeders at any one time. Fifteen blue tits, 6 great tits, a couple of coal tits and 10 chaffinches kept me busy, but I need to wait a while for the goldfinch catch which yields a satisfying 15 in all. There are also odds and ends, a single wren, blackbird, song thrush and goldcrest all now carry my mark, and will add new interest as I look out of the window in days to come.