Sunday, 24 January 2016

Post 383 - Creatively Capturing Coots with Cannons!

Lovely red eyes on the Coot (Fulica atra)
Hey everyone, today's post is 383 and I woke up at quarter to seven this morning, no, not accidently, it was so I could go bird ringing, but not as I knew it. Today I went cannon netting a Nosterfield. Yes, it's exactly like it sounds. There is a net in a cannon and you fire the cannon and the net is fired over some birds, in this case it was Coots, and what fun it was. It is part of a big UK study to colour ring Coots to understand where they move around.

One of the cannons!
It takes quite a lot of preparation though to make it possible to catch many birds to ring. The Coots were attracted to one part of the lakeside with food put out for them every day for two or three weeks.

The people that set the cannons up were out in the middle of last night to set up the cannon and the net. The coots are very flighty so they were all out in the pouring rain setting up so they weren't disturbed in the morning. Poor people, I felt a little guilty seeing as I was snuggled up in  my house with a hot chocolate in front of a log fire...

Coot feet are amazing!
The bait for the coots was laid out too so that they all grouped into the same place to get the net over them. When the cannon went off it was kind of magical when all of the birds on the reserve flocked away from the bang, even me, my Dad and Simon Warrick were a bit surprised as there was no warning to when it went off. We saw the big puffs of smoke and then everyone running to the net to retrieve the birds.

Shortly before this one Did Attack Zach!
I did a post on Coots way back on Day 87 but they're really great birds to see up close. You see a lot of things I didn't expect -  there's all the usual colours that you see, but as well as the black and white on some their legs have really great yellow colouring as well as deep red eyes. Juveniles have a sort of speckling of brown on their bellies too. Their feet always amaze me, they aren't webbed but have sort of flaps on each of their toes. This must help them walk on boggy surfaces as well as act like paddles when theh swim.

You can see the brown speckling on the juvenile.
But they're also quite vicious birds, I nicknamed the bird with the colour ring 'DAZ' to 'Did attack Zach' seeing as it was the first bird that I actually handled and it jumped up and snapped at my mouth. It did hurt quite a bit but not as much as you'd think. They also gave me some scratches and bites all over my hands, but it's all in a good cause.

There were 68 birds colour ringed today, white bands with a three letter code in black on their left legs and also a metal ring on their right. It will be interesting to see where these birds turn up, so please keep an eye out when you are looking at coots especially for the one that 'Did Attack Zach'!

Here's a newsletter on the Coot ringing project, it tells you a bit about the movements of Coots that have been colour ringed.

Coot Ringing Project Newsletter

BTO Bird Facts on Coots

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. Great article again Zach. Pictures excellent to complimnet the words. Fantastic job you do with the ringing as well.

    1. Thanks Dion, it was great to do. How's your project going?

  2. Love that first shot of the coot, such sweet birds. - Tasha