Sunday, 22 January 2017

Post 455 - Coots, Cannons and a Cool Crisp Morning

A lovely atmospheric dawn at Lingham Lake at Nosterfield 
Hey everyone, today's Post 455 and today's been a long day for me! I woke up at about quarter to 6 and was out by quarter past, Dad & I went to Nosterfield Quarry, as arranged by Jill Warwick and the rest of the East Dales Ringing Group.

Being up and out so early it wasn't even light when we got there. We met up in the car park of the quarry. Today we were hoping to ring some Coots and maybe a few other species using cannon nets, which is a pretty exciting way to catch the birds to ring. We started by splitting into as little cars as possible, as because it's a working quarry and because we wanted to disturb the birds as little as possible so we could get a good catch. Or that was the plan. There had been some shooting in the area recently so the birds were a bit cautious. There were a lot of Coots on the other side of the Lake so a few of us were sent back round that way to see if us being there would encourage the birds toward the area with the food that had been put out.

Lapwings & Golden Plover over the lake
Going back over to this side of the Lake was lovely. It was just getting light and it was incredibly atmospheric being there. It was very still and really quiet with only the calls of Curlew and Lapwing to hear. The sun started peaking through the trees over the mounds of gravel and it was just slightly misty. I was tired, but I really enjoyed being there in the moment.

We didn't know if our plan was working as we watched the birds over the water from our screen but suddenly the peace was briefly shattered by the boom of the cannons. Yes cannon netting is just that. A few cannon are set up to fire big weights which pull a big net over a target area. The calm was soon restored as the Lapwings, Curlew and Golden Plover that had flown up settled back down as cannon smoke drifted across the lake.

It wasn't until we got back round to the netting area that we found out what was caught. in fact 27 Coots had been caught and they were all safely bagged up ready to ring. Not the biggest catch but a good number to ring.

One of the Coots that was ringed. They're lovely up close.
You might wonder why birds are ringed. Well it's all about understanding more about birds lives, how they move around, how long they live, their population levels etc. Collecting all this data lets us understand the birds more and to be able to help them better if they are suffering population declines.

It's a quick process when the rings are put on, the birds are weighed, their wing length is measured, their age and sex is worked out. This time round as well a colour ring was added. Two were recaptured but I didn't see the one I had ringed last year. It had the ring  DAZ which for me stands for Did Attack Zach - they are feisty little birds as you can read in last years post!

It only took until about 10.30 to do all the ringing and then pack up. The big nets had to be put away as did the cannons - they're a bit heavy! Then it was back to the Quarry office for a cup of tea and a piece of homemade flapjack thanks to the Quarry manager Chris's wife.

Packing the cannons away.
Apologies for the crimes against fashion  but you really
needed to dress up warm!
Before we headed home Dad and I popped to the main reserve at Nosterfield to see what was about. The water levels are really low but there was plenty to see. We were only there about 30 minutes but there were hundreds of birds. A Heron, Redshank, Teal, Wigeon, Grey Heron, Curlew, Golden Plover. Rooks, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese. 

Again it was really quiet, we were the only ones in the hide and we couldn't see anyone else on the reserve all we could hear were the call of Lapwing and Curlew. So the morning ended like it had started really relaxing and atmospheric. 

So if you fancy a new hobby and want to help nature - try ringing and birdwatching.  

Cold? Sometimes very! Tiring? Well you do get up early! Worth it? Always!

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. Lovely shot of the coot there Zach, and that early morning dawn looked gorgeous! - Tasha

  2. Lovely photos and the Coot is beautiful! :)