Georgie Tugwell (pronouns: she/her) recently completed her fourth year of studying biology at St Andrews University in Scotland. She now works for RePLANET, an organization that funds ecological restoration through carbon and biodiversity credits. After attending an expedition with Operation Wallacea, Georgie was first introduced to the world of bird ringing which opened up a new door to the science of avian conservation. Enamored by this new-found passion, Georgie signed up to start training for her own bird ringing license and in the process became a youth representative to engage others in this experience. Georgie shares her journey and her experiences in the word of birds!
Georgie always had a passion for nature and when she realized there were opportunities to pursue this field as a career, she was all on board! Signed up for biology at university and surrounded by biologists it was hard not to be exposed to different avenues of field studies.
Just over a year ago, whilst taking part in an Operation Wallacea expedition, Georgie was first introduced to the concept of scientific bird ringing which opened her eyes to the world of conservation!
“I experienced my first [bird ringing] demonstration and I just never realized you could do that! It was amazing to release a bird and see how it worked up close”
When she returned, Georgie was inspired to pursue this line of work and took the steps to find a trainer and sign up for a training license so she could gain more experience at bird handling.
BIRD RINGING IN THE UK
Bird ringing (also known as bird banding) is the scientific practice of marking individual birds with a small, numbered metal bracelet and examining them whilst in the hand to determine their age, sex and other ecological information such as whether or not they are breeding or migrating. It is considered to be both a delicate and precise science and provides important information on bird population demographics, movements and ecology, and this data can feed into the management and conservation of birds.
Bird ringing also has exceptional educational value as people are able to encounter these wild animals in a unique and intimate way, and learn about the intricacies of their plumage and parts that can tell us stories of the otherwise hidden lives of birds.
In the UK, all ringing activity is overseen by the British Trust for Ornithology who are responsible for the distribution of rings, the regulation of permits and projects. So, if you are interested in starting your own journey in bird ringing, head to the website and find a trainer/bird ringing group near you. Your experience as a ringer is guided through a mentorship-style relationship with a bird ringing trainer so contacting your local group is a good place to start.
Whatever your schedule, whatever your commitments in life, training as a bird ringer can be done at your own pace and can be started at any stage in life. It’s a wonderful way to bring you closer to the natural world, and experience birds in the hand.
SHARING THE EXPERIENCE
At the beginning of 2022, Georgie became a BTO Youth Representative, a role that aims to engage young people with nature, and specifically in birds and ringing by hosting events that are fun, free, accessible and engaging.
“My confidence has grown since becoming a youth rep I’ve run a handful of events this year, one of which was a ringing demonstration.”
For Georgie, the ringing demonstrations are incredible experiences for people to get up close and personal with birds in a way they can’t experience without nets. But outside of the bird ringing community itself, the practice is largely unknown. Georgie explains why it’s important to share the practice and experience of bird ringing with the broader community:
“I think it’s really important that the public have the opportunity to understand what bird ringing is and why it’s happening so they can see the benefits behind it too!”
When people first encounter bird ringing it can look like a strange practice and they may become curious and have questions. Georgie explains that this is why it’s great for bird ringers to run public demonstrations and answer these questions so that everyone can understand and learn.
TIPS FOR STARTING OUT IN BIRDS
Georgie has 3 top tips for people looking to get more involved in bird watching and bird sciences like bird ringing:
- Download free bird identification apps for your phone like Merlin
- Follow social media accounts that share bird photos, information or ways to get involve with bird science and conservation in your local area – the BTO, RSPB or Georgie’s own Instagram accounts are good starting points!
- Get involved with a variety of experiences – volunteering can be a great way to build your skills and network
KEEP IN TOUCH
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