Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Checking the amount of fat and muscle

Examining fat and muscle level

Our birdman Ed has been catching and ringing all kinds of birds since yesterday morning. We asked him what it’s all about and how it can help us to better understand our feathered friends.

Why are you ringing birds?

It’s a way of identifying and recording individual birds, so that if they’re caught again we can tell where they’ve been and how they’ve developed. This can give us valuable information about their lives and behaviour.

What information are you collecting?

As well as the species, we check the gender and estimate the age of the bird. We measure the size and wingspan and also assess levels of fat and muscle. We use a sensitive spring balance to weigh the birds, too.

What do you do with the information?

We use it for our own researh, but we also submit it to a central database maintained by the British Trust for Ornithology. They can  make our data available to researchers across the world.

How do you ring the birds?

First we need to catch them. We’re doing that here today with a large net strung between two poles. But there are various other ways of catching birds, depending on what species we are looking for and how big they are.

We attach a small ring to the bird’s leg. This will stay with them for life. We can ring birds at any age, once they have started to develop their first feathers. It’s completely painless and the ring won’t get in their way at all.

What information is on the ring?

The ring has a unique registration number and the address of the British Museum. If anybody catches the bird again, they know that they can contact the museum to access the data that we’ve collected today.

Do you often catch birds that have already been ringed?

Yes, we do. Most of them are quite local, but at Chew Valley, where I usually work, we’ve caught swallows that have flown here from South Africa and warblers from Spain. It’s really exciting to see how far they’ve travelled.

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Our one minute interview with Sally


Who are you?

I’m Sally. I’m studying for a PhD in geography at the University of Bristol, specialising in coral reefs.

Why are you here?

I really like communicating with people about science and nature. I spend most of my time working on a computer, so it’s great to get outside and help people learn about the natural environment. There aren’t many coral reefs in Bristol, so I have to get my science where I can.

What has been the highlight so far?

Helping to catch and ring birds with the help of some of the visiting schoolchildren. The excitement as we released the birds was amazing.

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The Bristol BioBlitz is a great day out, but it’s also a real scientific biodiversity survey. We caught up with the boffins from BRERC, who are coordinating the count, to find out how it works.

BRERC is the Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre. They have twenty staff and volunteers at the event over the next day and a half, whose job is to make sure that the species data is collected accurately, to enter the data onto the master computer and to keep count of the species that we’ve identified.

The BRERC environmental records team in action

Our records team working tirelessly to keep the tally going

We have specially-designed survey forms for the BioBlitz, with maps of the Tyntesfield estate so that people can record not only what they have found, but where it is. This allows us to build up a picture of the species living and growing here, and to make the records available to everyone who is interested in the local flora, fauna and funghi.

So our work here today is not just great educational fun for all the family; it’s also helping scientists to learn more about the wildlife in Bristol and to make this data available to researchers from around the world.

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