Personal Log: Stardate 65010.3

Posted on July 18, 2011

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My life as a student is officially over. My MSc thesis has been handed in and now I have a council tax bill to remind me that the hard protective shell of the student status egg  has been passed on to some unknown whippersnapper. I’d like to think that this means more time to frolic with a plethora of wonderous organisms and working on acquiring superhuman knowledge of the natural world but I fear this will be somewhat stymied by the never-ending quest for money that capitalist society demands. As my position as an Assistant Ecologist comes to an end I can but hope the two can once again intermingle.

Barn owl chicks (Tyto alba) copyright Emma Thomas

A few weeks ago the single most amazing ringing outing of all the ringing outings I have been on took place. The aim was to ring more chicks at some farms around Doncaster with swallows and barn owls featuring prominently on the agenda. Swallows were coming out of our ears and the barn owl nest yielded no less than 5 beautifully wise looking chicks. The parents had decided to use a massive stack of hay bales to nest in rather than their usual nest box in the barn. Considering the hot weather the move was commendable. I was incredibly impressed by how proud the farmer was to have them nesting on his property every year. At another farm nearby the resident pair had failed to return much to the disappointment of the farmer who was keen to discuss all the reasons why this may have happened and how to encourage another nesting pair to the site.

Adding to the excitement of the day was a collared dove chick who elicited a “what the hell is that?” response from myself. If there’s one thing ringing chicks has taught me it’s that Columbidae chicks are really quite amazing and bizarre looking. The picture of the wood pigeon chick we ringed exemplifies this with its wide beak and chunky legs. I must admit the little guy (or girl) was the highlight of my day.

Wood pigeon chick (Columba palumbus) copyright Emma Thomas

Kestrel chicks (Falco tinnunculus) copyright Emma Thomas

The “I will kill you” award of the day belonged to the kestrel chicks. They were nestled in a hole in a tree which meant putting them in a satchel keeping them calm and safe while they were brought to the ground. Getting them out of the bag was another matter altogether. Upon opening the bag we were met with 4 pairs of talons. It transpires that kestrel chicks will lie on their backs and greet you with their not so little daggers of pain at any available opportunity. They were successful little warriors drawing blood from everyone that handled them. They’ll no doubt do well.

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