Bird ringing is a world-wide method of finding out where birds migrate and how population levels change. See here how it is done on the Bog Meadows, a city nature reserve a few metres from the M1 motorway near Belfast.
AIDAN CREAN: There’s many many reasons for bird ringing. Not least that this bird now, no matter where it goes in the world, will be connected back to this reserve. So let me just call out this number here. It’s T624529.
DARRYL GRIMASON: Ringing is conducted under licence and reveals a lot about the health of the birds.
Another delivery, we’ve got a conveyer belt going on here.
AIDAN CREAN: OK, very good. What have we got? What net was that?
BIRD RINGER: Two.
AIDAN CREAN: Net two, OK. And what’s in the bag? Oh very nice, lovely.
DARRYL GRIMASON: Beautiful.
AIDAN CREAN: Lovely.
DARRYL GRIMASON: It’s a blackcap.
AIDAN CREAN: It’s one of our priority species. These warblers are really what this reserve is all about. This is one of the magnum birds that makes its way out to Africa and comes back to us to rear its young breed, build its nest, stay here. This is why this reserve in the heart of the city is so important to the people of Belfast. Little birds like this have a great story to tell, the blackcap.
DARRYL GRIMASON: It’s wonderful.
AIDAN CREAN: When we started ringing here ten years ago, we didn’t catch any for two years. Today we can catch twenty to thirty blackcaps. Because we’ve planted up the willow, the birch and the alder, and we have improved the biodiversity, and this is one of the benefactors of the work that’s been done.
The Blackcap is a small bird making a surprising comeback into gardens, especially to winter bird-tables.
The Bog Meadows are the remnant of a much bigger wetland that has been squeezed by road-building, industrial units, housing, sports fields and other pressures. Once marked for development, local activism saved the area for wildlife. Volunteers plant trees and maintain the habitats. Flax, the mainstay of Ireland’s traditional linen industry, also grows up in the reserve.