As it stands, any birder who wants to get a ringing licence needs to undergo a scientifically rigorous training program of carrying an established ringer’s bag and pliers, untangling their mentor’s nets when they get snagged in a bush, learning some feather tracts and ringing as many birds as humanly possible. This is how it has been for decades – and now it is felt in many quarters that the process needs to adapt to the modern era.
Mike Hunt, a birder and compulsive shagger from Cardiff, said “The BTO really needs to move with the times, and recognise what birders have known for years – that ringing is, for many, just a way to reinvigorate their birding when it’s getting a bit stale and the lifers are becoming thin on the ground. I like to think of it as being like having an affair or three when your long-term relationship’s got a little samey...
“Once you start ringing, it’s like starting afresh all over again. Every single species is a new ‘ringing tick’ for you. Better still, you actually have to physically catch and hold the bird. It satisfies that deep primal hunting instinct in all of us. Your listing itch is well and truly scratched, and better yet, you can hide it beneath the veneer that ringing is ‘adding to science’.
“If it’s done as part of a focused research project, or at a constant effort and strategically located migration watchpoint like Portland or Fair Isle, that’s probably true.
“But if it’s a case of, to pick a wholly fictitious example entirely at random, you being out birding one late autumn day and finding something obvious like a male Siberian Rubythroat, calling your mates, sticking up a net, catching it and slapping a ring on it... well, that’s not science is it? That’s just adding to your ringing list. It’s all about you, and has fuck all to do with science or the bird’s welfare.
“So, seeing as the BTO appears to let that sort of thing go on unchallenged despite it contravening their ringing guidelines, they might as well just call open season and automatically issue C permits on receipt of a stamped addressed envelope and a £10 donation from anyone who fancies fondling vagrant birds and adding to their ringing lists.
“Sorry, I meant to say ‘adding to science’. Silly me”.