Roller ringing

The other week we went over to the westernmost of the two A Rocha France centres at Les Tourades, ninety minutes drive away. There were two reasons. The first was that Chris, as a member of the conseil d’administration, wanted to have a chat about possible plans for the future given that A Rocha France has sold the building there but wants to continue a presence in the area. The other reason was it was a good chance to see some of the bird ringing (banding to you Americans) that is being done there by Timothée Schwartz, A Rocha France’s science officer, who is in the middle of his PhD on the subject.

The ringing party. Roller nest boxes have been put in in these woods on the edge of open fields. Yes, that’s a ladder, an essential part of the equipment.

European Rollers (Coracias garrulus) are a wonderfully spectacular bird with a distinctly African air about them. When, very rarely, they make it to Britain, the roads get clogged by twitchers. That’s understandable as there is none of the drab modesty that bedevils so many European birds about Rollers, they are simply glorious. In the open farmland around Tourades they are quite common, although we have also seen three or four together flying around by our house at Taradeau.

Here’s why you need the ladder: to take the roller chicks from the nest so they can be ringed

Timothée has done a great work in both ringing and in a few cases, putting radio transmitters on the birds. As a result of his work and that of others , their epic migration to and from southern Africa is now well documented. Given that we are in a second round of heatwave at the moment, and all the emphasis is on climate change, it might be argued that roller ringing is slightly irrelevant to the big issue of our time. Actually, birds that migrate over long distances are extremely good indicators of developing problems. At the moment roller populations seem to be holding up fairly well in Europe, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on such things. The principle that a canary in the coal mine can alert you to problems has a wider application beyond that particular species.

First the ring, then measurements and a breast feather for DNA analysis. The last two pictures show the rings and the sheets to record all the data
These chicks are nearly ready to leave the nest. This one has the bright blue adult wing colour.

And finally, like almost everyone else, we are utterly appalled by Boris Johnson becoming British prime minister. We are currently finding out what the French terms for ‘clown’, ‘buffoon’ and ‘congenital liar’ are. They are going to be much used words.

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