Tony is a seasoned volunteer ringer, who has subsequently taught and tested others in the vigorous methodology learnt over years to ensure bird safety and well-being. He had already caught two Curlew earlier in the day and the good fortune continued with another four captured briefly and ringed swiftly and carefully before placing them gently on the ground before they took off and flew into the dark.
Curlew Country birds have an orange ring on the right leg and yellow on the left. The unique digits on the yellow ring identify the individual birds. As the number of colour-ringing projects is increasing Tony now also adds a green ring to ensure each bird remains uniquely identifiable. Three more curlew caught momentarily were already ringed and we noted their unique identification code. Tony knows where they were caught and first ringed and if they are in our patch we know where their breeding territories are, or if we have records to prove otherwise, where they are migrating on to.
Curlew are renowned for being territory and partner faithful. Each year we find out a bit more about our breeding pairs. We sometimes see pairs change both partner and territory and assume that a partner has been lost (presumed dead) to force the change. Curlew female Yellow DN has been known to us since 2016 when she was ringed at a pre-breeding season roost and then settled in a regular nesting site in a field where her former partner is already foraging this season. In 2018 she disappeared and was replaced by an un-ringed bird and had not been spotted by us since. She was assumed dead, but there she was one of our captives looking in good health and condition and likely to be about to breed in a new territory in or close to Curlew Country. Her former mate has a new female on the scene and has continued to nest regularly with her.
The novel I read with my book group was unusually light and amusing but engaging and a good foil for an otherwise demanding time. An evening discussing the book in great company over supper would as usual have been precious. A chilly evening out on wet ground hearing curlew approaching, discovering a missing female curlew and helping to fill the knowledge gaps for the future was life enhancing for curlew (and humans).