BTO Work Experience 26-29th May

From the 26-29 of May, I went to Thetford, Norfolk to have a work experience at the BTO voluntary, as my work experience with school is at Rutland Water later on this month. It was amazing to go behind the scenes of the BTO HQ, and meet some very nice people.

My dad and I arrived late Bank holiday Monday, and were ready for the days of ourselves. Usually it's e birding and my Dad working but for a change it was the other way around.


I arrived at the BTO at 9:30am and got introduced to the building, then it was straight down to the Gardedn Birdwatch Team (GBW), to see what they had in store for me, when I arrived Clare Simms had set me to do an article on the Jackdaw, each month Clare writes an article that goes into the BBC Wildlife Magazine online called 'Discover Wildlife', and the wildlife that she writes about are general wildlife that you will get in your gardens. You can read the article by clicking on this link Discover Wildlife , after writing the article, Clare Simm invited me if I wanted to go around the Nunnery Lakes with her, Sarah Harris and Neil Calabrade, it was nice to see some Egyptian Goslings swimming around one of the lakes, after going around the reserve, I was off the the communication department, to do some tweeting for the upcoming Springwatch, I was working with Ieuan Evans and it was quite interesting looking at all the Social Media side to the BTO and just catching up with Ieuan himself. 
After a first brilliant day at the BTO my dad and I decided to go down Weeting Heath NWT, to see if we could spot a Stone Curlew, and as soon as we go into the hide, we found just a single bird feeding with the Rooks and the local Rabbits, sadly the bird was quite distant but still nice to see my 3rd ever Stone Curlew 

Stone Curlew at Weeting Heath © Toby Carter


On Wednesday, it was an early start, as I was to be helping Dave Leech, Lee Barber and their pH D student Chris, at their reedbed site Cranwich, many of you reading this who follow Dave Leech and Lee Barber on twitter (@rock_nester and @lee00barber) will know that this is the site, where they ring a lot of the Reed Warblers and Cuckoo chicks. 
So Lee picked me up outside our hotel at 7:30am and we drove straight down to Cranwich, the site is massive covered in lagoons and reedbeds along the outskirts of every lake, so they are doing a study to see if the length of reeds affects the breeding success of Reed Warblers, plus where the insects are during the breeding season, so to measure the insects, Dave and Lee had set up traps to catch the insects, in the reeds small potter traps just above the water, to catch any insects within the area, and sticky traps which were hung up in the trees to see the abundance of insects in the wooded areas, this will help Chris, Lee and Dave distinguish where the Reed Warblers are feeding, against the abundance of insects. So I got kitted up in my waders, and Lee put me right in the deep end, at first my job was to collect exuviae (Damselfly and Dragonfly cases) off the reed stems to see when they are appearing during the Reed Warbler breeding season. 
In the Reeds 

Potter Trap
After checking some of the Potter traps, Chris showed me a nest I thought I'd never see, it was a WATER RAIL nest!!! This nest was lovely to see, not much bigger than a Moorhen nest, then after seeing that amazing nest, he showed me a Reed Warbler nest, there really beautiful, you see them on the T.V or books and think how amazing the nest is, but it's not until you get up close that you can really appreciate the beauty of these tiny birds and their amazing nests! After seeing both of those nests, Lee set out a trap to try and catch one of the adult birds (Lee has an license to do this!), and within 5 mins, he brought out an adult Water Rail, this was going to be the 3rd ever for Cranwich, and I was going to the ring it, this is a memory I will treasure forever!!!! It was such a lovely to bird to hold with its intricate plumage. Whilst I was measuring the wing of the bird, out the corner of my eye, I saw a small bird pop into a little clump of rushes, when I'd finished processing, I went to have a look, and Chris found a Reed Bunting nest, this was a new nest this year, plus a first for me to!!

Water Rail Nest ©Toby Carter

Adult Water Rail ©Lee Barber
The Reed Bunting nest © Toby Carter

Me with my Water Rail ©Dave Leech

After finding the nest and ringing the beautiful Water Rail, it was back to checking the traps, and the water seemed to be getting deeper and deeper each time, we were checking them. At one lagoon, by the mud, a mass of black 'things' were gathering in a massive area of the lagoon, I put my hand in the water, and to my surprise they were toadpoles apparently, I'd never seen so many in my life before, let alone that beat the amount of tadpoles I'd ever seen as well. After on the last lagoon, I managed to pin point a male Cuckoo sitting high in the tops of a Willow Tree, i'd heard these birds all day long, but didn't manage to get a glimpse of them till now. Also this was the first Cuckoo i'd seen in 3 years! Later on when we had finished checking the pots and traps, Dave took me to a Reed Warbler nest, where I got to ring my first pulli (chicks in the nest) Reed Warblers, there was 4 chicks altogether, what a brilliant way to end on an amazing day, almost chest high in water!
A Reed Warbler Nest ©Toby Carter 


After a lovely out in the field (aka Reeds:-) ), I was back in the office, and back with Lee Barber and the Demography team, my task, was to process a load of reports of Colour-ringed birds, most of the birds were Black-headed Gulls from Germany and Latvia, also the occasional sighting of a Lesser Black-backed over here in England. It was amazing to see behind the scenes, were the sightings of ringed birds out in the field, turn up and to see the variety of whereabouts and when the birds were seen. Earleir on in the year, I went to my local gravel pits, with my friend Sam (@birdboysam), and I spotted a colour-ringed Cormorant (CTH), this was very exciting as I've never spotted a ringed bird that I've been fully able to identify the code, I sent the information to the Demography which is where I am now and within a week got the information saying it had been ringed at Attenborough Nature Reserve only 30 miles or so away. It was amazing to see the process from recording your sighting to the Demography team, looking for the connection and giving you the information back. After lunch, I was helping Carl Barrimore, with the NRS (Nest Record Scheme),  the NRS are always appreciated when people send photos of nests they've found, these all go into a database and my job was to, identify those without the name of the nest and put them into the right categories.

CTH Cormorant (Sam Pitt Miller) 

Before I left Paul Staincliffe, came up to me and handed me a bunch of papers, on the front was BBC Springwatch Unsprung Audience, Paul had got myself and my dad into the Unsprung audience at Minsmere! My dad and I drove down to Minsmere, and even saw the production village, and whilst waiting for Unsprung, we watched the show on the main screen, and managed to catch a glimpse of the live Wren nest! 10 mins before the show we were silent as we waited behind the 'Springwatch Shed', in the undergrowth we could see a muntjac eating away at the foliage. Then being in the audience was amazing, hearing about the surfer and his beach cleaning. It was an amazing experience and thank you to Paul and the BBC for letting my dad and I watch Unsprung live.

Film Crew and Stornoway Band

Me in the audience (Ben Moyes)


My final day at the BTO and I was going to be working with John Marachant in the Surveys Team, I had to look through the County Bird reports and log onto a massive excel spreadsheet the Introduced and escaped birds, this is because the BTO are looking at which Category E species are spreading through the country and which could properly establish themselves here in the UK. So by doing this I had to go into the BTO's Archives, and there are rows and rows of bird reports, books and so much more!  It was interesting to see that how certain species, that have escaped have, are now colonising parts of the Country. After entering loads of records into the database, it was time for me to say farewell and thanks a lot to everyone at the BTO for making me feel welcome, and thanks a lot to Paul who presented me with a signed copy of Mike Tom's book all about Owls, thanks a lot, this is a brilliant read. 
Just part of the archives

Owls by Mike Toms

Sorry for this Delay, with Blogger playing up, hope you enjoy this, please leave a comment.

Also don't miss the BTO, at the upcoming Birdfair 21-23 August in Marquee 3, stand 36-8