Ringing in the changes
The Tygerberg Ringing Unit was established 30 years ago. Most of the original Ringers have either
relocated or hung up their Ringing Pliers. Over the past 15 years the only two members, namely
Margaret McCall and Lee Silks, have been active on a regular basis. In October 2009 they gained the
assistance of Gerald Wingate to help with carrying the equipment, setting up the nets and extracting
the netted birds.
The need for succession was recognised about four years ago and three of the four recently
recruited assistants commenced with their training, namely Ettienne Kotze, Rocco Nel and John
Maberly, while Gail Maberly continued to provide valuable assistance with erecting nets and
extricating netted birds.
The training process includes the erecting of nets by one’s self, extracting netted birds, identifying
and sexing the birds, determining the state of moult of the primary feathers, weighing the bird, and
measuring the length of the tail and the folded wing after placing the ring on the tarsus. Thereafter,
the entering of the data onto a spreadsheet and the submission of the file to SAFRING (South African
Ringing Database) at UCT needs careful attention.
During the early stages of training, we had the privilege of being visited by Dieter O, the former head
of the SAFRING unit, and Prof Les Underhill, former head of the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at
UCT. Useful tips and techniques were gleaned from these vastly experienced professionals, while
the regular nods of approval were appreciated.
The training procedure was progressing admirably until the restrictions resulting from the Covid-19
pandemic hampered the freedom of movement, and social distancing restricted activities at the
ringing table. Once ringing sessions could be resumed, we encountered periods when neither
Margaret nor Lee could supervise the “trainees”. Fortunately, we were able to obtain the services of
Felicity Elmore, an experienced Ringer and accomplished birder, and long-standing member of the
Cape Bird Club. Her expertise and enthusiasm were very welcome, and she added momentum to
the training process.
In addition to being able to process the birds regarding age, sex, moult and measurements, the
trainees can qualify for a Ringer’s Permit once they have each ringed 500 birds and processed at
least 50 different species.
After a lengthy but thorough process, all of the qualifying requirements have now been met by the
three “trainees” and the motivation for their “graduation” has received favourable consideration
from the head of SAFRING.
It is now fitting to congratulate John, Rocco and Ettienne on a well-deserved qualification and to
formally welcome them as fully-fledged members of the TBC Ringing Unit.
Well done, chaps! We look forward to seeing you in the field every Wednesday morning!
12 July 2022