Bird lovers flock to the Follies at Hawkstone Park in Weston-under-Redcastle, Shrewsbury, to see birds ranging from pied flycatchers and redstarts to blue tits and ravens.
Alan Heath along with other volunteers Gerry Thomas, Paul Ashworth, Derek Lincoln, Kevin Henderson, Anna Davies and Jenny Thomas are trained by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to ring the birds as part of a country-wide scheme to gather information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds.
Alan, who has been involved in the ringing scheme at Hawkstone Park for over 20 years, said they had one of only two pairs of ravens in Shropshire that nested on natural rock faces.
“There are loads of pairs of ravens that nest in trees throughout the county but because of a lack of natural cliffs in the county, the Follies is one of only two places where ravens regularly nest on cliffs,” he said.
“We currently have six, recently fledged, young ravens which is the highest number we have ever had and this is one of the best places to come in Shropshire to see ravens because you can get quite close to them and some visitors have captured great photos.
“Our nesting boxes primarily attract pied flycatchers, blue tits and great tits and we ring all the pied flycatchers as part of a nationwide scheme so we can monitor the rates at which they return, the distances they travel, their longevity and to generally check on their condition.
“The ringing process involves fitting each bird with a small metal ring which carries important information, comprising of a combination of letters and numbers which are unique to the individual bird and an address to which details of subsequent captures or recovery of the bird should be relayed.
“All the ringing is scientifically based and it is very satisfying to be involved.”
Roger Whitehouse, park manager at the Follies at Hawkstone Park, said Alan and the rest of the volunteers did a great job of monitoring the wide range of birds over the 80 acres of diverse countryside at the Follies.
“This is a bird watcher’s paradise and the ringing is carried out each May since it helps the BTO understand why bird populations are changing,” he said.
“We have also put up nesting boxes for owls and kestrels at the Follies because if they are situated on the golf courses there isn’t enough food for owls which is why we have more Tawny owls on the park side of the estate.
“The birds and general wildlife are an important part of the Follies and we want to continue to attract visitors year after year.”
Admission to The Follies is £7 for adults, £4.50 for children, £6 for concessions, £22 for two adults and two children and £25 for two adults and three children.
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