The pioneers of Thermal Imaging for conservation
WEST MIDLANDS RINGING GROUP
I’d always enjoyed birds but wanted to be more involved and have a positive impact. I looked in to bird ringing in 2010 and have not looked back since.
It’s a huge privilege to be able to catch and tag birds but takes a lot of commitment and learning.
My goal has always been to make a difference, spread the positive work ringers do and share what we do with other ringers and members of our local communities.
Myself and Paul pioneered the use of thermal imaging whilst standing in a field at Marsh Lane Nature reserve whilst looking for Lapwing chicks. Thermal is a huge game changer for bird ringing and surveying and is providing accurate day and night data for landowners. Ringers all over the world are now using thermal to survey and ring many different bird species. Through the work we have done with thermal, our group won a national award and we continue to share everything we do.
I’m proud of the legacy we’ve created around thermal technology.
My favourite bird in the hand is a tough one but it’s between a Common Tern or Peregrine Falcon chick, which we colour ring.
Keep up with amazing work by West Midlands Ringing group at
WEST MIDLANDS RINGING GROUP
I started ringing in 2013 after finding a cuckoo chick in a Reed warbler nest in Shropshire. After speaking to a local ringer he came to have a look and let me ring it - my first bird! That was me hooked.
I like it - get closer to birds, I've always had an interest in birds, and ringing allows me to put something back, informing science so we can have a better understanding of them. This in turn helps teach us how to look after them, and their habitat better to ensure their survival.
My personal goal in ringing is to help find out some information about birds that was previously unknown. I would also like to see habitat improvements we have made across our sites make a positive difference for breeding birds. (I'd also like to ring a black winged kite!)
Thermal has significantly changed our understanding of birds, from a simple conversation between me and Ben in a field we have been at the forefront of sharing the opportunities presented by thermal Ornithology worldwide. However it has probably changed my life from September to February to becoming fairly nocturnal!
Best bird in hand is really tricky - Short eared owl probably. Dotterel were extremely special (the first ringing records for Worcestershire and the West Midlands) and in 2021 I ringed the only 2 in the UK and Ireland
ECOLOGIST AND PHOTOGRAPHER
I am a graduate ecologist with a specific interest in birds. I use my thermal for surveying them both breeding bird surveys and wintering bird surveys. It also comes in handy on bat surveys.
I am also a keen photographer and have been doing photography and birding since a very young age. Thermal has helped to increase my awareness and understanding of species not often seen such as woodcock, jack snipe and owls. Being able to find these species without immediately disturbing them has provided me with prolonged views of all these species resulting in a different understanding of their behaviour. This has obviously made photographing these species far easier and can lead to less disturbance.
One of my favourite species is nightjar- I used my thermal just yesterday to help see their behaviour after dusk
All of the beautiful bird photography on this website are Henry's images. If you would like to see more of his work then please follow him on instagram
How Thermal Imaging is changing conservation
Thermal imaging is certainly changing the way we see the world. Bird counts have dramatically changed now that birds can be monitored at night. Ringing catch success has increased as birds previous unseen can be caught. Nets can be monitored from further afield and species like Jack Snipe can be counted without having to flush them out of hiding. Nightjars used to be counted by listening for churring males - now we can see that multiple individuals are flying when only one pair would have been counted. This is just with birds - all manner of species are being monitored now from birds to bats, to insects and more.
West Midlands Ringing Group
Ben and Paul from The West Midlands Ringing Group first brought a thermal from us in 2016. They saw the huge potential in these devices when they went ringing at night. They had previously been using a torch to dazzle birds roosting on the ground at night and then netting them on the floor. As you can imagine - it was very hard to do and capture numbers were low. Once they started spotting with a thermal their success was phenomenal. I shall let their figures speak for themselves below!