BEST READ RINGS
I produce rings to my own projects, but also in some amount for other scientific projects. The priority is to help new projects. My target is to find and develop the best rings for the projects. I give the full guarantee to all my work. If one is not satisfied he can send the rings/plates back.
I also give a promise to make the best rings. If you have a read ring, send it to me, I shall make even better ones for you!
The best read rings, what sort of they are?
There are many things to consider. The functional unit of a read ring must be equivalent to the amount of the after ringing (read) data they produce. That can be proportional to the price or the effort, but also the reliability of data must be taken into account. I have written about that already over ten years ago (The best bird ring). The most of effort for ringing is normally made in ringing process. It is a pity if one looses the ring many years before it is dead. We ought to use good materials if the project is not a short one. I have been working 30 years (now partly retired) in North Karelia University of Applied Sciences (earlier North Karelia Polytechnic) as principal lecturer in polymer materials and polymer technology. I know the plastics!
1) Durability of material an colours
There a large differences in UV-, colour and wear resistance of different materials, even between colours! Some last wear by factor 10 to others. Look at materials and their tests. PS should never be used. ABS is designed for indoor use. PMMA (acrylics) is the best of common materials. Note that modified acrylics are not outdoor materials (often near ABS). Most common engraving sheets have the base layer made of ABS or similar. Some pigments fade, be sure that materials are for outdoor use (weather resistance).
>> Test your ring materials, if you want them be readable after 5 years. Some materials wear out in 3 years, but for some PMMA materials I can promise by my wear resistance tests 30 - 50 years life time (better than steel rings!!)
2) Fonts and engraving
Some fonts/characters are easy to mix, specially, if they the rings are worn. The engraving work is easy (and cheap), if the depth of engraving is “deep” (or more than just the thickness of top layer of laminate). The deep engraving leads to shorter life time. Broad engraving (lines), in the beginning it can look OK, but it wears more quickly and is soon difficult to read. Note that the life time is dependent of the wear area of the ring. The broader the engraving the less wear area is left, which means shorter life time.
3) Edges and overlaps
If the fonts are too near the edges then the risk to breaks increases quickly. The first characters can also wear out, if the bottom edge is small. Minimum is normally 2mm. Large overlaps are not necessary if the materials are stiff (like PMMA): Soft materials may need spiral rings. Narrow overlaps can yield better clue joint, because radii fits better.
4) Right size
The rings should not be a nuisance to the birds. So they should not be too large. Too large rings can affect injuries by preventing the toes open. This can happen if the rings open a bit in use. That happens if the ring is too soft and not glued properly (or not glued at all). One must notice also that rings wear from inside, so the inner diameter of the rings come larger. Cheap materials (PS, ABS or “modified acrylics” and in some degree also PVC) are the worst. Acrylics is much better and also stiff: Semicrystalline polymers are the best, but they are not available as engraving laminates.
5) Readability and reliability
Some large rings can be read from very far distance, at least from 300 - 400 meters. But even small rings can be read with good telescope (and good digital cameras) from very far distance, if codes and fonts are clear and easy to read. However, rings are often dirty or muddy or some parts of ring are covered by rubbish or vegetation etc. (in dead spots). Then additional check marks can be very useful. Using effective check marks (as we have had in rings for Finnish Herring Gull) the rings can be identified even without one character. Normally the idea of check coding is to increase the reliability of the reads. There is a special problem with the reliability of unique reads. Normally even 5% of read are incorrect. If there exists a very special single read then one can easily hesitate the correctness of that read. Correct read of check mark cleans the doubts.
My opinion is that the possibility to far distance reads (large codes) is not so important than the reliability of reads. Therefore I am favour for 3 - 4 code lines. If you have the code engraved 4 times you always see 2 of them and it helps in correct reading. Have a look at sample rings. Some rings have only 2 large codes. Those rings are easy (cheap) to engrave, but my experience is that 10-20 % of rings cannot be read because of dead spot. It is much more than percentage of those reads that I cannot read because of too far distance.
6) Easy ringing
Some thin and soft materials can be opened and put to the leg by bare fingers. Spiral rings are a good example of this. In the beginning I ringed thousands of gulls like that. However, there is a problem with gluing. The whole area is difficult to glue. Later on these ABS-rings have been breaking specially on the legs Herring Gulls. Some Ravens did manage to brake the double rolled ABS-rings in a year or two. I recommend to use of PMMA (acrylics), it more stiff, but also more brittle. That is why unskilled ringer easily breaks rings. This happens specially if the weather is cold. This problem can be avoided if ringer keeps the rings in warm or in hot water (from thermos bottle) just before quick ringing. The good thing with PMMA rings is that they need not be formed in the leg. PVC rings are flexible, but they have to be formed by pliers afterwards. That brings problems in the joints, it is difficult to get nice overlaps (joints) for gluing. The use of special opening pliers makes ringing easy.