Tips on sharpening up for identifying ringed birds

Morning all,

Some of you may know that we’ve been involved in a Wryneck project here in Switzerland for a number of years. Can’t really call it reintroduction. More of a study-come “establish appropriate conditions for the little guys” approach.

Those running the project have recently decided to discontinue ringing (for reasons that I won’t go into here), but there are still a number of birds previously ringed that are still returning each year and mating successfully.

I know that there are people on these forums (or there were, and they’re most probably still here) who are absolutely against ringing. And I understand that point of view.

Still, the people running the Wryneck project are good people, and deserve whatever help they can get.

Our friend HR has a lot of photos of ringed birds but is having difficulty sharpening them up so he can piece together ring numbers from a range of shots.

Anyone have tips on doing this?

I, of course, have no idea what software he has, although I’m currently running Photoshop Elements 11.

Any explanation you provide will pass through my north of England brain, into HR’s Swiss brain, via our shared language, French. So, I suppose I’m saying that it can’t be anything too “tricksey”.

All the best - 


  • I'm not the best person to advise, plus, I've not managed to master Photoshop for cutting and joining photos, though I'm sure someone will  have a more definitive answer.

    If the quality of the photos is good enough, as a crude method, I'd probably use PowerPoint, cropping the photos as required.

    But I'm sure someone will have a more suitable option.


    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • In reply to Mike B:

    Thanks Mike.
    As you say, someone "out there" will know how to transform a blur into a ring... with just two clicks, I'm sure.

    All the best -
  • Hi Dave, long time no read, hope you and Mrs Dave are well. Can't help with question ("no surprise there" I hear you say) but bumping you back to page 1 :o)
  • In reply to PimperneBloke:

    Thanks PB, we are. I hope you and Mrs. PB are too. Nice to read you again.

    I've been absent for (fairly, I guess) obvious reasons.

    But this is a good cause, so.

    Thanks for the bump. I reciprocate. With my right elbow. For old times' sake.

    All the best -
  • Dave, Whistling Joe is probably one of our members who can give the best advice on this. Let's hope he sees this post.
    However, from my experience what I would say is that sharpening can't work miracles. If you've got a half decent photo sharpening can make it look a bit crisper. If the image is fuzzy no amount of sharpening will make much difference.
    Is it possible that you could post a typical photo from your friend so we could see what we are dealing with?



    My Flickr Photostream 

  • A couple of samples would help to gauge the issue but i suspect that it will be virtually impossible. You would also need to send the files directly to whoever was going to have a go - preferably the original files in RAW format




    My Flickr:

  • In reply to TeeJay:

    Thanks TJ. Mrs Dave is asking HR for a few sample photos. That may take a week as nesting is at its peak right now and he's spending every waking hour in the field (and writing up reports in his sleep, I believe).

    All the best -
  • In reply to Bobs_Still_Retired:

    Thanks Bob.

    Bobs_Still_Retired said:
    i suspect that it will be virtually impossible

    Yes, that's my thought too.

    Bobs_Still_Retired said:
    You would also need to send the files directly to whoever was going to have a go

    Yes, of course. 

    And here was me hoping for a ctr+alt+F8 Minority Report-style solution. 

    As I said in my answer to TeeJay, I'll try to come back with a few samples, probably next week.

    All the best - 


  • As has already been said, if the original image is too far gone in terms of focus or resolution it may well be impossible to recover any details. It may however be worth having a go with the High Pass Filter in elements. This can be very effective for sharpening up details, particularly on high contrast edges such as the letters or numbers on a colour coded ring. I’ve used this to good effect a few times  to help me read a colour ringed bird.

    It would be far easier for me to add a link than to try to describe how to use the filter.

    Instructions on how to use the High Pass Filter in elements are HERE.

    I hope this may be of some help to you, Dave.

    My bird photos HERE

  • In reply to Paul A:

    Wow. Thanks Paul. That's almost like ctr+alt+F8.

    We've requested photos from HR. Will let you, and the thread, know how that goes.

    All the best - 


    PS. HR tells us that he has nest-box cameras set up with a live link to a smartphone app, which enables him to take pictures remotely.

    I mean, he's got to be approaching 80 years old. What is it with these people!?  ;-)

    I remember him racing away from me up into the brush a few years ago, an axe on his shoulder, with me trailing behind. We were putting up signs to discourage climbers from disturbing nesting Peregrines.

    "Sorry", he said over his shoulder, "I'm a bit slow today; last week's heart surgery took the wind out my sails a bit."