Monday, 16 March 2015

A curlew sighting at last

In the summers of 2013 and 2014 we have been colour-ringing curlews in Aberdeenshire to look at brood survival and habitat use, as part of the RSPB's wider work locally in waders. On Orkney they have been doing similar and had lots of local sightings over the winter.
Curlew chicks in Donside (Jenny Weston)
We've not been so lucky and had a single sighting on the Ythan in August 2013 and a bird last summer in the non-breeding flock. A couple of weeks ago these got blown out the park by an email from Ireland of a chick ringed near Corgarff in Donside in June 2014 foraging on a sports field in Dublin! Many thanks to Conn O'Brien for passing this on to us through Birdwatch Ireland.
A curlew from Donside in Dublin (Conn O'Brien)
We had always thought that our lack of sightings and recoveries from curlew in the winter was because they were in very remote areas on the west coast of Scotland and Ireland, but it looks as though they are spending at least some of their winters on the football pitches of Dublin, in a slightly more urban setting than we previously thought!
Curlews in a slightly more urban setting than we're used to (Conn O'Brien)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Don't Panic! Gull sightings delay!

For those of you that are avid ring readers one of the great thrills is the near instant response that you can get when you send in a sighting of a colour ringed bird. Unfortunately from time to time there is a delay. Our colour ringed large gull project is experiencing such a delay at the moment. The scheme coordinator Euan Fergusson is currently ringing abroad and may not have had internet access for a couple of months - despite taking his database away so he could respond to sightings. Please be patient as Euan is fantastic at responding most of the time. I am sure when he returns from his travels normal service will resume, but I suspect there will be a considerable backlog to work through.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Leys CES 2014

The CES at Leys started in 2008 and in now in it's seventh year. Six nets are erected from 6am until noon on 12 occasions from May until early September. It means an early start to have all the nets open for 6am. It was an easy year as far as weather goes with no sessions cancelled but one or two were curtailed due to showers or windy conditions. 

The site is a loch that has naturally colonised with a mix of sedges, reed bed and willow carr. Boardwalks have been build into the wetlands to allow safe access when water levels are high.

Setting up the nets c Walter Burns

This year was the second best ever for the number of birds ringed. 453 new birds were caught during the 12 sessions this year. We had good numbers of adults of most species and productivity was good. Sedge Warblers did particularly well this year with 102 juveniles ringed.  Wrens had a superb year with 47 Juveniles ringed compared with 4 in 2012 and 23 in 2013. Nine Reed Bunting juveniles were ringed compared with none in  2012 and 7 in 2013.

Highlights this year were a pair of Grasshopper Warblers, a juvenile Redstart, a juvenile Water Rail and a Reed Bunting ringed in 2008 and not caught since.

Water rail c Walter Burns

Garden Warbler c Walter Burns

Grasshopper warbler c Walter Burns

Thanks to Leys Charitable Trust for permssion to use the site and to the Ranger Thys Simpson for his help and encouragement.

Those involved in helping during the 2014 season were Phil Bacon, Walter and Ann Burns, Tony Hurst, Dennis McCullough, Harry Richardson, Cairns Smith and Jenny Weston.

Ringing will continue over the winter. This autumn we have already ringed a Jay as well as sixty plus Lesser Redpolls with a few Common Redpolls among them.

Alister Clunas

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wader Colour-Ringing

Following a busy spring and summer colour-ringing/darvicing/flagging some of our commoner wader species we are now busy searching for them and ringing more along the coast and estuaries.

We’d be very grateful for any sightings.

40 Curlew chicks were colour-ringed/darviced this summer in Upper Donside, NE Scotland while 80 were marked in Orkney.

 Photo by Jenny Lennon

87 Peesies/Lapwing chicks (2+ week old) were colour-ringed/flagged this summer in NE Scotland, mainly around the Ythan Estuary but also some in the hills.

A recent catch on the Ythan added another 19 marked birds to this total, flag on right leg, opposite to the chicks.

            Photo by Morag Jones

6 redshank chicks were colour-ringed/flagged this summer. With Ewan’s magic pied piper Redshank Party tape a further 220 have been marked so far on the Ythan during August.

Some of these birds appear to have set up wee territories but many have moved on already.

Photo by Raymond Duncan

 90 Oystercatchers were darviced near Ballater on 29/03/14. These included birds previously ringed in Wales, Dumfries & Galloway and Highland so there’s every chance some will be heading back to wintering grounds near you. Another 30 city roof dwelling chicks were also darviced.

Photo by Hairy Stott

 We have also had some success adding marked birds to some of our other long term wader projects including Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Golden Plover so please keep checking those flocks.

August/September really has got to be the most exciting time for wader passage. Whilst looking at waders up at Strathbeg Paul Baxter saw a colour-ringed/darvicd Little Stint which had been ringed a few days previously in SW Norway whilst Ewan joined our Highland neighbours for a ringing session up at Findhorn Bay where they caught 4 Knot amongst other waders and terns, one of which had been colour-ringed and flagged in Canada!

Good luck.

Raymond Duncan

Thursday, 13 March 2014

2013 Totals

The group totals for 2013 are in. 11,601 birds of 113 species were processed. 8632 were full grown birds, and 2969 were pullus. The only new species for the group was Black Tern.

The top 10 species were - 
Full Grown Pullus Total
1 Swallow 1219 241 1460
2 Arctic Tern 946 92 1038
3 Goldfinch 621 25 646
4 Herring Gull 497 108 605
5 Sandwich Tern 62 472 534
6 Chaffinch 446 12 458
7 Tree Sparrow 180 178 358
8 Sedge Warbler 197 152 349
9 Waxwing 326 0 326
10 Linnet 194 124 318

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Roof-Nesting Oystercatchers

Aberdeen is famous for its roof-nesting oystercatchers.  We have been putting Darvics on chicks since 1997. The rings are white (a few yellow) with a unique combination of a letter and two digits reading down the leg  (see picture).  We have had a lot of sightings in the autumn and winter. Some locally but most from other estuaries round the UK including Musselburgh, the Wash, the Exe, north Wales, north-west England and Dublin.  Keep them coming in.  Had our first bird from Arbroath recently.  However, what we really want more of are sightings of birds during the breeding season. We have heaps of birds out there with Darvics on and we need more sightings.  Can observers please look carefully at any oystercatchers during the breeding season and check if they have a Darvic on the left leg.  The birds will  not necessarily be on roofs.  We have had birds bred on roofs nesting on the ground and vice versa.  

A prize of a bottle of whisky is offered to anyone who finds one particular bird – N87!

Any sightings contact Alistair Duncan on

S65, sighted at Foryd Bay, Caernarfon, North Wales on 21/01/12 (Emyr Evans)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Waxwings on the move

We know it’s not a Waxwing winter when our friends in Orkney and Fair Isle haven’t ringed any.

However, being the Waxwing capital of Britain (thanks to our location and large amount and variety of ornamental rowan trees and tree cotoneasters, well done the council!), we were lucky to have birds arrive in Aberdeen in November and a decent flock reached about 150 birds in early December. We managed to colour-ring 40 in December but usually the birds were always one step ahead of us and we’ve since ringed none so far in 2014. About 150 birds appeared to be set to winter in Aberdeen as they were still raiding the last of the Mistle Thrush rowan trees in mid-January with plenty tree cotoneaster available once the rowans finally ran out.

However 120 on 23rd January was our last 3 figure count. This dropped to 32 on 26th January and last few days of January only one flock of 6 was reported, by Jane Reid down at the University. Having studied Waxwings for many winters now, it was fair to assume this was them dispersing a bit locally during the transition period between finishing off the hardest Mistle Thrushes rowan trees and switching to tree cotoneaster. WRONG!

4 different colour-ring sightings from 3 different locations away from Aberdeen, all on the 1st and 2nd of February indicated that there had in fact been an exodus of birds away from Aberdeen altogether.

Yellow/light green, also ringed in Aberdeen on 6/12/13 and last resighted here on 23rd January and White/red ringed in Aberdeen on 6/12/13 and last resighted just after Xmas were both observed together in a flock of 8 birds 121km SW at Methil in Fife on 2nd February by Kathy Evans

Red/orange, ringed in Aberdeen on 6/12/13 and still here on 26th January was photographed 92kmSW in Dundee on 2nd February by Gus Guthrie and Barry Farquharson.

Orange/blue, ringed in Aberdeen on 28/12/13 and last resighted here on 23rd January was photographed 520km SE in Aylsham, Norfolk on 1st and 2nd February by Carol Foxe and Carl Chapman.

A big thank you to all these observers for their very timely sightings which tied in with our declining counts and combined to confirm when our Aberdeen flock dispersed and just how far and quickly some of them had travelled.

Do the birds know there aren’t many Waxwings in the country this winter and hence more rowans to be found elsewhere rather than staying and switching to tree cotoneaster?

So it looks like we won’t have many wintering with us in Aberdeen after all. The real pity about this is that a Norwegian darvic ringed bird (yellow ring with black engraving on right leg) was seen amongst a flock of 120 in Bridge of Don, Aberdeen on 23rd January but couldn’t be read. I felt quite hopeful somebody might be able to catch up with it and read it or photograph it in the next few months since they were here to stay. WRONG AGAIN!

So please look out for Waxings in a rowan tree near you. Grampian RG will be delighted to hear about any colour-ringed birds while Kjell Snoot of Sunmore RG in West Norway will be delighted to hear about any darviced birds.

There is also the chance of a returning ringed bird from last winter’s large invasion. Thanks to Bob Freeman who managed to photograph Black/blue/grey (what a terrible combination, well done Bob) in Jarrow, South Tyneside on 11th January. This was a returning bird from last winter, ringed in Westhill, Aberdeen on 31/3/13.

Thank you very much.

Raymond Duncan