Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Golden plover in North East Scotland

Since 2011 GRG have been studying Golden Plovers at Rattery Head in North East Scotland.  Birds start to arrive in early July, complete their moult and then spend the winter here.

The first  birds arrive in early July peak about the 2nd week of August when there are between 500 and 1000 in the flock, this number remains pretty stable until the end of September when their numbers increase dramatically with up to 5000 being seen there.

Birds have been caught  and colour ringed with an individual colour combination to allow individuals to be recognised in the field. Among the birds we caught was a pullus that we had ringed on the Scottish mountains two years previously and another pullus had its ring read near Edinburgh the previous year. This gave us a strong hint that at least some of the birds present on the Scottish coast were in fact Scottish breeders.
Brood of golden plover with one egg still to hatch
One of the birds ringed in 2011 was then seen on the Outer Hebrides on the Isle of Harris on the 5 June 2012 again suggesting a Scottish breeder. This bird has not been seen again.

One of our colour-ringed birds on Harris, June 2012
Over the next couple of years from colour marked individuals from 2011 have regularly been seen again along the same stretch of coastline, suggesting some site fidelity of the birds to their wintering grounds, others have however never been seen again despite regular searches through the flocks for colour marked individuals. Many birds have been seen repeatedly.

Then on the 22 January this year DE52076 bird was reported form Curragh Racecourse, Kildare, Ireland, this had been ringed on the 21 August 2011 at Rattery Head. It had been previously seen at Buchanhaven /Peterhead in August/September 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Golden Plover DE52076 ringed 21 August 2011 at Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire
So why this bird now decided to move to Ireland after staying in the north east for the previous years we cannot say, however as the bird has been seen in the autumn only in the previous years it may have moved to Ireland every winter. Perhaps future years will provide more information regarding this bird.


Clearly we have much yet to learn about the movements of these birds and what initiates the need to move; cold weather can certainly be ruled out as the winter of 2014-15 in North east has been exceptionally mild.

We intend to continue ringing both pullus and adult birds in the forthcoming years and will be grateful of any sightings of colour marked Golden Plovers


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 alistair@cairncry.freeserve.co.uk

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