Monday, 13 May 2019

Bennachie Ringing Demonstration 13 April 2019

On Saturday 13 April we were invited to host a ringing demonstration at the Bennachie Visitor Centre.

It was a very chilly day but the sun was shining and we had a great turn out with the event fully booked with lots of young people plus a few passers-by getting involved too.
Photo by Alison Sutherland

 The centre’s well stocked feeding station, complete with blind and automated feeders, made the perfect place to set some mist nets. Although the nets were visible in the strong sun we had a constant stream of birds to show the visitors and ended up with a nice variety of species with highlights including a treecreeper, a goldcrest and a pair of great spotted woodpeckers.

A 5F goldcrest. Photo by Alison Sutherland

The team at the traditional post ringing demo pit stop (a bus on the A96!)
Caitlin Tarvet

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Blue tits done - good job it wasn't coal tits

Many thanks to David Norman and the BTO for spicing up our University training site ringing this winter with a new Blue Tit moult/survival project. For various reasons we didn’t manage as many visits as hoped for during the 2 months outlined for recording Blue Tit moult limits, November and February, but hopefully we got enough to make a useful contribution to this UK wide project.

Blue tit with old greater coverts. Photo by Sarah Fenn
Looking at the numbers of Blue, Coal and Great Tits ringed and retrapped during the sessions we were just glad Blue Tit was the target species and not Coal Tit (see graph). There were plenty of each in November but come February last session we caught no Coal Tits! We wondered if the large numbers in November were associated with a decent beech mast crop in the nearby beech trees in Seaton Park. By February perhaps the beech seed had run out and the large numbers had been forced to disperse in search of food.

Well done to our young athletes David Hunter, Chelsea Ward and Logan Johnson for achieving a good ratio of successful sprints to the mist-nets from distance (four out of six) to capture some of our larger visitors to the feeding station (see photos). We’re baiting a whoosh net site now for the doos.

Buzzard. Photo by David Hunter

Stock dove and woodpigeon. Photo by Sarah Fenn

A nice variety of species have been caught during the sessions.

Bullfinch. Photo by Logan Johnson

Great Spotted Woodpecker. Photo by David Hunter
Thanks to Mark Paterson for continued access and support for our ringing in the University Botanic Gardens.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Waxwing and waning (…and resighting!)

With several reports of waxwings up and down the east coast from mid-October excitement mounted for hopes of a another of Aberdeen’s bumper waxwing winters. Numerous mobile flocks began to be reported and numbers built up to 300+ birds across the city by late November. Traditional berry tree hotspots were under surveillance as smaller flocks began grouping up. The city’s mistle thurshes were starting to panic as waxwings descended on their prized rowan trees. But the rush didn’t last, numbers soon stalled and as birds continued moving southwards totals began to dwindle and soon fizzled out. We did, however, succeed in colour ringing a few birds while the numbers peaked with the current total standing at 23 (22 juveniles and 1 adult). 

Even with this small sample we quickly received a resighting from Tony Davis in Kirkcaldy (Fife) a week after ringing in Aberdeen. Although the full combination couldn’t be read, the right leg showed a yellow colour-ring below the metal ring which identified it as one of ours from this year

Waxwing in the hand
Just as I was writing this blog and already feeling quite pleased with our capture/resighting ratio the next flurry of resightings came as a welcome surprise… Among a flock of around 150 waxwings that spent several days in Edinburgh was waxwing YGR, a young male ringed in Aberdeen 17 days earlier.

Photo by Richard Wells – Waxwing YGR in Balgreen, Edinburgh on 13/12/18
We then had a pair spotted in Yorkshire, a young male (YYW) and female (YWW), on 24 December by Mike Robinson, Richard Hughes, and Hannah Greetham. Waxwing YWW then went on to be seen with a flock of 5 birds in Norfolk 5 days later.
Photo by Mike Dawson – YWW in Long Straton, Norfolk 29/12/18
This was topped off by another Norfolk sighting, this time of YBR in Norwich – a young female ringed a week earlier in Aberdeen.
Photo by Brian Anderson - young female (YBR) Norwich 31/12/18
So with only 23 birds ringed we managed 6 resightings of 5 birds – a 26% resighting rate! Proving that these little scandi jewels are always quality, even in small quantities. A massive thank you to all our wonderful waxwing reporters! As always, any colour ring resightings are hugely appreciated and we’re very grateful to anyone who takes the time to look - so please do check any waxwings you see(and your photographs!) and report them to and/or 

Wishing you all the best in the New Year from all of GRG,

Caitlin Tarvet

Sunday, 2 December 2018

A day in the life of a trainee

On an unseasonably warm November morning, several members of the group braved the darkness to head out to the finch ringing site at Girdleness, Aberdeen City for the final finch catching of the autumn.

After setting up both the finch net and starling net, with different foods, the usual waiting game ensued.
Finch whoosh net set for catching
Finch site and team
After a few flocks of finches came and went our luck finally struck and a flock of linnet came down and we were able to capture them. After extraction was complete there was 15 finches all nicely in bird bags. At the end of the session we had ringed a total of 6 new linnet and retrapped 2 goldfinches, and another 7 linnet from previous sessions this autumn.
The second ringing session of the day involved some titmice ringing at some bird feeders in the Cruikshank Botanical Gardens in Old Aberdeen. The site seemed promising on arrival as the place was busy with coal tits (with a few great & blues thrown in). The next hour of the nets up proved to be a productive one and to end our catch, we'd managed a grand total of 63 new birds (24 blue tit, 24 coal tit, 14 great tit & a robin) and single retraps of coal & blue tit. However this session was particularly special for myself as I handled three new species in the form of coal, great and blue tit. For someone who has been ringing for several years, it would come as a surprise that I hadn't come across these species before but coming from Shetland we don't have many of these peerie fluffballs and usually, when they do show up, it ignites a twitch!
Coal tit

Great tit
Blue tits, however, were a species we were particularly interested in (not something people say very often!) due to a new national moult project that GRG has joined, that looks at the post-juvenile moult of blue tits. This project aims to give us a better understanding of how juvenile blue tits moult their feathers and allow for another piece of the moult cycle puzzle to be solved, more information can be found in the Autumn issue of the Lifecycle magazine. As the gardens seem to have a decent number of blue tits, it will probably see us returning for a few more titmice sessions in the coming weeks and months.
Blue tit
For the final ringing session of the day we decided to cross the River Dee and head into Kincorth to locate the local flock of waxwing which was numbering over 100. In previous winters the group has colour-ringed many 100s of waxwings and contributed to our understanding of their movements through the UK during irruptions (see our previous blog posts). Arriving on the site, we set up a couple of mist nets, which hopefully would get us a few of these Scandinavian visitors. Over the space of the next few hours, the waxwing flock did several pass overs and at one point came as close as to land in a large tree near to the nets, but unfortunately never close enough to catch. The group will undoubtedly be trying again to ring waxwings if they stick around for the winter, there's enough berries in the area so only time will tell.
Logan Johnson - Trainee (Shetland RG, adoptee of Grampian RG)

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Frozen Water Helps Identify Visiting Gulls

Cold conditions can result in some of our local lochs and ponds freezing over. This can be a disadvantage for birders as most waterbirds move out to unfrozen more saline areas such as estuaries. However, the ice covered waters often attract gulls and ducks where they can still roost in safety. The clear lines of a frozen loch offer a great opportunity to check the legs of the gulls for colour rings.

During the third week of January such cold conditions occurred causing most water bodies to freeze. Checking these areas resulted in four interesting Herring Gulls being recorded. The first (Yellow Y:D85) was originally ringed at Harewood Whin Landfill, west of York on 30/06/2017, the next (Orange UA5Z ) was ringed at Pitsea Landfill, Essex on 25/03/2017, the third was a locally ringed bird (Yellow T:341) while the forth (Black JN377) was a much older bird of the argentatus sub-species and was ringed in Vardo, Finmark, Norway on 05/06/2010. This site is 2784km away from Meikle Loch.
Map showing origins of yellow Y:D85, black JN377 and orange UA5Z
Black JN377

Orange UA5Z with the locally ringed bird Yellow T:341 in the background

As many wintering gulls send much of their time in fields or on the water their legs are seldom visible. Their use of the frozen ponds and lochs has highlighted that there are probably quite a few colour-ringed gulls around which go unnoticed. MS

Monday, 6 November 2017

Neck collared Mute Swan from the Netherlands

This was surprise one morning and stretched my skills in reading neck collar rings to their max!

PN38 at Cotehill (Phil Bloor)

This mute swan first appeared on Cotehill, Aberdeenshire on 9 October 2017 and was also seen the following day.  It was originally ringed as a juvenile female one year, two months and three days previously on 7 August 2016 in Zuidhorn, Zuiderdijk in the Netherlands.  A total distance of 699.2 km away.

However, following contact with the Dutch ringers it transpired that following ringing it stayed in the Groningen region of the Netherlands until at least 14 April 2017 before being seen at Loch of Strathbeg on 20 June 2017.  There was also a later report of a neck collared mute swan on Meikle Loch the day before it appeared on Cotehill but was too far the observer to read it, presumably it was this bird.

Phil B

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

New eider project on the Ythan

The University of Aberdeen, Grampian Ringing Group and Scottish National Heritage are collaborating to try and understand the large decline of the eider population (-70% since 1991) around the Ythan Estuary and Forvie NNR, Aberdeenshire.

After several decades of pause, the colour ringing of common eiders has now resumed with over 90 birds ringed in spring 2017 (and more to come). Combined with other data, we expect ring sightings will help elucidate the mechanisms of population change. In particular, large numbers of resightings of females all around the year are a key priority and individual birdwatchers’ contribution could make a difference. The eider have been ringed on their left legs with green colour rings with 2 white letters on.
A female eider with colour ring. Photo by Jenny Weston

Observers of ringed eiders are welcome to report their observations online using one of these two ways:

 1)      For occasional records, you may directly use the registration-free online form here: (slower data entry, no photo upload or location acquisition)

 2)      For regular observers or those with multiple records to submit, we strongly recommend using the much faster Epicollect5 app (on iPhone and Android) or website (registration required at first to be able to access the eider project). The form allows you to enter resighting data rapidly from your computer, tablet or smartphone, either online or offline in the field (with the app installed on your smartphone), to upload photos of the bird/rings, and to acquire the record location directly from your device. The data are stored on the device and can be uploaded to the project database once back online. To get registered as a user, please send an email to (replace NoRobot by @), providing your name and the email address of your Google account (a Google account can be set up with any email address). Registration is manual and may take a day or two.

A colour-ringed eider on the Ythan. Photo by Thomas Cornulier
To our knowledge, the current record is 27 individuals resighted in half a day on the Ythan and the first sighting from outside the area is eagerly awaited!

Many thanks in advance for your help,

Thomas Cornulier
Aberdeen University