Friday 2 February 2024

Grampian Ospreys in the Sun

 Ian Francis, Ewan Weston, Jenny Weston

Between 17 and 21 pairs of Ospreys are known to have nested in Aberdeenshire over the past eight years, though we believe pairs are missed. We know that some of our fledged youngsters are breeding elsewhere, so the movement away of potential recruits could influence our local population. In 2023, we only located 17 active nests, with pairs not present at three long standing sites and no new fully occupied nests found. There were rumours of pairs at a couple of other sites, but these were not located. Breeding productivity was a little above average though, at c.1.5 chicks fledged per occupied nest, but outcomes were uncertain from at least one site.

Six chicks were ringed in 2023 and in total, since 1993, GRG has ringed 248 Osprey chicks. Over that period, there have been 133 resightings or recoveries of at least 58 individual chicks. Most are now marked with blue plastic darvic rings with white digits (left leg) and many are now photographed or captured on nest cameras. Technology has certainly improved the reporting rate! 

An interesting set of sightings of one young bird from near Monymusk came last year, 2023. It was one of a brood of three chicks, ringed by a GRG team led by Ewan Weston on 10 July. It probably fledged around the end of July and hung around for a short while. However, from 26 August to 16 September it was near London, and was appreciated by many tens of people in that time. An easterly migration route for our birds is relatively unusual, as more often they are seen in south-west England, particularly Cornwall and Devon.
Osprey brood, Donside, 10.7.23. A chick (Blue 256) fledged from here migrated south via London, spending a week there. Photo: Ewan Weston

Osprey Blue 256, from Donside nest, Bowyers Water, Lee Valley , London 31.8.23. Photo: Stuart Fox

Another 2023 Osprey nest nearby also had a brood of three, all duly ringed. One of the chicks from here was seen by Jean-Marie Dupart on 23 January 2024 at the Karone Islands, in Casamance, Senegal (12 degrees north).  

Osprey brood, Donside, 10.7.23. A chick fledged from this nest (ring 253) was seen in Senegal in January 2024 (see below). Photo: Ewan Weston

Osprey Blue 253 photographed in Senegal by Jean-Marie Dupart on 23 January 2024.

Osprey Blue 253 photographed in Senegal by Jean-Marie Dupart on 23 January 2024

This is not the group’s first Osprey recovery from Senegal – in fact, it’s the sixth. We’ve also had recoveries from The Gambia (three), Ghana and Guinea-Bissau (one each). The sunny climes of west Africa are clearly the place to be in winter for our birds, and this is not just true of juveniles, which spend their first full year there, but also returning adults. And their predilection for winter sun also extends to many sightings in south-west Europe – either on passage or increasingly, wintering, with Portugal a popular resort and Spain a close second.

Here's another Grampian Osprey, blue JF1, also from a nest in Donside in July 2017 (another  brood of three), photographed in Senegal by Jean-Marie Dupart again, in December 2023. This bird is obviously paddling to keep cool or pretending to be a wader! 

JF1 in Senegal, Jean-Marie Dupart
JF1 is a bird with a history – it has been a regular in Cornwall on passage (seen first in the year of its birth heading south), plus near Edinburgh, and intriguingly, it was seen in summer in Aberdeenshire, so it must be a local breeder, though we don’t’ know where – somewhere on the Deveron, probably. It may well have been in Senegal every winter since then.

Sightings of Osprey JF1 since 2017:
Devoran Creek, Cornwall, 4.9.17
Devoran Quay, Cornwall 18.9.17
Tyninghame, Lothian, 15.08.19
Rothiemay, Aberdeenshire 1.6.20
Restronguet Creek, Cornwall, 9.9.2021
Restronguet Creek, Cornwall, 15.9.2022
Senegal, 9.12.2023.

Osprey chick blue JF1 in its Donside nest, July 2017. Photo: Ewan Weston

We now know quite a lot about where our Aberdeenshire ospreys go in winter and where they pass through. Although we are ringing fewer birds than previously, it is important to keep a sample going every year. Climate change may well mean that birds winter further north, and we also need to understand how our Aberdeenshire-reared birds are seeding new breeding areas further south in the UK. We would rather our local population increased, but we are also happy to see them settled further south, gradually building overall numbers – and fuelling the continued search for Osprey winter sun!

Thursday 18 January 2024


Waxwing colour-ringing this winter has been taking place in Orkney, NE Scotland and Newtown in Wales (so far up to mid-January 2024). As in previous winters there has been a single colour ring with the metal put on one leg and 2 or 3 colour rings on the other. I’m sure everybody who has seen and or photographed a colour-ringed Waxwing is happy that the bird is in no way bothered or hindered by these small and very light weight rings and is going about its activities in the very same way as all the others in the flock.

BWR stretching for a Mistletoe berry Great Malvern, Worcestershire 06/01/24, Simon Pugh

GYW drinking Hassop Station, Derbyshire 29/12/23, Simon Benyon

Metal over blue is the code for this winter 2023/24, on the right leg for Scotland and on the left leg for Wales, with the other colour rings on the opposite leg.

In case you are wondering we don’t give the birds names, just the abbreviations of their colour ring combinations!  eg BOB is Blue over Orange over Blue colour rings.

A = Ash/Grey (as G is used for Dark Green), B = Blue, G =Dark Green, L = Light Green, N = Black (Niger as B is already used for Blue), O = Orange, R = Red, White = White, Y = Yellow.

OLO Aldermaston, Berkshire 24/01/24, Dave Webster

BLB Newton Aycliffe, County Durham 16/12/23, Roger Simpson

 I think some of the observers in Colchester, Essex were quite pleased to have their colour-ringed Waxwing quaintly called BOB around, maybe not aware that it was an abbreviation of the colour ring combination until the not so quaintly named WOO (White over Orange over Orange) turned up from Stoke-on-Trent!

BOB Severalls Industrial Park, Colchester  15/12/23, John French

WOO Fenton, Stoke on Trent 09/12/23, Phil Cooper

So with lots and lots of photographs/sightings coming in during November and December showing a metal over blue ring on one of the legs it came as a bit of a surprise when an email from Alex Jones (not the one from the One Show I don’t think but I haven’t asked) came in alerting us to a post on a local WhatsApp group he’d seen with a photo of a colour-ringed Waxwing taken by Fred Fearn at Abergele, North Wales clearly showing a metal ring over a red colour ring on the right leg (and White over Red over Yellow on the left). This was the code for last winter, 2022/23, when we ringed a mere 25 Waxwings in a winter of very small numbers. I quickly got back in touch with Alex asking if there’s any way he could get in touch with Fred to, most importantly of all, get a date of when the photograph was taken to confirm it was from this winter. Fred replied himself saying it was taken on 1st Jan 2024. What a great start to the New Year!

MR-WRY Abergele, North Wales 01/01/24, Fred Fearn 

So it was indeed a returning bird from winter 2022/23. A quick look at our ringing records showed WRY to have been ringed as a juvenile female by Innes on 30th Nov. 2022. She was 1 of 4 birds Innes, Sam and Raymond managed to catch that morning standing with a mist net across the pavement outside a pub in Kincorth, Aberdeen. We remember laughing with a mannie that we were playing badminton! Then we were delighted to hear about her again when she rather unexpectedly headed back across the North Sea to be resighted/photographed in Denmark on 26th Jan 2023 by Flemming Pedersen! 

MR-WRY Aalborg, Denmark 26/01/23, Flemming Pedersen

It's very exciting when we get a returning bird as we don’t get many (I think this our 8th from around 4550 Waxwings ringed over the years by Grampian RG). Waxwings aren’t nailed on annual winter visitors like the Redwings and Fieldfares which arrive every winter from Scandinavia. Some winters can see very few if any Waxwings arrive at all, being an irruptive species dependent on the availability of berries back home.

A huge thank you to you all for reporting your colour ringed Waxwing sightings to us and kindly allowing us to use some of your super photographs on our blog. These one or two colour-ringed birds within a flock of 3 - 100 birds (or the exceptional 11 in the flock of 250+ at Hassop Station, Derbyshire!) allows us to track their movements and gives us a little insight into the vagaries of their fascinating social life, movements, fidelity and survival.

Raymond and Grampian Ringing Group



A Happy New Year and massive thank you to all birders, observers and photographers for reporting their colour-ringed Waxwing sightings to us. It has certainly been a busy December and start to January. See map by Euan Ferguson (below). See Sam Lopez on Twitter @Naturalist_Sam for an animated version!

It is clear from the map that many of the Waxwings moved on south out of Scotland and kept on going with several sightings south of London before the New Year. And “returning birds?!” (not on map) to Denmark, Norway and Sweden already!

 RYR Farnham, Surrey 7/1/24, Emma Stephenson

 BWR Greater Malvern, Worcestershire 6/1/24, Andy Richardson

WGW Uckfield, Sussex 6/1/24, Keith DP Wilson

 YNW Barnoldswick, East Lancashire 30/11/23, Dave Markendale

However just as interesting as the movers are the stayers. Birds in the north of England included YNW, found in Barnoldswick, East Lancashire on 30th Nov. which then turned up over a month later on 4th. Jan only 55km to the east in Middleton Quernhow, North Yorkshire. RYW was in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire 17th Dec. then turned up a week later on Xmas eve in Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham 145km to the north west.             


RYW Gainsborough,Lincolnshire 17/12/23, Joe Downing

 And a few were still hanging on in Scotland.

Lorraine McCormack photographed juvenile female WOW (below) at the south approaches to the Kincardine Bridge near Falkirk on New Years Day and also managed to capture a bit of pair bonding between WOW and an unringed male, passing a berry back and forth to each other repeatedly.


Hassop Station (CafĂ© depending on the reporters tendancies!), near Bakewell in Derbyshire was the place to be though if you’re a Waxwing with 250+ reported feeding on hawthorn berries along the old railway line. 10 colour-ringed birds have been reported from here so far between 19th Dec. and 13th Jan. See some photos below:


LYW after drinking, Hassop 6/1/24, Tim Russon

 OGW “Where’s all the berries gone?” Hassop 6/1/24, Peter Garrity

WYW Hassop 13/1/24, Richard Oswold

Waxwings generally show little flock fidelity and pretty random dispersal when they arrive in the UK so it is interesting to speculate how flock faithful some of these birds at Hassop Station are. Seven have come from the same flock, same day ringing in Elgin on 13th Nov., 1 from Aberdeen on 4th Nov. and 1 from Orkney on 7th Nov. We’ll take a closer look at this in a future post.

 The large flock at Hassop is feeding on hawthorn berries, a berry species they all but ignored in NE Scotland this winter, much preferring the rowan berries. It has been very interesting to see from photographs and information provided by observers what the Waxwings are feeding on at various other locations around the country.

 LLO photographed by Keith Gillon near Longniddry, East Lothian 7/1/24 was not only notable for still being in Scotland but also for feeding on rose hips.  


Keith commented, “The birds were managing to feed on the rose hips though they maybe did select the smaller ones.”

Interestingly WYG, seen by Angus Croudace on 27/12, also still in Scotland in Abernethy, Perthshire, was also feeding on rose hips. Rose hips are not just a Scottish thing though, Andrew Merrick reported birds at Arborfield Garrison, Berkshire feeding on them.

It was great to see the Waxwings tucking into big juicy bunches of white rowan berries at Farnham in Surrey and Orpington in Kent. This ornamental rowan, sorbus hupehensis, can be found scattered around Aberdeen but none of the trees here had anywhere near such an abundant crop of berries as those shown in the Waxwing photos from these sites.

BYR Farnham, Surrey 30/12/23, George Newton

RRB Orpington, Kent 9/1/24, R. Sim

WGW on Hawthorns Uckfield, Sussex 5/1/24, Alex Brookes 

What I’ve never seen and was reported from Great Malvern in Worcestershire and Farnham in Surrey amongst other places is Waxwings feeding on Mistletoe berries.

Mistletoe is not a common berry at all up here in NE Scotland so thanks to Emma & Graham Stephenson for some extra photographs of the birds eating Mistletoe berries in Farnham and to Simon Pugh for the video footage from Great Malvern. From what I can see the Waxwings have to work quite hard to get the berries, searching around in the foliage for each single or double berries. A big bunch of red, yellow or white berries on bare stems looks a lot easier to me but having said that the Mistletoe berries do look quite large, soft and juicy.

Waxwings feeding on Mistletoe berries Farnham, Surrey 7/1/24, Emma Stephenson

BWR swallowing a Mistletoe berry Greater Malvern, Worcestershire 6/1/24, Paul Harwood Browne

As well as reporting your colour-ring sightings (and flock size and berry types)  we would be interested to hear about any casualties anybody might have come across to add to our casualties table below.

Many thanks again for everybody’s tremendous contributions to our Waxwing tracking project so far.

Raymond and Grampian Ringing Group











Window strike







Saturday 30 December 2023


 As the Waxwings continue to move through the UK (and beyond!) we are delighted to have already received 50 distant (>50km) colour-ringed sightings of birds from our Orkney and NE Scotland colour-ringing/tracking project. 

A huge thank you to all ringers, birders, photographers and observers who have gone to the bother of reporting their sightings to us. It is very much appreciated. Many have been from photographs, some discovered afterwards whilst sifting through them at home on the camera or computer. 

All are very exciting and of great interest to us and it gets even more exciting and interesting when the same colour-ringed bird turns up again elsewhere. We have had 7 of these multiple resightings already this winter, featured below, and another, not a multiple resighting but worthy of mention, has already returned to the continent, resighted in Denmark on 18th December, our earliest ever returner.


Apologies but there are too many observers to list here for the sightings. Massive thank you to all.

KEY         XXX = Colour ring combination (eg RYW = Red over Yellow over White)

1              OOY Saltcoates, Ayrshire           13/11
                         Gargrave, North Yorkshire 12/12
                         Barnoldswick, Lancashire  16/12
                         Clitheroe, Lancashire         17/12

2              WOO Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent                          8/12 – 11/12
                          Severalls Ind. Park, Colchester, Essex  23/12

3              RYW Gainsborough, Lincolnshire         17/12
                          Newton Aycliffe, County Durham 24/12

4              BOB Severalls Ind. Park, Colchester, Essex 15/12 - 17/12
                         Halisham, East Sussex                         26/12

5              LNW Bakewell, Derbyshire      19/12
                         Sefton Street, Liverpool  26/12

6             RWO Musselburgh                   21/11
                         Sedbergh, Cumbria       11/12

7              RYR Rendlesham, Suffolk      11/12
                         Farnham, Surrey            29/12

 So these multiple resightings (and the bird to Denmark) have pretty much covered all compass points on their travels through the UK, and beyond, so far in search of berries. And it’s only just past Xmas! It will be very interesting to see what they do in the next few months.

                  BNW 18/12 Langeland, Denmark.  Henrik Knudsen
                   OOY 12/12 Gargrave, North Yorkshire.  Annie Shadrake

                   WOO 23/12 Colchester.  Dan Mills

                 RYW 17/12 Gainsborough, Lincs.  Joe Downing

BOB 26/12 Hailsham, East Sussex.  Maria McGrath

LNW 19/12 Hassop Station, Derbyshire.  Andy Gregory

                            RWO 21/11 Musselburgh.  Len Hunter

                     RYR 11/12 Rendlesham, Suffolk.  Jim Mountain

We have been asking observers about “their” flock sizes and what berries the Waxwings have been feeding on which might give us a wee clue to their future plans. The berries of course are the critical thing in the Waxwing’s winter life and govern the distances they have to travel. They have been on quite a variety of rowans and hawthorns mostly so far by looks of things.

Back up here in Aberdeen we’re in a wee bit of a huff really as the Waxwings have all but gone. The critical rowan berries which they prefer to feed on had a rather patchy crop up here and critically there weren’t enough to see the birds through to the transition to Tree Cotoneaster which usually happens about Xmas. The Tree Cotoneaster has a very good crop so we are intrigued to see if the Waxwings might have a “berry memory bank” (ooh there’s a project for some keen student?!) and some return north to capitalise on this food supply.

Thank you all very much again for all your great sightings, photographs and interesting observations. Keep up the good work. We’ll post up a map of all December’s colour ring sightings and some more of your great photographs in early January.

Oh and worthy of further discussion will be the 2 colour ringed birds resighted at the same site at Hassop Station, near Bakewell, Derbyshire in the same week and another 2 at the same site at Ipswich, Suffolk in the same week, all ringed on the same day in Elgin.

Have a Happy New Year.

Raymond Duncan and Grampian Ringing Group                 

Sunday 24 December 2023

WAXWINGS moving south, coming to a car park or street near you!

 After being busy ringing Waxwings for much of November up here in Aberdeen and Elgin it is a tad disappointing to see numbers drop away as a rather patchy rowan crop begins to run out.

There were still a few wee flocks around into December.

Olivier, Edgar, Edit, Mya and Karla Jolly photographed a bunch on the smallest rowan tree in Aberdeen on Sunday 3/12……..!!

And got 3 interestingly diverse colour ringed birds in the flock…………

(B = Blue, G = Green, L = Light Green, O = Orange, R = Red, W = White)

GOR       adM       Ringed  5/11     Kings Gate

OGW      juvF        Ringed  13/11   Elgin     

BBB        adF        Ringed  22/11  Claremont Gardens

(photographs below)

GOR was our longest staying bird so far at just under a month until Jenny saw GLR, another bird from the 5/11 catch in her inlaws garden on 5/12.

We’ve now had 13 resightings already (7 local and 6 distant) from that catch of 38 at King’s Gate/Stronsay Drive on 5/11! Our loss is other folks gain though. 

The map below by Euan Ferguson shows all the resightings of colour-ringed birds up to end of November from the ringing in Orkney, Elgin and Aberdeen. A really big thank you to everybody for reporting their sightings, most nowadays accompanied by photographs, some of which are just so close up and sharp they are incredible.

Showing typical lack of flock fidelity and random dispersal, sightings have come from a wide variety of places. A juvenile male was retrapped by ringers away over in the Western Isles in Tobha isgeirnis on 15/11, 2 weeks after ringing in Aberdeen. Many were in the Central Belt and into Northern England. One had reached Northern Ireland 24/11. Most southern birds so far are one in Welshpool, Montgomeryshire, Wales in the west and Boston, Lincolnshire in the east.

RBW juvM  28/11 Motherwell John Agnew  
 YNW juvF 30/11 Barnoldswick, E.Lancashire, Kevin Singleton
        WR adF 27/11 Knaresborough, Mark Whorley

As mentioned in the last post a Waxwing in the hand is worth two in the bush not only because you get to see all their unique plumage features in real fine detail but other surprises can sometimes be revealed. For example in this invasion a few of the juveniles have still been in body moult, most noticeable around the head, and quite a few of the adults have not been able to complete their wing moult before migrating. This suggests a fairly abrupt, rushed departure, probably driven by a sudden need to find food. Birds need to be in their best condition before undertaking such hazardous journeys as a 400km+ flight across the North Sea but the photo below is one example of several adults ringed this invasion which still had some old wing feathers from last year.   

Above is an adult wing with an old outer primary feather (brown looking) and a partially grown second outer primary feather. In the secondary wing feathers (zoomed in on bottom photo) the first 2 are new and almost fully grown but the inner 4 are old (very ragged looking)




The above 3 photos show a juvenile still in body/head moult with old loose head feather, pins on the throat and chin where new feathers were growing in and a semi naked underwing.

Lots more colour-ring sightings have been coming in during December. WOO at Fenton, Stoke-in -Trent and BOB in Severalls Industrial Park, Colchester trying to out do each others celebratey status as the most photographed colour-ringed Waxwing this winter and BNW, our earliest ever returning bird to the continent, sighted in Denmark on 18/12. We'll post up something early in the New Year. 

And finally some quick Waxwing news from our foreign correspondents. Jane Reid in Trondheim, Norway, "still had a few Waxies hanging on in here" on Monday the 4th December whilst Sam Lopez said "in Spain this winter there had been 4 sightings of 5 birds (that means a flock of 2?!), 3 in Galicia, the first in 19 years, and 1 in the Basque country."

Thank you all very much again for reporting your sightings of colour-ringed Waxwings along with some amazing photographs. Keep up the good work. 

Have a very Merry Xmas and a guid New Year. Hopefully your New Year bird list will kick off with a flock of Waxwings (and a colour-ringed one in it).

Raymond and Grampian Ringing Group