Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Another Waxwing Update

Nearly all the Waxwings have gone now from Aberdeen, and we've been rewarded with a multitude of sightings from across the country in the past couple of weeks. Recently we've had birds resighted in Dundee, Edinburgh, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Bedfordshire and Kent. The map below shows our movements from this invasion so far.
At the moment our resighting rate is about one in thirteen birds, fantastic for a passerine. This is just for birds outwith Aberdeen, not including the numerous sightings of birds within the city itself. With regards to ringed Wawings coming to Aberdeen, six birds have been resighted/recaptured from Orkney, one control from Fair Isle and one from Sweden. The bird in Norfolk was ringed in Orkney and seen in Norwich. Note BLR, seen at Folkestone, Kent amongst a flock of four hundred. There's a good chance they'll be heading across the channel soon and we'll get some sightings on the continent.

The majority of our sightings have come with fantastic photographs attached. A big thank you to all the photographers who have sent us some cracking images. Credit for the photos shown goes to Paul Welsh (WRY, Stockton on Tees, Cleveland), Steve Blain (GNG, Woburn, Bedforshire), Danny Arnold (RGB, Eardiston, Worchestershire) Peter George (WNR, Bingham, Nottinghamshire) and Anthony Griffiths (BWR, Oswestry, Shropshire).

Please continue to keep checking all flocks for colour ringed birds.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

New species for the group - ICELAND GULL!

The cold temperatures have continued in Aberdeen so our efforts to catch gulls have also continued. Yesterday lunchtime we'd just put the sausages on for sausage softies when Ewan noticed gulls on the neighbour's roof. A quick scan established the usual common gulls queueing up but also an Iceland gull sat above our catching area!
We quickly put out some cooked liver and bread and waited. Other gulls starting to come in but the Iceland didn't move! After what seemed like an age the bird swooped in and landed straight in the catching area. A quick check that the catch was safe and we pulled. The bird stayed perfectly caught along with 12 other gulls.
The gull was a 1st year bird and was a new species for the group. Previously there has been one Glaucous gull rung. It was a lot smaller in the hand than we'd expected, as can be seen below with a 1st year herring gull for comparison.
We think this was only the 10th Iceland Gull to be ringed in the UK so we're a little bit excited! Not bad for our little garden in an Aberdeen suburb! We're now up to 74 gulls this winter in the garden including British and Norwegian controls and now an Iceland gull. If the snow stays we'll be getting through the E's and G's this winter.
After ringing, weighing, photographing and measuring the bird we released it again and reset the net to see what else would turn up!
We've also just heard from Dave Anderson in Central Scotland that the Black-headed gull was ringed as a chick on Carron Reservoir near Stirling in late June this year, a total distance of 167km.
Ewan and Jenny
(Photos copyright of Ewan Weston and Jenny Lennon)

Friday, 3 December 2010

Great gulls!

The snow in Aberdeen has halted some of the waxwing chasing in the last week or two. Out in Westhill we've returned to our favourite garden ringing of gulls. A couple of miss-fires with a whoosh net has meant a change in tactics so we are now using a classic clap net as that seems to work better in the 20in of snow we have in our garden.
In the last few days we have caught over 60 gulls with another 10 by the young lads in Peterculter. We've been weighing all of the birds and they seem to be stable with about 10% of birds being significantly below weight.

Star birds have been a juv Black headed Gull British control and a Stavanger Common Gull - taking our tally to four for our garden in the two years we have lived here!

The most interesting bird was a common gull we rang yesterday morning in Westhill and was caught less than 2 hours later in Peterculter by Euan and Calum - a distance of 4.2km as the gull flies. This was the lightest bird we have caught in the garden so it was maybe that which made it travel further for food.

Gulls number have decreased in Westhill as birds have probably headed into town looking for food where there's less snow. But we will try again tomorrow with our reduced bread from Tesco!

Ewan and Jenny

Friday, 19 November 2010

Waxie News

It’s been a month now since the waxwings started arriving in Aberdeen, and over 400 birds have been colour ringed.

OOB photographed at Penicuik, Midlothian by John Hogg

Please keep checking all flocks (and photographs) for colour-ringed birds. Recent sightings have come from Montrose (Harry Bickerstaff); Hogganfield Loch, Glasgow (Jim Duncan) and Manchester (Kane Brides).

Jim Duncan sent a photograph of a colour-ringed bird showing only the metal and white ring which wasn’t enough to identify the individual. He very kindly returned the next day only to get a photograph of a different colour-ringed bird! Tarry Harry at Aboyne colour-ringed 3 in his garden on 7/11/10 before the birds moved. 2 of them turned up in Aberdeen a couple of weeks later while it sounds like Kane Brides and colleagues saw the 3rd one in Manchester!

An Orkney bird (triple yellow) turned up and was photographed in George Begg’s garden in Oldmeldrum, a village 30km NW of Aberdeen, at 10am on 21/11. Raymond then saw the same bird 3 hours later on the south side of Aberdeen.

Allenvale Cemetery has been one of the main ringing sites with Lindsay able to look out of his window and call up a few troops for a ringing session when the birds are around. We’ve also had smash and grabs in and around the city but “The Shrine” has come into its own this past 2 weeks with nearly 200 birds caught in 5 visits. Usually this site, with 5 white rowan berry trees, is stripped in a few days a bit later in the season but with wide spread berries still available around town the birds seem to be coming and going here this winter, giving us some great ringing opportunities.

This site was first stumbled upon by Alan Leitch in 1990. He was sacked from his job at the Coop in Westhill after he phoned in “sick” and his boss spotted him out ringing waxwings the same day! Next day he borrowed Raymond’s car, got completely lost in Aberdeen, and had to slam on the brakes as a flock of waxwings nearly hit the car as they flew out across the road from the rowan trees. Alan now lives on Orkney so it is really smart indeed that we have recaptured 2 of the birds he has recently ringed on Orkney at The Shrine in the past 2 weeks.
Thanks very much to Betty Rait and all the other residents of “The Shrine” for allowing us to ring in this rather public site.


Friday, 12 November 2010

Waxwings - Week Two

We're now into our second week of catching Waxwings, and have colour ringed over 200 birds. Numbers are beginning to dwindle in Aberdeen as birds move through the country, although we been able to continue catching birds all week. Our second re-sighting outwith Grampian, Green, Red, Yellow was ringed at Dyce on 31st October and was seen in Levens, Cumbria on the 7th of November. Thanks to Robert Polkington for the sighting and photo below. Orkney Ringing Group have also been individually colour ringing birds this year, and one has been re-sighted in Aberdeen.

One of the downsides of Waxwing invasions is the birds susceptibility to fly into glass. Obviously there are no windows and bus shelters in the forests they come from, and with most Waxwings feeding in urban areas, casualties are high. We've had one colour ringed bird die because of this so far, and to make it worse it was our Swedish control! It was caught and colour ringed at Allenvale Cemetry on the 5th November and hit a house window five days later at Cragiebuckler. Gutting! We await the original ringing details for the bird.

Hopefully as birds start to move more sightings should come flooding in. Keep checking these flocks for rings!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Far South Greenshank

A Greenshank colour ringed (left leg black over blue, right leg red over black) at Montrose Basin on 22nd August last year was re-sighted on Porto Santo (an island of the Madeira Archipelago) on 20 October this year, a movement of 2837 km! This is one of our most southerly Greenshank, with other birds having been seen in Morocco and the Cape Verde Islands.

The bird was part of a record catch of Greenshank for us, 34 birds in one night. Unusually it was ringed as an adult, the majority of birds caught on passage are juveniles.

We have been colour ringing Greenshank on the Ythan Estuary as part of a project set up by Farlington Ringing Group since 2003. For the past few years we have also caught at Montrose Basin along with Tay Ringing Group, with last year being our highest ever total.

Thanks to Adrian Aebischer for the re-sighting

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Waxwing to Fife

We've had our first colour ringed Waxwing re-sighting of the year, outwith Grampian. Red, Yellow, Red was ringed in Ballater on the 30th October, and was spotted by John Nadin feeding on berries beside Dunfermline High School a week later. Below is RYR after ringing along with a photo by John. Several of the birds from the same catch have been re-sighted around Aberdeen.

Thanks to John for the re-sighting and photo

Friday, 5 November 2010

Waxwings - Week One

This year’s early invasion of Waxwings has seen thousands of birds in and around Aberdeen, with GRG trying to catch as many as possible. In the past week we have colour ringed 153 birds, with a white ring underneath the metal on the right leg and three colours on the left. Please look out for them.

We caught our first control today - a juvenile with a Swedish ring, the third for the UK!!

Also caught was an adult female Sparrowhawk, that had been terrorising the Waxwings all day

Hopefully we'll get lots more Waxwings this weekend and in the coming weeks, unless all the berries have been eaten by then!

Thanks to Thomas, Bogo and Derek for the photos

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Waxwing fever

Waxwing fever is definately building within GRG. Flocks of 300 or more have been seen throughout the city and much of the week has been spent planning the weekend's catching efforts. So far a single bird was colour-ringed yesterday and news just in is that 13 waxies have been caught in Ballater by Raymond and co. It's going to be a busy weekend!

Friday, 15 October 2010

A "Trippie" up North

A “trippie” up North to Peterhead and Fraserburgh is always fun, whether it’s cannon netting waders, spring trapping rock pipits or just looking for rings to read. Recent excursions have produced a few interesting sightings.

Several of “our” shag chicks now fledged and doing fine.

Scandinavian GBBGs, 2 chicks ringed in southern Norway in 2009 + an older bird ringed as a chick in 2001 at Vardo in the north of Norway. We received a quick response with excellent feedback from Nils Helge Lorentzen which included a weblink which offers past and any future information on the ringed birds reported. We still await information on a Scottish darvic ringed chick.

We did finally manage to ring a trapped shag from the fish box cage because Raymond remembered rings (Jane chose the comb!), but alas he didn’t have rings for the juvy cormorant (ggrrr)!

Hannah and Jessica with a juvy cormorant and juvy shag ringed PIS.

Photos Raymond

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Strong south easterly winds have brought in excellent numbers of migrating birds this autumn, giving us good oppurtunities for ringing. Along the coast we've been catching birds such as Goldcrests, Robins, Blackcaps, Flycatchers and Redstarts.

We've also ringed some less common species, such as Lesser Whitethroats and a Reed Warbler. Despite these species abundance further south, these birds are relatively scarce in the north-east. With regards to rarer migrants, A Blyths Reed Warbler was ringed at the end of September and today a Pallas’s Warbler.

Other interesting birds that have turned up on the coast have included a leucistic (ginger!) Meadow Pipit, and a very nice Long-eared Owl.

Photos Euan Ferguson

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Metal detecting ringing

So how do you ruin a nice Sunday walk? No not golf - you take a metal detector with you to look for rings! We decided that we would have a go with a metal detector in the Sandwich tern colony at Forvie to look for rings on chicks that hadn't fledged.

After weeks of practicing on small nails in the garden we headed off on Sunday with dogs in tow, with a spade and big rucksack to carry back all of the 100's of rings we expected to find.
Well it didn't quite turn out that way... D2's don't cause a reaction in the metal detector unless you have almost a whole string of them together! So we found nothing with our metal detector (but had great fun playing airport security!) and had to look for rings the old fashioned way. We found 12 of this year's chicks long dead with rings on, including 6 that were colour ringed also.

We had fun on our walk but learnt an important lesson for ornithological conservation - don't use a metal detector for finding D2s! Thanks to Ian for sourcing the metal detector.

Raymond, Jenny, Ewan, Clunie, Freya, Bramble, Sula, Moya and Tyr

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sea eagles in Aberdeen

Back in August we went down to Fife to help with the radio-tagging of the White-tailed eagles before there were released as part of the RSPB's reintroduction project. It was lots of hard work but good fun, as you can see below with a picture of Ewan with his new best friend!

Last week E (aka Ewan the eagle) was spotted by Nick Littlewood at Blackdog which is also Ewan's regular migrant ringing site! Thanks to Nick for such great pictures - it looks as though the bird has since headed further up the coast towards Strathbeg. Ironically Ewan the eagle is a girl so maybe we need to think of a new name!

Ewan and Jenny