Thursday, 1 November 2012

Waxwing on the way back to UK?

With waxwings beginning to arrive in the UK again we received a great piece of news from one of our Highland ringing neighbour’s, Brian Bates. Brian had been browsing some photos on a Bird Photographic website and after looking at several images taken by Elsa M. Wallumrod on 27th October at Horten, near Oslo, Vestfold in Norway he somehow managed to spot a colour-ringed bird, bottom left in the image taken by Elsa below. Does he scour these websites with a magnifying glass?

After requesting a zoomed in and higher resolution photo of the bird, Brian forwarded on this 2nd image from Elsa and it proved possible to individually identify the bird by its colour rings.

RNY had been ringed as a young male in Ballater, Royal Deeside (40km west of Aberdeen) on 30th October at the start of the large invasion of  2010. As a bonus it had a little bit of a history during that winter in the UK. It was photographed as a teenager hamming it up in a Montrose hedgerow by Harry Bickerstaff a couple of weeks after ringing (see below) then Tony Sweetland resighted it 3 months later in deepest England, in Bracknell. Who knows where it has been since until now?!

Thanks to 100s of observers throughout the UK and Ireland the waxwing colour-ringing has produced lots of resightings and a fascinating insight into their varied and unpredictable movements in search of berries throughout the country during invasions when we have been able to catch and ring reasonable numbers. See map of results from the invasion of 2010/11.

Once they depart from the UK in spring though it is a very different story. They seem to just vanish into the massive taiga forests of Scandinavia and Siberia never to be seen again and we receive very few reports. If we do receive any, they have more often than not been killed by cats (in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). One extreme recovery (link below) shows a bird in Aberdeen one spring then killed by a cat the next in the USSR 3714km away, east of the Ural Mountains, on a parallel with Azerberjan and nearer to Mongolia than Aberdeen……amazing!

A very big thank you to Brian Bates (I’ll buy you a pint at the ringers conference in a few weeks Brian) for his microscopic web scanning, to Elsa Wallumrod for the great photographs, to Andrew Clarke, coordinator of the Photographic Website, for the photos and further information, to the GrampianRG ringing team at Ballater that day in 2010 (Ewan Weston, Alistair Clunas and Paul Baxter) (and to Neil Cook, Harry Scott and Mik Marquiss who weren’t there but provided valuable intelligence), to Harry Bickerstaff and Tony Sweetland for keeping tabs on this marauding teenager once he’d moved on and to all other GRG waxwing ringers and all the 100s of observers who have subsequently reported colour ringed birds, often with tremendous  accompanying photographs.

Raymond Duncan

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