I recently noticed a post by Brian Battensby on a local FaceBook wildlife group suggesting that our now famous (been on t’telly and everyfink!) Johnston Gardens drake Mandarin might have a ring on its leg, so I thought I'd head in to Aberdeen to take a look and hopefully investigate its origins.
An unringed drake Mandarin has been over-wintering at this tiny ornamental pond in the heart of Aberdeen since around January 2010 as far as I can tell, I remember seeing it there on 8th February 2014.
After reading Brian's post reporting it as ringed I became curious as to whether our returning wintering bird had been caught and ringed recently, or whether it might be a different bird altogether - surely it would be very odd to have different drake birds frequenting the same wee inner city pool?
When visiting the gardens, several folk I chatted to suggested it was originally from the Hazelhead Zoo and that's where it was ringed etc - sort of makes sense that it then spends it's winters nearby in JG's?
Anyway, I got snaps of the ring …on its LEFT leg! Being ringed on his left leg kind of implies that he's been ringed overseas - 'generally' UK ringers are encouraged to ring birds on their right legs. So the left leg ring was intriguing me but then lots of exotic wildfowl originating from captive collections generally have rings. So my initial thoughts were that he was indeed most likely from a collection such as that at Hazelhead Park.
When I got home I was finally able to read the digits but a single inscribed word instantly caught my eye and confirmed that he definitely wasn’t one of my Deeside birds and more importantly… he’s NOT an escape from Hazelhead!
I was utterly gob-smacked when I saw what was inscribed on the ring…
Luckily, as he moved about I was able to get pretty much all the inscribed digits on the ring… "427439…" so I set about entering the details in to the Stavanger Museum web site - within 24hrs I received a full report of the birds history;
His full ring number is 4274391 and he was ringed as an adult male on the 9th of April 2015 at Bestumkilen, near Akershus, Oslo in Norway! Four days later, on the 13th April 2015, he was re-sighted at Minneparken, Porsgrunnselva which is about 150km SW of Oslo. He was not then sighted till he turned up in Johnston Gardens and was first sighted here on 6th September 2015 by Les Andrew. So, in the 325 days since ringing he's travelled over 803km to join us here in Aberdeen!
Having now had a look at the national BTO ringing data, it appears that just 7 Mandarins have previously travelled between the UK and other countries; 1 ringed in France turned up in the UK and another ringed here went to France; same story with the Netherlands as we recovered one of theirs and they recovered one of ours, two UK ringed Mandarins have been recovered in the Russian Federation… and lastly a Norwegian bird was shot in the UK (see below). So, our bird is just the 4th UK recovery of a foreign ringed Mandarin Duck, how amazing is that?
I received the following email from Håvard Husebø at Stavanger Museum:
“Thanks a lot for your report of a Norwegian ringed bird. This was a great record! The Mandarin Duck is a relatively scarce bird in Norway. It is of course being kept as domestic park bird, but there also annually about 20 – 30 records of free-living individuals. With a peak of records in April and early May, which indicates that these do in fact migrate, possibly following other ducks on their route.
I’m not aware of any breeding of the species in Norway at the moment, although there were a few records back in the early 90s.
There is in total 21 Mandarins ringed in Norway. And your finding is actually our second recovery in UK. The first one was also ringed near Oslo and shot just north of Newcastle (09.11.1962). We also have one which was recovered way down in eastern Germany.”
So, I guess the main question now is, is he brand new to Johnston Gardens this winter? Has he been the bird, which has wintered here over the last 5–6 winters, travelling backwards and forwards between Aberdeen and Oslo? Or have we all been seeing more than one individual at Johnston Gardens? Surely we'd have seen two together on at least one occasion if this were the case?
Anyway, it would be very much appreciated if everyone can continue to look back through their photos and firstly confirm any dates when you've seen a Mandarin at Johnston Garden / Walker Dam and secondly if a ring was seen on it's leg?