Thursday, 15 December 2011

Shag darvics galore!

After the wild stormy winds of mid week where else would Jane be found last weekend but wandering around Fraserburgh Harbour. The sea was still raging with waves going over the north breakwater. The outer coast was totally washed, including the annoying roost-wreck at Cairnbulg where the birds stand just out of scope range on an upturned trawler. However the inner harbour appeared to be a calm sanctuary and Jane managed a new Broch record of 62 darvics.

Some shags roosting on the tyres in Fraserburgh Harbour (Photo Jane)

Loads of juvvies, including some of our own chicks from Bullers of Buchan (20kms south down the coast) plus two new data logger adults. These are birds from the Isle of May, much further south in the Firth of Forth. Data loggers are attached to the darvics of breeding adults in the summer and the ringers hope to recapture the birds back breeding at the same nest site next summer when the logger is removed and the data down loaded. Amount of daylight is continually recorded and this can be correlated with the amount of daylight expected during the winter months to plot the birds wintering grounds. Resightings of particular birds help calibrate the accuracy of the data being collected.

“I’ll just gee them a wee stun, honest" says Skitts (Photo Raymond)

On the down side Jane rescued a rather weak juvie, blue darvic UPP, from a bouldery roosting place. With more storms expected it is possible we may get a “wreck” of shags, an abnormal amount dying due to these harsh conditions.

Please check all harbours and rocky shores for roosting shags and beaches for potential high mortality over next few months


Monday, 12 December 2011

Linnet breeders still at home

With the weather turning a bit colder now linnets are finally coming onto one of the bait sites. 2 catches have produced 99 linnets and a few goldfinch, chaffy and greenies. 12 retrap linnets have included 4 colour-ringed adults, 2 juveniles and 3 pullus from this summer’s ringing at Girdleness.

Males Orange/Orange and White/Yellow ringed as breeding males in May 2011 and retrapped December (Raymond Duncan)

Mind you, if the linnets sat in the trees above the catching site and looked through a telescope they could see their nest sites 6kms away to the south. Hopefully we can get a few more flocks onto bait sites this winter scattered a bit further around the region to see how far adults and juveniles disperse and see how many survive the winter. It’s amazing how many actually survived the previous 2 winters given the deep snow we had and how long it lay in freezing conditions. We actually watched weakened linnets drop from the air through starvation at one site in January 2010 and had to refrain from catching large numbers at the bait site along with 5 different bunting species (snow, corn, reed, yellow and lapland) as conditions were just too extreme

Finch/bunting flock and 4 bunting species (Hywel Maggs)

Some very fluffy linnets on bait at New Aberdour 9/1/10 (Hywel Maggs)

It would appear not all of our local bred birds remain for the winter. Breeding female retrap Yellow/Yellow photographed below at Girdleness on 15/5/11 by local birder Graham Ruthvin, had originally been ringed as a juvenile on passage at Portland Bill, Dorset on 5/10/10.

Please have a go for those lintie flocks if you can.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Scottish Ringers Conference

This year, Grampian Ringing Group is hosting the 37th Scottish Ringers Conference at the Carrbridge Hotel, on 11th -13th of November.

Booking forms and the programme can be found here - Please contact for bookings and queries.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Last Gulls of the Summer

We've reached the end of summer and the end of our gull darvics. The 250th was put on a Lesser Black-backed Gull today, after a whoosh net catch on Aberdeen beach. Time to order some new rings!

Most of the birds ringed over the summer have been Herring Gulls, but seven Lesser Black-backed Gull, two Greater Black-backed Gulls and a Glaucous Gull have also been colour ringed. The Glaucous is the first to be ringed in the UK since 2002, with only 60 birds having ever been ringed.

The first Greater Black-backed Gull (above) we colour ringed this year at Fraserburgh was seen 45 miles away at Lossiemouth 4 days later. Having only ringed two Greaters so far that's a good resighting rate! We intend to catch more this autumn at the harbours up north.

Several birds we caught had already been metal ringed. The oldest was ringed as a chick at Aberdeen harbour in 1997. Many gulls are now being resighted around the city. The photo below shows two juveniles we'd ringed at different sites standing right next to each other. Amazingly we'd only ringed three juveniles at that stage! From our resightings we are seeing that breeding birds don't necessarily feed near the nest site, with birds ringed in our gardens in the suburbs seen on rooftops 8 miles away in the city centre. Hopefully more resightings will help us understand more about the movements and population of Aberdeens gulls.

Please check all gulls you see for colour rings.


Monday, 18 July 2011

100th Gull Colour Ringed

We have been catching large gulls this summer around Aberdeen for a new colour ringing project, and caught our 100th bird today. This particular bird had all ready been metal ringed, by myself last summer. Like the majority of the birds we've ringed it was an adult Herring Gull. We have also ringed four adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and are now starting to catch this years juveniles as they come off the roofs. Most of the gulls have been caught by hand around the city, although some have also been clap netted in our gardens. Gulls are easisest to catch at this time of year, with juveniles fully grown yet still reliant on their parents for food, meaning adult gulls are more confident and reckless than usual. Hopefully we will ring a lot more before summer is over. Please check the gulls you see around Aberdeen for rings.


Monday, 30 May 2011

Colour Ringing Gulls

We have started a new colour ringing project: Herring Gulls (and Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls if we can get our hands on them). "The North East Scotland Gull project" as I've just decided to call it will see us putting colour rings on any large gull we catch in the Grampian and Tay area, with Ben Herschell from Tay Ringing Group colour ringing gulls in and around Montrose.
   We ringed our first birds today, caught by hand at a legendary site we refer to as "the magic fence." Hopefully they will be the first of many this summer, as we are soon getting to the period when gulls are easy to catch. They lose all caution and common sense when they have chicks, as they desperately try to secure Asda smart price bread for them

Catching at the Magic Fence - thanks to Keith Barker for sending us this photo Another bird caught later in the Burger King car park!

Please look out for our gulls, all have a yellow ring on the left leg, with the letter T followed by a colon and three numbers.
Euan, Calum and Raymondo

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Scarce passage migrant twitch ringing!

We had a scarce passage migrant visitor mid week in the shape of Richie Hearn from WWT Slimbridge, always a welcome addition to the year's list. Last bird he ringed was red breasted goose in Bulgaria (and probably Brazilian Merganser in Brazil before that) so it was no wonder he was looking a bit glum when he was given some juvy linnet rtps to look at!

His face brightened up a bit when he was told there was a linnet brood needing ringing though.......a pullus ringing tick for him!

He dipped on mipit pullus (already ringed) and goldfinch and whitethroat which were too wee to ring.

We are onto the last of first brood linnets now and building well underway for 2nd broods. We had a nice example of 'rabbit syndrome' typical of some of these carduellis finches last week. As we approached a gorse bush containing a nest with c10 day old chicks we noticed the female arriving with nest material closely followed by the male. Once the female disappeared into her new nest (about a metre from the 1st nest) the male nipped over to the first nest to feed the chicks and came back over with a faecal sack in beak just in time to accompany the female away for more nest material........TOTALS!

Raymond, Calum and Euan

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

More Girdleness-ting

Linties are now well on-stream with 11 broods ringed today, with our total now standing on 99 chicks. We have a similar number of titchy chicks that'll be for ringing next weekend. Few failures with their ring of gorse defence but same can’t be said for the ground nesting mipits and skylark with quite a few failures but 3 broods of mipos now ringed (below).
50th lintie nest was well found by Calum and appropriately marked with a Thornton’s Easter Bunny ribbon (see photos below).
We are used to finding goldfinch nests at the end of high sycamore branches in winter once the leaves are off the trees but at this site they have taken to using head high dog roses……..luvly (photo below). First brood ringed today and a further 2 on eggs. Some adults were clap netted as well as skylark and meadow pipits. We also got a control lintie……..L627288 Any takers?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Lintie nesting

Despite another cold snowy spell last winter our breeding linnet numbers seem to be buoyant and thriving, at least in their favourite habitat in the coastal gorse bushes. First 3 broods were ringed last weekend with another 30+ lined up for the next few weekends. Main threat is burning by vandals with one or two nests and favoured gorse clumps already gone. Our major stick twatting day to find all the nests we’d missed during building proved a bit disappointing with most female linnets sitting very tight in the cool and misty conditions (see photo above). Other nests included pied wagtail, blackbird chicks, a well sign posted goldfinch (see photo below), swallow building, a few meadow pipits and an early rock pipit with young chicks.

Top tip for finding meadow pipit nests: Stand in a group in the rough grass and yap for a few minutes……it eventually unnerves the sitting bird and it flutters off………2 found by this very skilful method!

Watch out for a photo of Rotti Man (The Viz ornithologist) next posting.

Raymond and team

Ravens in Grampian

This week we also ringed a new species for the group – Raven. Although common in other parts of the country this species seems to be just starting to recover from the severe persecution they have suffered. A few pairs are now breeding in the region and this is the first brood to be ringed by the group. We have also heard recently of a golden eagle tracked by the RSPB, which was found poisoned in Glenbuchat in Strathdon, so there are obviously still individuals deliberately killing protected birds in our uplands. We wish our ravens chicks all the best and hope them a long happy life, unlike the poor golden eagle.
Brood of 3 ravens. Photo by Ewan Weston
Poisoned golden eagle. Photo RSPB

Sandwich terns coming north

Since our sighting in Namibia in February we have had 3 more sightings as the terns start to move North to breed. Our first came from Lanzarote (EDB) in early April followed 20 days later by another bird sighted in the Netherlands (EAS). EAS was also seen on the 9th of May at the same site in the Netherlands, suggesting that it may be breeding nearby. There are no sandwich terns breeding in this part of the Netherlands, so it will be interesting to see if this bird remains in the area or turns up elsewhere.
EAS photographed in the Netherlands – Fred Visscher 20/4/2011
So far we have had 70 re-sightings of 200 colour ringed individuals. Nine of these were outside of the UK. We have also had a recent recovery of a sandwich tern ringed as a chick in 2006 on the Ythan Estuary that was recovered on 31st of March in ICELAND. This is the first UK recovery of a sandwich tern in Iceland.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Sedge Warbler Brood Survived!

We didn’t hold out too much hope for a typically open 2nd brood sedge warbler nest at Logie Buchan on 24th July 2010, especially as we nearly trashed it heading out to prepare the net rides for another autumn of reed bed ringing. We put in a bypass and rechecked it a couple of times and were pleased to find it still going with 4 ringable chicks on the 4th of August. We were then even happier to know the nest had fledged successfully when we retrapped the first chick ringed, number L084396, nearby in the reeds on the 1st of September. To complete the happy story we have just received news back from the BTO about number 97, retrapped by ringers at
Heultje, Antwerpen, Belgium on the 19th of September!


Photo by Euan Ferguson

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Tern sighting in Namibia

Today we received a fantastic sighting of one of the 200 sandwich terns we individually colour ringed in August and September on the Ythan Estuary. We have had 65 sightings, mostly locally and 5 separate sightings in France in October and November. Since then all has been quiet until I received a very welcome email from Mark Boorman, a ringer in Namibia, to say that he had seen EFK at the salt pans where he studies terns – a distance of 8,979km. Mark has previously caught birds that we have ringed as chicks in the colony on the Ythan.

During the autumn catches we caught over 50 ringed birds from elsewhere in the UK, many of which we have now received details from the BTO. Most of these birds have come from colonies on the Farne Islands in Northumberland, the oldest being 24 years old.

EDD at Blackdog August 2010 (Nick Littlewood).

EHD at Burghead, Moray September 2010 (David Pullan).

ETH at Ile Tristan, Brittany, FRANCE (Mickael Buanic).

Hopefully we'll get some more sightings as they return in the next few months.


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Recent Cormorant Sightings

A Cormorant chick colour ringed DXV at Forvie in 2007 was seen on 03/02/11 by Afonso Rocha on the Tagus Estuary, Lisbon, Portugal. We have previously had birds resighted in Spain and France, but this is our furthest south yet.

HHC and HLF by Tristan Folland
Another interesting sighting was HHC and HLF, both seen together in a group of only 13 birds by Tristan Folland on 09/02/11 at Waterbeach Gravel Pits, Cambridgeshire. They are both from different colonies from different years, HHC was ringed at Forvie in 2008 and HLF at Inverbervie in 2009. This shows how important these inland water bodies in central England are for wintering cormorants from NE Scotland (and other areas presumably).
HHC in breeding plumage at Forvie by Chris Jones
HHC has returned each summer to the Forvie colony and leaves in early September. It has not attempted to breed yet, maybe this year it will return and do so.
CUU at Seaforth, Merseyside by Chris Gregson 07/02/11

Cormorants have been colour ringed by GRG since 2005. We have had an extremely high resighting rate, an average of 1 in 4 birds. Thank you to all observers and photographers.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Colour-ringed Waxwing Update

In 2010 Grampian and Orkney Ringing Groups individually colour-ringed almost 500 waxwings between late October and late November.

GYG at Prescot, Knowsley, Merseyside (Steve Tomlinson)

Thanks to so many birders, photographers and ringers throughout the country over 100 resightings have been reported along with 6 dead birds. At less than 1 in 5 birds, this is an outstanding return rate for a passerine (and hopefully there are more to come). A big thanks to all. Below is a map the movements so far.

Every waxwing invasion is different but early movements seemed fairly normal with some rapid movements from Orkney to Aberdeen, an Orkney bird in Norwich within a couple of weeks of ringing and several Aberdeen birds well south within a few weeks (in Dunfermline, Lothian, Glasgow, Cumbria and Manchester). Then the cold and snowy weather arrived and really put a spanner in the works.

The waxwing circus trapeze artists. You forget how agile waxwings can be when feeding until you see these images like this, taken in Dorchester, Dorset (Chris Rowland)

With competition for berries at a premium (mistle thrushes were even having to fight off wood pigeons this winter) the remaining Waxwings in Aberdeen departed en masse earlier than ever before, leaving fewer behind than ever before. There then followed a record fast movement towards the south of England with unprecedented numbers along the south coast. From colour ring sightings it appeared many of these birds leap frogged those already further north in England. 8 colour-ringed birds were reported in Kent alone.

2 different colour-ringed birds drinking in the same gutter in Hemel Hempstead. Even waxwings let themselves down occasionally! Photographed and reported independently by different birders. (Joan Thompson, Michael Nott)

With this build up on the south coast we wondered if birds might start crossing the channel into France and Belgium. However, numerous sightings of colour-ringed birds suggests they are preferring to head east or west along the south coast in search of berries rather than face another hazardous sea crossing. That’s so far any way. Meanwhile colour-ringed birds are still being reported from further north so it will be exciting to see what develops over the next couple of months

Two colour ringed bird in one photo! GBL and BBG in Northampton (Ian Pretty)

Once again, a big thank you to everybody who has taken the time and trouble to report colour-ringed waxwings, many with tremendous photographs which we have kindly been allowed to use in articles such as this. Keep up the great work.
Raymond Duncan
(On behalf of Grampian and Orkney Ringing Groups)

Young love! YGB, an Orkney bird, at Hardingstone, Northants. (Dave Jackson)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Inland Oyc Movement

Fully grown Oystercathers are mainly ringed on the coast, but for the past few years we've had several cannon net fires at roosts inland during spring.

Oystercatcher FH24678, ringed on 27th March last year at Tarland was retrapped by Richard du Feu from North Lancs Ringing Group, who have also been catching good numbers of Oystercatchers inland, at Heysham on 22 January. This bird could be a breeder on its way up north. Thanks to Richard for letting us know.

Photos Ewan Weston