Thursday, 2 July 2015

Leucistic Oystercatcher chick

On Friday 27 June Brian Pirie and I went to Hazlehead Academy to investigate a report of a possible albino oystercatcher chick. When we got there we found the bird was leucistic. Leucism affects the plumage of birds as they lack the pigment cells which are responsible for melanin productionWe caught and ringed it. Frustratingly neither of us had a camera but the janitor, Wendy Landragon, took some shots on her Smart Phone. It was a striking looking bird. The plumage was a pale brown/fawn colour on the normally black parts with a blue-grey eye. We would be pleased to have any sightings of this bird (and any others with coded rings on); the leucistic youngster has a white ring with the code T37. Please contact Alistair Duncan on alistair @ Many thanks to Wendy for the photographs.

Ally and Brian

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Golden plover in North East Scotland

Since 2011 GRG have been studying Golden Plovers at Rattery Head in North East Scotland.  Birds start to arrive in early July, complete their moult and then spend the winter here.

The first  birds arrive in early July peak about the 2nd week of August when there are between 500 and 1000 in the flock, this number remains pretty stable until the end of September when their numbers increase dramatically with up to 5000 being seen there.

Birds have been caught  and colour ringed with an individual colour combination to allow individuals to be recognised in the field. Among the birds we caught was a pullus that we had ringed on the Scottish mountains two years previously and another pullus had its ring read near Edinburgh the previous year. This gave us a strong hint that at least some of the birds present on the Scottish coast were in fact Scottish breeders.
Brood of golden plover with one egg still to hatch
One of the birds ringed in 2011 was then seen on the Outer Hebrides on the Isle of Harris on the 5 June 2012 again suggesting a Scottish breeder. This bird has not been seen again.

One of our colour-ringed birds on Harris, June 2012
Over the next couple of years from colour marked individuals from 2011 have regularly been seen again along the same stretch of coastline, suggesting some site fidelity of the birds to their wintering grounds, others have however never been seen again despite regular searches through the flocks for colour marked individuals. Many birds have been seen repeatedly.

Then on the 22 January this year DE52076 bird was reported form Curragh Racecourse, Kildare, Ireland, this had been ringed on the 21 August 2011 at Rattery Head. It had been previously seen at Buchanhaven /Peterhead in August/September 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Golden Plover DE52076 ringed 21 August 2011 at Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire
So why this bird now decided to move to Ireland after staying in the north east for the previous years we cannot say, however as the bird has been seen in the autumn only in the previous years it may have moved to Ireland every winter. Perhaps future years will provide more information regarding this bird.

Clearly we have much yet to learn about the movements of these birds and what initiates the need to move; cold weather can certainly be ruled out as the winter of 2014-15 in North east has been exceptionally mild.

We intend to continue ringing both pullus and adult birds in the forthcoming years and will be grateful of any sightings of colour marked Golden Plovers

Monday, 16 March 2015

A curlew sighting at last

In the summers of 2013 and 2014 we have been colour-ringing curlews in Aberdeenshire to look at brood survival and habitat use, as part of the RSPB's wider work locally in waders. On Orkney they have been doing similar and had lots of local sightings over the winter.
Curlew chicks in Donside (Jenny Weston)
We've not been so lucky and had a single sighting on the Ythan in August 2013 and a bird last summer in the non-breeding flock. A couple of weeks ago these got blown out the park by an email from Ireland of a chick ringed near Corgarff in Donside in June 2014 foraging on a sports field in Dublin! Many thanks to Conn O'Brien for passing this on to us through Birdwatch Ireland.
A curlew from Donside in Dublin (Conn O'Brien)
We had always thought that our lack of sightings and recoveries from curlew in the winter was because they were in very remote areas on the west coast of Scotland and Ireland, but it looks as though they are spending at least some of their winters on the football pitches of Dublin, in a slightly more urban setting than we previously thought!
Curlews in a slightly more urban setting than we're used to (Conn O'Brien)