Monday, 6 February 2017

An auld dipper

After a tip-off from Maureen and Gordon Berry that a ringed Dipper had appeared on the Cowie River in Stonehaven, myself and Sam decided to try to retrap the bird and see where it had come from. Dippers aren’t generally known for long-distance movements, and with no birds having been caught there for several years, it was an interesting sighting. 
Maureen and Gordon's ringed dipper which set the ringers in motion © Gordon Berry
We met up with Gordon and got a net set up near the river mouth, with a Dipper keeping an eye on us all the time. Sadly, the only thing we caught in 3 hours of waiting in the rain there was an over-excited dog - so after repairing a broken shelf string, we decided to try somewhere else!

We moved upstream about a kilometre, to a wide, fairly shallow, rocky area that looked like Dipper heaven. It was some way from where Gordon had photographed the ringed bird, but we were hopeful it would be around there somewhere. After resetting a net here (with the rain still falling), we didn’t have to wait long before we caught our first Dipper - a fine 1st winter female, but not the ringed individual we were after. Then came another, this time an adult male, but unringed as well.

Third time lucky - the ringed bird, an adult female. A quick text to Raymond with the ring number and we got her details - ringed as a chick at Cullerlie, around 20km inland from here, back in the spring of 2011. A good movement for a Dipper, and at 5+ years old, a good age too, with the oldest recorded in Britain at 8+ years old. 

The second and third birds that were caught in quick succession, the third being the retrap we were after
The retrap bird. This is a clear adult with no contrast between juvenile and adult feathers in the greater coverts. 
Soon after this we caught a fourth bird - a young male. There’s a good chance that these four birds constitute 2 pairs using the river. 

A successful day in the end, with 3 new birds ringed and an excellent recovery - worth getting a soaking for. A big thank you to Maureen and Gordon for the tip-off, and sorry we didn’t catch while you were with us!
The same adult retrap bird. Dippers can be sexed using wing length - with a short wing of 88mm this bird is a female. 

Alex & Sam