Monday, 11 January 2021

Ythan Twite a twittering

 Hi Aye, Happy New Lockdown 2021 to yiz all. Here's a wee bittie aboot oor Twite.

Following low numbers for several years now the wintering twite flock around the Ythan Estuary seems to have taken a turn for the better. It is difficult to establish exact numbers as there is usually a varying number of linnets in the flock but we think there could be over 200 present. Three catches so far have resulted in 175 different twite being handled.

The graph shows the number of different twite caught here each winter from 2018/19. What a whopping increase this winter! It also shows there are a lot more juveniles in the flock than in the previous two.

With twite not being artificially fed/ringed at Montrose Basin this winter (75km down the coast) we wondered if the increase might be partially down to some of these birds shifting north but the only Montrose bird we have caught so far has been a bird which was ringed there in October 2018 and retrapped at the Ythan the same winter on 6 January 2019 and was retrapped again here last winter.

The wee corn yellow beak, peachy chin and buffy wing bar (and wheezy call) help distinguish the twite from linnet (Photo MS)

Unfortunately a good breeding season appears to have also come with the loss of some of our older regular returning birds. This includes AYA3689 which we were hoping to retrap for a fourth winter, having been caught on the west coast at Clachtoll by Tony Mainwood in each of the intervening springs but so far no sign.

A (particularly) pink rump on this bird helps distinguish this as a male twite. The female usually has a brown rump (Photo MS)

We have decided to colour-ring them again this winter to compare results with similar research done between winters 2008/09 - 2010/11 when, to our surprise this revealed the origins of our wintering twite flock to be from the west coast of Scotland. Sightings came from nine different islands from Lewis in the north to Oronsay in the south as well as many reports up and down the west coast mainland.

The colour rings identify this bird as a twite ringed around the Ythan Estuary in winter 2020/21

In the past these winter twite catches have been well attended by many of the groups ringers but alas with this worldwide pandemic putting us back into almost full lockdown again we have unfortunately had to continue to keep it within local ringers this winter.

Please look out for any wintering flocks near you and who knows, we might be allowed summer holidays as far as the west coast this year so keep your eyes peeled for birds over there and be sure to check them for colour rings.

Raymond, Moray and Skitts


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