Thursday, 2 October 2014

Two out of three ain't bad!

This morning I went to a regular local passage stop-off for Ring Ouzels where we have managed to catch a small number of birds in previous autumns. The local Rowans haven't been as productive at this site as they usually are so I've spent the last few morning augmenting the crop with berries collected elsewhere. This morning I discovered two things. Firstly, sheep love eating Rowan berries if you put them out on the ground! Secondly that you CAN get Ring Ouzels to come to where you want them to by putting food out!! I saw just three this morning but managed to catch two of them which ain't bad at all! A couple of winters ago Mick Green, Paddy Jenks and I spent a whole week in the Ring Ouzel's main wintering range in the Atlas Mountains and only managed to catch nine!

1st year Male Ring Ouzel caught near Rhayader

Ring Ouzels aren't that common in Mid-Wales anymore but they are a species we have been specifically targeting to try and discover why they are declining. All the adult birds caught in the past few years have been colour-ringed with a white Darvic engraved with two letters to make them individually recognisable in the field.  Also, in conjunction with the Ecology Matters Trust, we have also been attempting to fit four geolocators to breeding adults. This summer we caught two breeding males but unfortunately one was before we had received the geolocators so just the one bird got tagged!

Adult male Ring Ouzel caught earlier this year near Dolgellau showing fitted geolocator

The two birds this morning were both fitted with colour-rings but since the birds need to be retrapped in a subsequent summer in order to get the geolocators back, and we have no idea where these birds were reared/bred, the chances of doing so are too small to make it worth tagging these ones. Hopefully we will get chance to fit the three tags we still have to breeding birds next year. This is easily said though as they tend to nest in some fairly remote spots!

The only nest of pulli we managed to ring this year was at a nest that Dave Smith found smack in the middle of the cliff shown above. Luckily, having flogged in, the chicks were just big enough to ring although unfortunately they were just  too small to colour-ring.

This is the first Ring Ouzel brood I have ringed since I had a colour-ringing project running on the small and declining breeding population on the Long Mynd in Shropshire that was being monitored by Leo Smith over 10 years ago now!

Think, in the circumstances, a little bit of gurning is acceptable!

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