Thursday, 22 March 2012

Moving Mutes

Last week, whilst out nest recording on campus, I came across a couple of new colour ringed Mute Swans on Airthrey Loch.  Mute swans may appear to just be sedentary to 'their ponds' but they do in fact move! The last colour marked Mute Swan that I observed down on the loch turned out to have quite the history (see here) and so I was eager to hear back about these individuals too.


Green LVB was ringed as a cygnet near Glenrothes in August 2010. It was seen once more at its' original ringing location until being sighted here in Stirling this year. It has traveled approximately 35 miles to Airthrey loch.

LVB's Movements


Green LZX was ringed as a cygnet at Linlithgow Loch in September 2010. LZX was seen regularly at Linlithgow up until mid-March when I sighted it here at the university, approximately 23 miles away.

LZX's Movements

Thanks to Allan Brown for the recovery information. If you see any colour ringed birds you can find the relating colour ringing project here: or can report metal rings to  

Friday, 16 March 2012

Drag Me To The Capital

Last Sunday, after a lot of sleep!, I packed my waders and traveled down to Glasgow, Scotland's unofficial capital, to met up with some members of the Clyde Ringing Group (CRG) for my first drag netting session.

After arriving at the ringing site we were greeted by singing Skylarks above, my first of the year and always reminds me gorgeous hot warm summer days. Unfortunately it wasn't a gorgeous hot summer's day but instead a typically Scottish cold, blustery one! The aim of the game was to catch Jack Snipe, a species I had both never seen nor ringed. Iain Livingstone and CRG have been targeting Jack Snipe for an impressive 18 years!

I had never been drag netting before and so didn't know quite what to expect. It was very hard going, traipsing through thigh high thick reeds but after 2 hours we finally struck gold and caught our first Jack Snipe and what a bird!

I was expecting to see a nice looking brown and golden striped wee bird, what I got was a stunning beauty! I had no idea they were so beautiful with their bright greens, golds and even purple, their feathers were something else! It was by far the most beautiful bird I had ever seen and it was a privilege to ring it, something I won't forget in a hurry.

We soon had our second and last bird of the day, another cracking Jack Snipe which the guys very kindly let me ring too. It was very hard work but completely worth it to see such amazing birds, even the strange looks we got off passing dog walkers!

A bonus for the day was not falling in, something I was definitely expecting to do! A very big thanks goes to Iain Livingstone for inviting me, the team and The Clyde Ringing Group. I really enjoyed my first time drag netting, even had a go of 'dragging' myself and can't wait until the next time.

So there we have it my 80th species and to have it in Scotland's unofficial capital too! I will have been ringing for 2 years this Monday and I never thought I would be doing all of this when I first started. Thank you to everyone who has helped and trained me over the last two year and hears to the next 2, who knows what they will bring!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Ringing Under The Stars

Late on Friday night, as all the other 'normal' students left for a night down the pub, I set off for Montrose Basin to take part in my first wader mist netting session. After getting lost in the darkness, several times, I found the meeting point and the rest of team: Chris McGuigan from Tay RG and Raymond Duncan, Ewan Weston and Euan Ferguson from Grampian RG

I had never been to Montrose Basin before and what an introduction, as we spent the night ringing away under the stars. We stayed out ringing until 4:30am and had a very successful night, catching 56 new birds and 2 recaptures.


The 2 recaptures consisted of an Oystercatcher that was ringed as a 3 (juvenile) in August 2010 and a Bar-tailed Godwit that was also ringed on the same night as the same age!


It was an interesting and enjoyable night where I gained a lot of valuable new experience. We ringed 6 species during the night, 4 of which were new for me: Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Redshank. The night was a great opportunity to use a variety of different ring sizes, learn how to age new wader species and to take wader's biometrics.


The Black-tailed Godwit that we caught was colour ringed for one of the group's ongoing projects studying the species. Any colour ring sightings can be sent to Raymond Duncan at raymond'@' 

A happy ringer with a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit

I'd have to say that the best thing about ringing in the dark is when you get to release your freshly ringed bird. Nothing beats releasing a Curlew into the night's sky and watching it fly off infront of the moon & stars whilst it calls into the darkness!


A really fantastic night was had with a brilliant, very welcoming wee team. It made a nice change to be surrounded by Scottish ringers for once too! A big thank you goes to Chris for inviting me and to the very bonnie team for a great night - hears to next time!

Bar-tailed Godwit

So with 4 new species that night I am only one away from my 80th - the next post is going to be something pretty good, promise! ; )

Friday, 9 March 2012

And We're Off!

Finally the day has come and I have found my first nest to kick start the 2012 nest recording season. My first nest was a Woodpigeon in my back garden down in Stranraer, found on 1st March.

Woodpigeon Nest

After recording my first nest last year down at WWT Llanelli I am looking forward to going for a mega recording year this year and I won't be alone in my mission! I have teamed up with Chris & Kane who will be recording in England and Wales, together we are hoping to record some top species across the UK and maybe even break the 1,000 records mark! As well as our blogs you can follow our nest recording exploits on Twitter:  @WildlifeG, @KaneBrides and @CJBridge

We are recording as many nests as we can find for The BTO's Nest Record Scheme (NRS). The information gathered from nest recording is used by the BTO to measure environmental impacts on breeding as well as to produce trends for breeding performance. Anyone can take part in NRS - see the NRS website here. It is a really enjoyable and rewarding hobby and once you start, your hooked!

My 1st Coot nest

This year as well as general recording we are targeting some particular species: Tree Sparrow, Reed Warbler and of course Coot. I have already starting recording nests up here in Stirling and have so far found 10 new Coot nests with many more pairs set to start building their nests any day down on the loch - looks like it's going to be a bumper for Coot up here!

With birds pairing up and the dawn chorus getting louder and more varied by the day it won't be long before the nesting season is in full swing and I for one can't wait.

Love is in the air down on Airthrey Loch

I'm really looking forward to this nesting season as not only will I be learning new skills in nest finding and pullus ringing but I will also be spending the summer with my best mates, what else could I ask for?!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Caerlaverock Swan Catch

Yesterday I took part in my first swan catch at WWT Caerlaverock. I traveled from Stirling early yesterday morning and met up with the team at Caerlaverock for a pre-catch briefing. Being able to take part in the swan catch was special to me as the first bird I ever held was a Whooper swan at WWT Caerlaverock when I started volunteering for the trust back in 2008, before I was even a ringer!

The catch ran smoothly with 204 swans being safely caught in the swan pipe along with a handful of Mallards.

Inside the swan pipe

Of the 204 swans caught, 57 were Mutes and the rest were all Whoopers. WWT swan catches are very important to the trust's ongoing monitoring work and as part of this work every Whooper swan processed received a Darvic colour ring that can be read in the field. Sightings from these birds have helped map the species' migratory routes as well as establishing both breeding and wintering grounds. If you see any colour-marked wildfowl then you can report it using the colour-ringing website.

I really enjoyed my first swan catch experience and it was great to get to grips with taking biometrics of swans, a completley different kettle of fish to wee Coots I'm used to that's for sure! All swans processed had their full biometrics taken: wing, weight, skull & tarsus, along with being aged and sexed.

Getting so close to the Whoopers allowed me to appreciate their unique bill patterns, absolutely stunning.

The catch was a great opportunity to catch up with the Slimbridge team as well as to meet other local ringers from The North Solway Group and beyond, such as fellow bloggers Kev Scott & Sean Gray from The Isle of Man.

A real treat was ringing a Whooper swan. Whoopers are a real favourite of mine and I love them even more now after admiring them up close, I especially love the way some make soft 'whoop whoop' calls as you process them!

Massive thanks to the team and to WWT for inviting me along. A brief trip now back home to Stranraer, the first time this year I've been home! Hopefully I will get out ring reading and nest recording to start of my first nest record card for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme (NRS), wish me luck!