February 10th   Leave a comment

Balcomie Beach hasn’t changed much in the last week. Lots of a sanderlings and a few dunlin, although the golden and grey plover have moved on. At sea there seem to be more long-tailed ducks – probably 20 out from Fife Ness – in a busy flock with some of the males displaying to the females.

One of the 25 or so sanderling on Balcomie Beach at the moment

Yesterday I saw a colour-ringed juvenile great black-backed gull roosting with some herring gulls by the boating pond at Roome Bay. The ringer got back to me very promptly this morning after I googled the ring number and type to find their identity. It was ringed as a chick on Rona (the northerly bit of the May Island) on the 25th June 2018, and was seen again at Fife Ness in August and now again in Crail, 230 days later and only 8 km from where it was born. Some birds don’t disperse very far. Gulls are long lived and this gull may be here for next 40 years, so I will be keeping an eye out for it future winters.

Yellow 097:M. The colour-ringed great black-backed gull at Roome Bay yesterday.

The shag ring on harbour beach – you need the colour and the 3 letters. This is a white ring that has got dirty and dull in the 5 years the shag was wearing it.

I was also handed a shag ring yesterday found on harbour beach. I emailed Professor Jane Reid at Aberdeen University, one of the leaders of the project that has been ringing shags on the May Island for many years now, to find out its history. This bird had led a slightly more interesting life than the great black-backed gull. The shag was also ringed in June as a chick on the May Island, but back in 2013. It has bred on the island ever since although in winter it has wandered as far as Aberdeenshire. It was last seen alive at Fife Ness in September and considering that the ring has now washed up in Crail, minus a corpse, it probably died soon afterwards. If you have ever looked at the shags flying past  Crail, or hauled out on the rocks at Fife Ness, you can’t fail to have noticed most are ringed with their own three letter code and colour. If you ever note down a combination or find a ring (often on a washed up corpse after a winter’s storm), then let me know and I will pass it on. The study has thousands of sightings now but the more the merrier because like the gulls, shags can live a long time, and finding a ring can complete a history of a bird, showing categorically that it has died rather than having gone somewhere else to live where there is no-one to spot its rings.

A shag breeding on the May Island – almost all of them are colour-ringed, and many of them were ringed as chicks on the island

Posted February 10, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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