Purple Patch

With consistent strong winds and heavy rain coupled with Christmas over the past month or so, ringing has  had to take a little bit of a back seat in the observatory, hence the quiet nature of the blog over this period. However ringing is back with a bang in 2016, with some fantastic records already flowing in and plenty more interesting data being collected by the team. Stay tuned for information on our new Hunmanby Gap site which is already showing an amazing insight into some of our garden birds, a new project ringing rails and ducks on the wetlands in the observatory, an exciting Tree Sparrow project, getting ready for spring passerine migration and our continuation of wader ringing.

A familiar wintering species on the Brigg, Purple Sandpipers have declined dramatically over the past 50 years on a local and global scale.

A familiar wintering species on the Brigg, Purple Sandpipers have declined dramatically over the past 50 years on a local and global scale.

Recently we have resumed wader ringing on the Brigg by dazzling, we will hopefully resume mist netting in the future if we can get enough volunteers within the group. However dazzling can be an effective way of catching coastal waders particularly Purple Sandpipers and Dunlin.  Purple Sandpipers in particular are a species which have seen numbers drop dramatically over the past 50 years or so, especially in a local context. This makes ringing data particularly useful if it can give us clues as the where these birds are going, how long they are living, their condition, population dynamic, site fidelity, morphological change and so on. More pieces to the ever changing puzzle does help with conservation and legislation.

Purple Sandpipers are a wintering (non-breeding)/passage visitor to Filey, which breed over a large part of the Arctic and sub-Arctic from Canada to the Taimyr Peninsula in Russia. They show a range of wintering strategy’s, with some even being quite sedentary, compared to many of its relatives which migrate long distances. The Canadian populations tend to be the most migratory, with many on the North Sea coasts moving only short distances (for a wader!) across the sea. British recoveries have come from as far away as Greenland and Svalbard, with most from Norway and Sweden.

This was the first individual ringed on the Brigg in recent times back in 2011

This was the first individual ringed on the Brigg in recent times back in 2011

Earlier this week we captured a very special bird (to us) it was in fact the first purple Sandpiper that we rung in Filey (in recent years). This bird was rung on the 28th August 2011 as an adult bird on the Brigg by Lucy. This not only makes for an absolutely fantastic site fidelity (return to a previously occupied area) record but also shows the bird to be over 5 years old. Even with their relatively short migration strategy, assuming this bird is part of the Norwegian breeding population it may have flown some 7,500 kilometres between its breeding grounds and Filey. However given the large breeding range of the species this figure could be well over 10,000 km. Very impressive from a bird not much bigger than a greenfinch. Hopefully we will be able to get some data back from these birds and see just where thy are going.