Oct 082014

Those of you who regularly read our updates will know that some of our group – mainly me(!) – are keen to note colour-ringed birds and send off sightings to the relevant colour-ring projects.    This is sometimes no mean feat as there are many different projects running in many different countries in Europe, which is usually where “our” birds are from.

Recently we noted several black-tailed godwit with colour-rings at Oare Marshes, and I duly submitted our findings.   These are usually a combination of up to three different coloured rings on each upper leg.

For example; left leg – red/yellow/lime, right leg – red/navy/red – this bird was ringed on 29th September 2012 at Harty, Kent.

On 6th November that year it was spotted at Marshside RSPB, Mersyside.   By December 2012 it had moved to Dublin and remained in Southern Ireland until April 2013 when it moved to the Dee Estuary in Cheshire.   After a short stay the next sighting was at Caldy Wildlife Collection, Wirral, Merseyside where the bird was regularly noted.   September 2013 saw the bird at Oare Marshes until October, and then just in time for Christmas our bird moved to Slimbridge where it remained until February.   On 1st March 2014 it had moved back to Southern Ireland until finally, we spotted the same bird back at Oare again on 24th September 2014.     So a well travelled bird who still has some allegiance to Kent.  To see the records for this bird click on the link here: Colour-ring record for Red yellow lime – red navy red

In contrast left leg – red/green/red, right leg – red/navy/red (the right leg denoting that it is part of the same ringing project and so therefore another ‘Harty Godwit’, and ringed on the same day as our first example has presumably remained in the area, being reported at Oare Marshes six times in the intervening two years.

To add to the fascination/confusion, another bird, again part of the same project and ringed on 21st July 2012, with red/yellow/green and red/navy/red, was reported 19 times in the area between Harty/Oare and Motney Hill in the Medway Estuary, but then decided in April this year to move to Iceland – presumably to breed.   It was back at Oare by the end of July this year.

Red/orange/green – red/navy/red (see photo below) was again ringed on 29th September 2012, spent a couple of weeks in northern France in November that year and has then been regularly found back at Oare since.

Red orange green - red navy red

Red orange green – red navy red

Red/green/red – red/navy/red (another 29th September 2012 bird) has only ever been seen at Oare Marshes since it was ringed.

Finally red/yellow/orange – red/navy/red was ringed at Harty on 1st September 2012 and was reported 29 times in the Oare Marshes area, until 22nd July 2014 when it was reported at Welney WWT Reserve – by 27th July 2014 it was back at Oare Marshes.

So, you can see that these birds all have differing sightings histories, and it is fascinating to see that one species could have such diverse patterns of behaviour.   We are totally reliant on reported sightings of course, and as many of these birds seem to spend an inordinate amount of time standing on one leg thereby preventing our seeing both colour-ring combinations, many sightings may go unreported.   Where there are gaps in the sightings, during the late spring, these birds seem to be back on their Kent stamping grounds again by late July.

Oare Marshes 30th July 2014

Oare Marshes 30th July 2014 (with Golden Plover front centre)

Huge flocks of black-tailed godwit are seen in North Kent, their numbers swell in the autumn as birds arrive back from the breeding grounds in their superb summer plumage, but we will never quite be sure of where the birds have arrived from or where they will go in the future.   We can only wonder at the amazing journeys they make to over-winter with us.

So if you find any colour-ringed birds do report them – either through us or via the colour-ringed project website.   All the information is adding to our knowledge of birds, their migration and longevity, and the more sightings that are reported the more we will learn about these beautiful creatures.

Sue Healey

 Posted by on 8 October 2014 at 10:56 pm

  2 Responses to “Colour-rings – how much do we really know?”

Comments (2)
  1. I saw godwit red, yellow,lime / red,navy,red today at shellness on shore, there was also one with red,green,lime / navy(poss black),red where do I report the sighting.
    Also have pictures of both birds.


    jeremy jeffery

  2. Jeremy. From the red/navy/red I think these will be from the same project as our birds seen at Oare, which will be ringed originally in the Harty area. So you need to submit your sightings and photographs to: Pete Potts at “pmpotts@tiscali.co.uk”. It will be interesting to hear where your birds have been in their lives already, please let us know when you hear. Do not worry if it takes time for a reply as when the ringers are busy our emails sometimes have to wait until things slow down or the weather prevents them being out in the field. Thanks again.

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