More on the colour-ringed Curlews from the Severn estuary

As reported in a previous issue of GNS NEWS, a number of Curlews were caught amd marked with a series of colour rings on the Severn Estuary below Lydney in September 2010 and September 2011.  One of these birds made a spectacular appearance at Coombe Hill on 20 March 2012 (and was present again today, 21 March).

The bird was colour-ringed with a blue ring on the left tibia (i.e. above the “knee”)  and two red rings on the right tibia.  See below the picture of this bird, taken at a high tide roost at Ayblurton Warth by John Sanders.  Resightings since ringing on 26 September 2010 are as follows:

22.03.11  Coombe Hill
23.03.11  Coombe Hill
28.03.11  Ashleworth Ham
01.04.11  Ashleworth Ham
12.08.11  Guscar Rocks
15.08.11  Guscar Rocks
17.08.11  Guscar Rocks
27.08.11  Guscar Rocks
29.08.11  Guscar Rocks
31.08.11  Guscar Rocks
30.09.11  Guscar Rocks
04.12.11  Oldbury Power Station
20.03.12  Coombe Hill

Thus the bird was ringed on 26 September 2010, seen four times in late March /early April 2011 at Coombe Hill / Ashleworth Ham, two wetlands close together, both Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserves in the Severn floodplain between Gloucester and Tewkesbury, where there are actually breeding Curlews in the hay meadows.  We wondered last year if the bird was a local breeder, as it seemed to be staying in the area for some time, but it wasn’t seen again after 1 April, so we supposed that it had stayed off-passage for a few days, feeding up at Coombe Hill, and had then moved on, to breeding grounds in northern Europe (some of the ringed birds go as far north as Finland).  It reappeared with all the others on the Severn estuary in August 2011 at the usual haunt where up to 1,000 Curlews regularly gather in late summer, autumn and winter, and was seen there by John Sanders and myself; it also popped across the river into South Gloucestershire, where it was seen by Pete Hazelwood at Oldbury.

Another of the ringed birds, seen by John Sanders at Aylburton on 16 February of this year, was resighted in the Netherlands on 24 February, and is still there now, behaving like a breeding bird.  Now, much later in the migration season, Blue Red Red has reappeared on 20 March, almost a year to the day from last year’s first observation, at Coombe Hill.  Les Brown and I were fantastically lucky to see it and read its ring, as the chances of seeing it are pretty slim.  It was one of a group of ten birds that arrived in mid-morning; they wanted nothing whatsoever to do with the local breeders, already on site, and fed as a group on the surrounding fields.  I assume from this behaviour that it was a migrant, stopping off on its way north, and presumably intending to go further north (where the snow will clear later) than all the birds that have already passed through; it will probably hang on for a few days, then move on.    So maybe those that don’t go so far north to breed are departing earlier?

Rachel Taylor of the British Trust for Ornithology will be the main speaker at the GNS Annual General Meeting on Friday 23 March; she will be speaking about the fascinating things that can be learnt by colour ringing waders.

P.S. Les Brown reports that the same colour-ringed bird was at Coombe Hill again on 22 March, making it three days in a row.  how much longer will it stay?



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