Monday, 18 January 2016

Out for a duck by Toby Carter

Colour-ringed Cormorant 'CTH'  Photo by Sam Pitt Miller
Colour-ringed Cormorant 'CTH'
Photo by Sam Pitt Miller
Just before Christmas I went out with my friend Sam (@sampittmiller) to his local patch Priory Water, a medium sized Gravel Pit in the Wreake valley in Leicestershire. In the winter, this area attracts a lot of different duck species, and, a few days earlier, Sam found a 1st Winter male Scaup which is very uncommon so far inland.

So we went in search of this bird, checking through all the Tufted Duck flocks floating on the choppy water, when I noticed something very unusual on one of the Tufted Duck's beaks. After having a closer look, we were able to make out that it was a ‘nasal saddle’, which is a type of colour mark in which the 'ring' is strapped on the upper mandible. This was very exciting because one of the last times I visited Priory Water with Sam, I found a colour-ringed Cormorant with the initials 'CTH' which had been ringed the year before at Attenborough Nature Reserve.

Nasal saddled Tufted Duck  'A43'  Photo by Toby Carter
Nasal saddled Tufted Duck 
'A43'  Photo by Toby Carter
So getting back on topic, after trying to get some half decent photos of this bird through my telescope (Digiscoping), we managed to work out that the nasal saddle was marked with the combination 'A43'. I reported this and after a few anxious weeks, I got the results which were very interesting.

It turns out that the bird was originally ringed in Saint-Philbert-De-Grand-Lieu, France in December 2009. It was spotted a year and 9 months later at Matignicourt-Goncourt (again in France) 312 miles away (as the 'Duck' flies). We spotted this bird at Priory Water 4 years and 3 months since it had last been reported, and it had traveled 373 miles (again as the 'Duck' flies) from its previous known location.

This is one of the reasons I love ringing and birding, as out in the field you can spot colour-ringed birds of all sorts, like Reed Warbler, Coot, Cormorant, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Gull and Black-headed Gull, and that is just to name a few! Behind each ring is so much information that helps people like the BTO understand more about where these birds are feeding, migratory patterns, and much, much more. Reporting ringed and colour-marked birds is a really valuable thing to do and if you ever do spot a colour-marked bird you can report it using this website. 

I'd like to say a big thanks to Sam of course but also to BTO,  Kane Brides, David Rodrigues and Alain Caizergues for digging up the old records of this bird.

There's more info on this Tufted Duck here. 

Toby Carter, @TobyWarbler


  1. Very interesting post, Toby! Yes I agree that finding out about the lives of birds through ringing is fascinating and key to conservation, I've spotted and reported a couple of colour ringed Mute Swans.. Did you spot a Scaup in the end? :)

  2. Yes I did manage to see the Scaup here is a link with some photos:

    1. Thanks, great pictures! I particularly like the last picture of the Mute Swan!