Colour-ringed Peregrine and Ruff reveal fascinating life histories

Russ writes:

Colour ringing is a great way of tracking birds' movements and allows individual birds to be identified in the field, unlike conventional ringing with metal rings that relies upon the bird being recaptured or found dead. Since 24 Jan, an immature Peregrine has established a winter territory in fields near my house in Woodlands, and has been seen (unsuccessfully) pursuing a Woodpigeon, and noisily sparring with a pair of local Buzzards. I suspect it may also be the same bird that I saw at Longwater Lawn on 03 Jan, which is only a couple of kilometres to the south.


On 04 Feb, I noticed that the bird was colour ringed, and managed to secure some distant images while it was perched in an oak tree. These were just about good enough to read the lettering on the red colour ring, and after making some enquiries it transpired that this bird was almost certainly that ringed as a well-grown juvenile by Marcus Ward and Andrew Colenutt on 18 June at a New Forest coastal site, some 20 km from Woodlands. It was thought likely to be a male when ringed, which would fit with the relatively small size when viewed in the field. So it was locally born and bred, ringed by two of my mates, and is now using a winter territory just beyond my back garden! The pics below show it when it was ringed, and again when viewed on 04 Feb.

On 06 Feb, I recorded a colour-ringed Ruff at Keyhaven Marshes, and was again able to secure images just about good enough to read the ring and lettering combination (image below). Within 24 hours I was able to confirm that this bird came from a Dutch ringing scheme, and that it was ringed as a male at a wetland near Amsterdam on 05 Sep 2018 during a stop-over on autumn migration. It was then seen early the following year on 19 Feb and 20 Mar on the Fishtail Lagoon at Keyhaven Marshes, before heading back north. During its spring migration it was seen several times between 25 and 30 Apr at a Norwegian coastal site, nearly 1000 km to the NNE. On 12 Oct it was back in The Netherlands on autumn passage, being seen on Texel, some 40 km from its ringing site. It then disappeared for a few months, before turning up in front of me on Keyhaven Lagoon last week! So this appears to be a Norwegian breeding bird that spends the autumn in The Netherlands and transfers to the relatively mild New Forest coast in late winter (most females from northern Europe winter in Africa, whereas males are more widely spread along the Atlantic coast). Fascinating stuff!

Many thanks to Keith Betton, Marcus Ward and Joss Hooijmeijer for providing supporting information on these two birds, and of course the original ringers! Details of the Ruff ringing scheme at University of Groningen can be viewed at the link below:

https://www.rug.nl/research/gelifes/ceg/_piersma/ruffs

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