Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The shag mystery and maybe a bit of an answer ?

One of the returning shags, .
 Six weeks ago there were the standard number of shags on the island wintering and roosting as usual. They have had a hard winter with high mortality all along the east coast of Scotland porbably sue to the stormy weather. One week ago there was hardly a shag to be seen on the island, just when they should be pairing up, nest building and laying eggs. So where have they all gone and why?
For the last few years a project has been running where researchers have been looking for shags in the winter up and down the east coast, identifying individuals by spotting their unique colour / letter combination leg rings. By exaiming this data and also sightings passed on by the public the winter movwements of the shags can be unravelled. It is a case of piecing together thousands of bits of information. And yesterday on the island we found another small piece.
My daughter took a walk on the island and found 2 derad shags. Being immersed in the strange world of the Isle of May she immediately looked at their legs to checked for rings - BINGO - both carcasses had metal BTO rings on one leg and plastic darvic rings with the colour letter combo on the other. But DOUBLE BINGO - one bird also had attached a logger device to the colour ring. This tiny piece of electrical wizzardry plots the geographical movements of the bird so we might just be able to tell where this bird has been over the last few weeks. We will have to wait for the researchers to download and interpret the data but it is more excitment that you would naturally think you could get out of a dead bird.
If you also want this level of buzz then always check the legs of dead birds you find,  record the numbers and colour and send the information in.

Wings and legs with rings of the dead shags destined for the freezer and eventually to be studied for moult patterns. Note the unique individual colour / letter combination.

No comments:

Post a comment