9 September 2017

Curlew mystery solved

Thanks to Greg Wills for penning this post about his persistence in tracking down a mystery colour-ringed Curlew:

High tide roosts provide a perfect opportunity to pick through wader flocks for more unusual species and colour-ringed individuals. Gorrangorras Creek, adjoining Penryn River, plays host to one such roost, where birds gather on one of the few shingle banks waiting for the tide to retreat. The gathering typically holds good numbers of curlews and on 18th August a quick scan revealed a bird sporting a yellow colour ring. Due to worsening light, the complete code couldn't be determined and so a nervous wait took place hoping the bird would be present the next day in order to reveal the story the rings had to tell.

The following day after a brief walk further along the river, the flock was once again present; this time with distance and light on our side. The single ring instead revealed itself as a four-ring combination, all on the tibia.

Now the puzzle really began! The two lower rings were obviously metal and yellow, though the upper rings seemed off-white, something that needs to be checked with some scrutiny with light blue and light green (lime) rings all used regularly in schemes. And so ensued much deliberation between the observers, forum conversations and Curlew ringers across Europe. After much to-ing and fro-ing, the identity was confirmed as being an adult female ringed light blue/yellow, light blue/metal, ringed on its breeding grounds near Ladbergen, Steinfurt, Germany on 18th May 2012. She has returned to the same breeding area every year until 2017.

This isn't the first German-ringed Curlew to be found in Cornwall, with a bird from the same scheme Red/Metal, Red/Green seen at Rosemullion in August 2014. There was also a 25-year-old German-ringed bird killed by a bird of prey at Gwithian, a 20-year-old bird found dead near St Mawes and an 18-year-old bird hit by a car near Carnon Downs.

Thank you to Gerrit Gerritsen and Christian Kipp for their assistance in confirming the identity. Christian’s father Manfred has ringed round about 3,000 Curlews in Germany and between them they have resighted 160 colour-ringed birds in their breeding areas, most of them in Steinfurt.

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