Ring Ouzel Studies

Durham Ring Ouzels in 2015

Ring ouzel pullusThis was the first year of a three year colour ringing project studying adult nest site fidelity and natal site fidelity in first year birds returning to breed. Thirty five pulli were ringed all with metal BTO rings on the right leg and alpha-numeric, orange “darvik” style rings on the left.  An 8 day old pullus is shown to the right. This is the youngest age that ringing would be recommended.

Ring ouzel nestThe total ringed was less than the target set.  The failure to reach the target was due to several factors, not least of which was my inability to reach some promising sites. In addition there were three clutches which were deserted and three broods which were predated.  In the case of one clutch and one brood, the female was found dead close to the nest. The photo shows one of the nests, in which the young were predated.  This was on the ground with minimal cover.

Ring ouzel nestMost of the nests were in typical locations, on the ground in thick heather on slopes. However, one nest was on a small crag and required a telescopic ladder to reach and another was at the end of rank heather fronds projecting out from a bank and had 2 feet of fresh air beneath it. The nest was just above the top of the ladder:


Ring ouzel nest siteThis nest moved in strong winds and the pulli were ringed at 7 days, the earliest possible. This was to minimise risks to their safety in such a precariously located nest, if ringing had been attempted when they were older and more mobile. They did, however, fledge successfully.

During the summer two colour ringed juveniles were seen 1km away from their natal site, shortly after fledging. The site, in another Ring Ouzel territory, was a favoured feeding area consisting mainly of short grass.  Another colour ringed pullus was found dead, having been predated, higher on the moor than its natal site, possibly to take advantage of late summer bilberries.

The project will continue next year, after we have evaluated the alpha-numeric rings. We need to consider again the alternative, which is the use of three colour rings, one with the metal BTO ring on the right leg and two on the left leg. It is important, if colour ringing is to be done effectively, that the maximum amount of information is collected consistent with the bird’s well-being. We feel that the three ring option may better fulfil that aim.

John Strowger

August 2015

UPDATE: Ring Ouzels 2015 colour ringing project

Colour ring

As an extension to the current Ring Ouzel project in the Durham Dales I have received approval from the BTO to colour ring pulli in 2015-2017.

The aim of the proposed colour marking scheme is to investigate natal-site fidelity in Ring Ouzels ringed as pulli and nest site fidelity in Ring Ouzels ringed as adults.

The objectives are

  • to colour ring 50+ Ring Ouzel pulli in both the first (2015) and second (2016) year.
  • to colour ring 5+ Ring Ouzel adults on territory in both the first (2015) and second (2016) year.
  • to monitor second and third nesting attempts, for site fidelity, in all three years (2015, 2016, 2017)
  • to monitor, for nest site fidelity, the return of Ring Ouzels, colour ringed as adults, in years following the year in which they were ringed. (2016, 2017)
  • to monitor, for natal site fidelity, the return of Ring Ouzels, colour ringed as pulli, in years following the year in which they were ringed. (2016, 2017)

The arrangement of rings on the bird will be as follows :- Left leg=1x Orange with a Black 2 alph-numeric code, Right leg= BTO Metal. The colour ring can be seen in the photo below.

John Strowger

Feb 2015.

Ring Ouzel Studies in the Durham Dales

There are three main study areas in Weardale:- on the south side of the dale covering the area from the Bollihope Burn, south to Sharnberry at the north end of Eggleston Common; on the north side covering Stanhope Common; at the top of the dale, at Cowshill.
Those on the north and south side of the dale are dominated by managed grouse moors. The one at Cowshill is on the edge of “white moor” and although the area is keepered, it is not done so intensively as at the other two sites.
The site at Cowshill is unique in that two pairs nest within 200m of an occupied house on the moor edge. Both adults and juveniles visit the garden and the vegetable patch:

These birds can be studied at close quarters and on occasions will use the bird bath! This has allowed us to obtain a much better idea of behaviour and plumage changes during the summer and early autumn. Normally during the post-breeding period Ring Ouzels become very secretive while undergoing moult. This year an adult carrying a ring frequented the garden area, but we were unable to get a clear enough photograph to read the ring. While trying to capture this bird, another adult was caught and ringed. The accompanying photograph shows the extent of its head moult on 24 August.

Currently the pulli are only ringed with a metal BTO ring, but a colour ringing scheme has been proposed to the BTO for 2015. The purpose of the colour ringing will be to try and determine nest site fidelity of adults and natal site fidelity of birds ringed as pulli. Thirty five nest record cards (BTO Nest Record scheme) have been completed for these broods and others, which for various reasons weren’t ringed.

A summary of our findings 2011-2014

Mean altitude (m) Altitude range (m) Clutch size Earliest Ist egg (days after 1 April) Mean brood
361(35) 280-530(35) 3.7(22) 10 3.4(30)

Nest site locations

Heather sloping site Heather level site Heather crag Grass/bracken Grass Rock/quarry Other
23 1 5 2 1 2 1

Ringing activity during 2011-2014.

  Broods Pulli Mean brood size Adults
2011 2 6 3.0 0
2012 3 16 4.0 0
2013 6 20 3.3 0
2014 11 39 3.6 1
Total 22 81 3.7 1


John Strowger Dec 2014

All images by John Strowger