Country Corner

A shag with nesting material
A shag with nesting material

I was telling you last week of the abundant sea campion on the Isle of May. The shag pictured seemed very pleased with this sprig. It was wearing a bright blue leg ring bearing the letters ZLX

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s monitoring network for seabirds includes the Isle of May Long-Term Study. The CEH says: “The European shag is one of six intensively studied species breeding on the Isle of May, with over 90 per cent of all breeding adults and offspring shags ringed each year with field-readable ‘darvic rings’.

“Colour ringing allows the study to identify individuals within and between years, recording breeding success, mate pairing and survival.

“The shag breeding season can extend from March to October, but little is known about the ecology and distribution of birds when they leave the colony.

“Colour-ringed birds have been reported as far north as Orkney and as far south as Yorkshire over the winter, indicating a high dispersal rate. However, some shags do not leave the breeding colony at all, showing high variation in the choice of winter location.

“The highest mortality rates occur during the winter, especially in young birds that are less efficient at foraging.

“An improved knowledge of winter ecology is particularly important therefore: not only for understanding the population dynamics of a species, but also in order to be able to plan effective conservation measures.

“Poor conditions over the winter can also have a knock-on effect on the timing of breeding and subsequent success, and even future survival”.

So, an example of how important it is to note down and report the numbers of any ringed birds you may come across.

Meantime in summer’s easier climate, the shag I spotted with a bright blue leg ring bearing the letters ZLX will be comfy on a nest of sea campion sitting looking out over the outer Forth, with fine veiws of the Bass and North Berwick Law !