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1995 Packs a Kick In The Tail For Young Redshank

News from the BTO
16th June 1996

BTO members throughout the country keep tabs on how their local wader populations are faring through the winter. Members of the Highland Ringing Group, Hugh Insley and Bob Swann, found that 1995 ended with a severe blow to the wintering Redshank on the Moray Firth. Their report in the latest issue of BTO News, the Newsletter of the British Trust for Ornithology, indicates that virtually all the young Redshank perished in the severe spell of weather in December.

The weather for over ten days at the end of December was very severe in the North of Scotland. Night time lows went from -6 C to -13 C on 27th December and even -17 C on 30th. The sea froze and ice piled up on the shore. A few dead waders were picked up on the shore but many bodies were probably scavenged by Hooded Crows and Great Black-backed Gulls. However it was through ringing that they were first alerted. Before the cold spell their Redshank catches had been normal with about 39% young birds. The first catch after the cold spell had no juvenile birds - and two subsequent catches only put the percentage up to 1.4%!

These birds tend to be very faithful to their wintering sites so they do not think that they moved elsewhere and so they are probably dead - next autumn's catches will almost certainly confirm this. The Moray Firth is the most northerly estuary in Europe to carry important population of waders through the winter. These t=young Redshank, mostly from the icelandic population, show that ion some years staying there is risky. The smaller Dunlin obviously were able to cope. Their populations showed no declines in young or adults and their response to the cold weather was to feed in a frenzy of activity and put on weight as insurance.

The count of Redshank on the Outer Moray Firth went down from 4572 in December to 2843 in January. This indicates that some adults as well as young may have died. These losses are significant in the context of Britain as a whole. The Moray Firth is ninth in the British league tables for Redshank and the peak winter population is currently around the 90,000 mark.

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