24 July 2017

From the land of ice and Blackcaps

For Hugh Insley, ringing at this time of year means, amongst many other things, trying to catch Siskins in his garden in Drummond, Inverness for his Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) project and so far this year he has caught 3,000. Inevitably, he also catches a few other birds which are not part of his RAS project.

On 11 July, he extracted a Blackcap from the net that was already wearing a ring. This wasn't one of the c. 50,000 that are ringed in Britain or Ireland every year though, but the first record of a Blackcap that was ringed in Iceland! Now the BTO has to add a new row to the long list of countries that Blackcaps have come from or have gone to with a connection to our ringing scheme.

Female Blackcap wearing an Icelandic ring. Photo by Hugh Insley.

As we have posted previously, Blackcaps have a very interesting and complex migration, possibly associated with climate change and supplementary feeding, which is currently being studied. Many of our British & Irish breeding birds are known to winter in the south, around Spain and Portugal, whilst those that now winter here are known to come from continental Europe - using a novel northwest migration rather than the typical southwest route to reach Iberia. 

The individual that Hugh caught was ringed on 3 November 2016 as a full grown adult female in the garden of the vicarage at Siglufjordur, N. Iceland (see the blue pin below). It was caught again twice more at the same location (on 20 January and 30 March 2017) before heading south to Inverness.



Blackcaps are a vagrant species in Iceland and only 222 have been ringed there; only five of these have been caught again in the country. Additionally, eight Blackcaps that were ringed abroad (five from Belgium and one each from Denmark, The Netherlands and France) have been caught in Iceland. 
 
So, was this a 'British bird' making a novel northwest instead of southwesterly (mirror-image migration) before returning to breed, or was it part of a wider northward movement now undertaken by central European Blackcaps into northern Europe?  

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