04/12/2011
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Request for sightings of colour-ringed Purple Sandpipers

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For the last three years, Purple Sandpipers have been colour-ringed at two different locations on Spitsbergen, an Arctic Ocean island north of Norway lying at a latitude of 78°N. The team is very interested in hearing from birders in the UK and other countries in western Europe who might be lucky enough to come across one of the colour-ringed birds. The aim of this project is to try to find out where the Purple Sandpipers breeding on Spitsbergen spend their winters. We are starting to get a vague picture after the first three years of the study, but we are still in need of more reports. So far, we have had reports back from several countries around the Baltic Ocean and the North Sea. At least two birds were re-trapped/seen on Svalbard after having been ringed in Scotland and five birds flag-tagged on Spitsbergen have been re-sighted in England or Scotland. The latest colour-ringed bird sighting from England was near Hartlepool on 6th November 2011.


Purple Sandpiper with orange flag HHU (Ole Edvard Torland).

The Purple Sandpipers in this project have all been ringed with one metal ring, one colour-ring above the metal ring, and a plastic flag with a three-letter combination on the opposite leg. The colour-ring and the flag are placed on the tibia (above the 'knee'), and the metal ring is placed on the tarsus (below the 'knee'). In total, 3,125 birds have been ringed with colour-rings and flags. Three combinations have been used: an orange flag with black letters in combination with a yellow colour-ring, a lime/light green flag with black letters in combination with an orange colour-ring, and a dark green flag with white letters in combination with an orange colour-ring.

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In addition to Purple Sandpipers, we have also started to ring Dunlin with orange flags with black letters and orange colour-rings. So far, we have only managed to put flags on twelve Dunlins but we will continue with this project in the years to come. We would be very happy to receive reports of these birds as well.


Dunlin with orange flag AAC (Credit).

If you come across one of our ringed Purple Sandpipers or Dunlin, please note down the following:

  • Species
  • Date and time of sighting
  • Name of location
  • Coordinates of location
  • Flag colour
  • Colour and combination of letter-code on flag
  • Colour of colour ring
  • Name of finder
  • Contact details for the finder
  • If possible, a photo of the flag-tagged bird with flag visible

The data should be sent to the head of the project, Kjell Mork Soot: kjellmorksoot@fugler.com. Once we have received the information from you, we will quickly send you the details of the bird you have seen including the location of ringing, when it was ringed and whether it has been seen in between. We hope that with your assistance we will finally be able to discover where this Arctic population winters. Thank you.

Written by: Ole Edvard Torland